The Goldilocks Theory of Governance: How To Get To ‘Just Right’

Voici un extrait d’un article de gantthead sur les difficultés à avoir une gouvernance projets équilibrée.

L’auteur y identifie les principaux types de dysfonctionnements rencontrés en dressant les profils types des sponsors mettant en place une gouvernance trop « lourde » ou trop « légère ».

Morceaux choisis :

Why relate governance to a fairy tale? The more cynical among us might say that’s because the idea of effective governance and the actual practice really aren’t that far removed from fantasy. The astute reader also won’t require much effort or imagination to figure out where we’re going: some project managers suffer from too much, while others not enough; only an elusive few, however, can say that their governance is “just right”. If that were all there were to it, this would be an easy article to write. Sadly, there’s more… a lot more.

When we think of an environment where there is too much governance, we need to be clear about what is actually meant by “too much”. What follows is a survey of the excesses of governance :

  • The Technocrat. The excesses of the technocrat are to do with process, and the expectations by which projects are managed. For the technocrat, a good process is a detailed process. They will look to ensure that every “i” is dotted, every “t” is crossed and every deliverable is complete and in its place. The challenge of governance in this instance is rooted in a lack of understanding of what might be appropriate and meaningful, resulting in an environment where rigour trumps judgement. The governance excesses of the technocrat have nothing to do with what the project is intended to produce, or the value that the project delivers; the focus is strictly on emphasizing the processes by which the project is managed.
  • The Control Freak. The excesses of the control freak are rooted in making sure that every aspect of the project is followed up on, responded to and managed. This emphasis is less from a process perspective than it is to do with controlling the project management. The control freak expects to be aware of every detail, involved in every decision and reviewing every deliverable (and, quite possibly, ensuring that they are involved in the production of those deliverables). The control freak doesn’t recognize where governance stops and project management starts; they simply roll up their sleeves and dive in. They don’t want to have a project manager; they want to be the project manager. The result, ironically, is that while there is excess involvement, there is arguably less governance because regardless of titles, the role itself isn’t being performed.
  • The Micromanager. The micromanager is a close cousin of the control freak. Rather than immersing themselves in the process or the project management, they control every aspect of the solution that is being produced. They review designs and specifications, get involved in the minutiae of figuring out the solution to the problem and constantly evaluate and re-evaluate how the results of the project will be reused. Rather than creating clarity, however, the micromanager destroys it. They overprescribe, overthink and second guess. Changes in expectation and approach are constant, and the project faces a continually moving target in terms of what they are expected to deliver to.

For any of us that have been in the project management world for even a moderate amount of time, these types are familiar. Individual descriptions may stand out, with examples springing to mind with all the strength, intensity and vividness of a caricature. Others may combine their excesses, drawing on two or more aspects to descend on projects in a veritable tsunami of influence and interference. Regardless, the result is an ill-organized nightmare. The project team has no space to think, to breathe or to manage, and success is defined as simply keeping one’s head above water. Often the struggle of a project manager in this environment is to simply contain the chaos, and to try and keep even one step ahead of their sponsor.

While the interference of too much governance may seem overwhelming, the prospect of too little governance is no less daunting. Rather than enduring too much attention, project managers and teams in this environment suffer from excesses of neglect. Again, neglect can come in several forms, very little of it benign:

  • The Absentee Landlord. Like the homeowner that never shows up to deal with necessary repairs, the absentee landlord ignores the project and how its results will impact their organization. They don’t provide input or insight into requirements, they take little interest in how the results of the project will be implemented and make no commitment to understanding or supporting the implementation of the project results. While they may appear busy on the face of it, they fail to attend meetings, answer the phone or return e-mails (thus encouraging stalking as a project management skill set). The project manager is left to wonder if they even care about what the project is doing, and the evidence would certainly suggest that they don’t.
  • The Indecisive Ditherer. Absenteeism starts to look good in the face of the indecisive ditherer. While the ditherer appears to be active and involved in the project–and may be as present as the technocrat, micromanager or control freak–what is entirely missing in their world is the willingness to make a decision. Lacking either the process, understanding or backbone to make a commitment, they sit on issues, agonize over questions and refuse to sign deliverables. They constantly seek to keep their options open, to defer when they’ll make a commitment and to avoid sign-offs and approvals. The only thing that they can decide on is not to decide.
  • The Collaborator. Possibly one of the most pernicious and difficult of sponsors, the collaborator (like the ditherer) refuses to make a decision. This delay and avoidance is not based upon indecisiveness directly, however, as much as it is on the need to consult and collaborate, to “take the pulse” and get the perspective of other stakeholders. The net effect is similar, as the collaborator defers decisions until others can be engaged, consultations can occur and opinions can be expressed. Highly sensitive to opinion, the project team is victimized by delays, conflicting directions and decisions that rely less on principles and defined objectives than they do on what feels good at the time.

What “just right” looks like, by contrast, is easy to understand. It is characterized by attentive focus on the project and its results, intelligent support for a reasoned and reasonable process, and respect for the roles and responsibilities of the project team, the steering committee and the other stakeholders. While easy to define, it is sadly all too rare to encounter.

Part of the challenge is a lack of awareness and understanding of the role of sponsor or steering committee member, and of both the expectations and the obligations that are associated with that role. Frequently this is exacerbated by the politics of the organization, and the reinforcement and repetition of dominant executive behaviours that, while dysfunctional, are modelled as representing the preferred culture. Sometimes they result from petty exercises of power or the furthering of agendas.

The challenge for the project manager is to manage this, and to get to–like for Goldilocks–a situation that is “just right”. While there are no easy recipes for doing so, realization of this goal is in fact possible. Success requires anticipation, preparation and the willingness to negotiate for both the required support and the necessary freedom that will allow the project to be successful. This requires understanding the environment of the organization, and making an accurate and fast diagnosis of the likely executive behaviours that may emerge. The above profiles are intended to help, to at least recognize the problems that are commonly faced, identify the behaviors that will be encountered and provide some strategies for how to negotiate around them. Good governance is possible, but it rarely happens naturally. We aren’t going to simply stumble across the perfect bowl of porridge; we have to make it.

source :

Leave A Comment