Governance – Lessons Learned

Below is a list of lessons learned relating to Governance, taken from a selection of recently completed programmes and projects across the NICS.

Issue 1 - The absence of a Project Director, even for a short time, adversely impacted on planning as different iterations of the project plan were generated at different stages of the project.

Recommendation 1 - Starting the project with and maintaining a live project plan that can be aggregated and reported on at appropriate levels, such as Project Board, Design Team and Operational.

Issue 2 - Some Project Board Members were unclear about the role of the Board and wanted to discuss operational matters and BAU at Project Board meetings.

Recommendation 2 - The role of the Board and ToR should be explained to all board members and meetings managed as a Project Board rather than operational meetings. A separate forum to consider operational matters should be in place.

Issue 3 - Missing / incorrectly signed documents, may result in increased risk of projects objectives not being met.

Recommendation 3 - Ensure all signed documents are received and held on file.

Issue 4 - Project Director became unavailable and Project was unable to replace him quickly, leading to a governance gap for prolonged period of time. Because the Project Team was very small, the loss of one key person had a disproportionate effect on the Project as a whole.

Recommendation 4 - For high capital value projects it is worth having a senior resource in a deputy role who can lead in the absence of the Project Director.

Issue 5 - Critical friend role worked well on Project Board, providing advice and challenge. 

Recommendation 5 - Additional project roles should be added when relevant to assist projects. Independent support should be put in place to constructively challenge and support the Senior Responsible Owner.

Issue 6 - This project has very strong governance structures in place. The SRO provides clear commitment and guidance and the Governance Board is the key decision-making body.

Recommendation 6 - Set out clear governance structures from the start with clear protocols and lines of command.

Issue 7 - A number of management changes and restructuring took place.

Recommendation 7 - Handovers resulting from changes to management and resources need to be more effective and existing governance procedures should be adhered to in order to further ensure continuity amidst change.

Issue 8 - Some meetings and decisions were not properly minuted or documented.  A number of meetings took place outside the formal governance structure.

Recommendation 8 - All engagement and subsequent decisions should be recorded appropriately.

Issue 9 - During the production of the PPE it was difficult to verify what had been completed. For example, the PID, among other key documents, could not be found. This led to a lack of clarity around completion dates of the OBC and which elements of the OBC had or had not been completed.

Recommendation 9 - It is important that all relevant documents are readily available, so that good governance can be evidenced. Adequate administrative resources are required to support good governance and ensure that records are kept for the purposes of evaluation, audit and similar future project teams.

Industry guidance/ further reading

PRINCE2, Managing successful projects with PRINCE2, 6th edition (2017), pp. 37, 154, 282.

APM, APM Body of Knowledge, 7th edition (2019), section 1.3.

Commercial Delivery Group’s Programme and Project Management hub: Commercial Delivery Group: Programme and Project Management | Department of Finance ( This covers a wide range of governance issues.

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