Tag Archives: Management

PMI’s Practice Guide for the Governance of Portfolios, Programs, and Projects

governance-of-portfolios-programs-and-projectsPMI’s newly released Practice Guide for the Governance of  Portfolios, Programs, and Projects, provides some useful guidance to organisations and practitioners on the implementation of the management of portfolios, programs, and projects, but very little on the governance of this important aspect of most organisations.

The understanding of project management, program management and portfolio management is well developed and easily accessible to all organisations, many of which have well developed capabilities in these areas, but most still see their projects and programs fail on a regular basis.  Our 2012 post Project or Management Failures? highlighted the issues.

The source of many of these failures lies in the organisation’s ability to manage the overall function of ‘doing projects’ – defined by Professor Peter Morris as ‘the management of projects’ to differentiate this area of middle and executive management from traditional ‘project and program management’. The overall domain covered by the ‘the management of projects’ concept is outlined in our White Paper WP1079 The Strategic Management of Projects.

Despite confusing the governance function and the management function, this PMI Practice Guide is a valuable contribution to this area of management and to a lesser extent the governance of projects, programs and portfolios.  As previously mentioned, the major weakness in the PMI Practice Guide is its failure to differentiate and understand the different functions of governance and management.  Whilst this confusion is common in documents prepared by practitioners and academics focused on IT management and project management, it is rarely seen in any other area of management.

Governance is the exclusive responsibility of an organisation’s governing body; in corporations this is the ‘board of directors’, in other types of organisation, their equivalent.  The governing body is responsible for setting the objectives, culture, and ethical framework for the organisation, employing the organisation’s senior management, oversighting the organisation’s management functions and providing assurance to external stakeholders the organisation is operating effectively and conforming to its obligations (for more on this see: WP 1096 The Functions of Governance). Elements of some of these functions can be delegated to management, particularly in the areas of surveillance and assurance, but accountability remains with the governing body. Importantly in a well governed organisation, the governing body does not interfere in or directly undertake the management of the organisation – it is impossible to govern your own work!

The functions of management were defined 100 years ago by Henri Fayol in his book Administration Industrielle et Generale.  Management involves planning, forecasting, employing other managers and workers, and organising as in creating the organisation; then coordinating, controlling and directing the work of suppliers and subordinates to achieve the organisation’s objectives; whilst working within the ethical and cultural framework set by the governing body (for more on this see: WP 1094 The Functions of Management). A key function of every management role is ensuring subordinates and suppliers conform to the ‘rules’ set by the governing body.

In short, the role of governance is to set the objectives and rules; the role of management is to manage the resources of the organisation to achieve its objectives, working within the ‘rules’. This approach to governance is clearly defined in ISO 38500 the international standard for the corporate governance of information technology, and ISO 21505 the draft international standard for the governance of projects, programs and portfolios.  PMI has completely failed to understand this distinction and as a consequence invented a range of meaningless definitions in the Practice Guide along with a framework that defines basic management functions such as providing resources to undertake work as ‘governance’.

The simple fact of life is the governing body employs managers to undertake management functions and this involves allocating resources, deciding on priorities and making decisions within the strategic framework approved by the governing body. The basic functions of management were clearly defined by Henri Fayol in 1916 had have stood the test of time and the rigours of academic scrutiny.

The tragedy of the decision by PMI to ignore legislation, international standards and a range of governance authorities ranging from the OECD to Cadbury and try to invent its own definition of governance, is that in the PMI model, virtually every management role above that of the project manager is turned into a ‘governance role’.

The proposition made by PMI that every manager responsible for organising and coordinating the work of subordinate managers is engaged in governance is simply untenable – good effective prudent management is simply good effective prudent management!

The role of governance is to create the environment that allows good effective prudent management to occur; ensure the organisation employs people capable of implementing good effective prudent management and to oversee the working of management so the governors can provide assurance to the organisation’s stakeholders that their management team is in fact providing good effective prudent management. The actual work of providing good effective prudent management to achieve the objectives of the organisation is the role, responsibility and duty of managers

Strangely enough most people in real governance positions know what governance is and know what management is.  Alienating this group is a real pity because once you get past the problem of describing almost every management role as a ‘governance role’ the Guide contains a lot of very useful information focused on improving the abysmal performance of many organisations in the complex area of the ‘management of projects’.

  • Section 2 describes organisational project management and the tailoring management practices to meet organisational needs; the essential relationships and considerations; roles and responsibilities; and domains, functions, and processes. It describes how ‘the management of projects’ can be implemented as a program or project for integrated portfolio, program, and project management.
  • Section 3 describes portfolio management, its links to governance and its central role in the ‘management of projects’.
  • Section 4 describes program management and Section 5: management at the Project Level.

In summary PMI’s Practice Guide for the Governance of Portfolios, Programs, and Projects is a good attempt to focus attention on the vital executive and middle management roles that routinely fail to properly support the delivery of projects and programs; the Practice Guide is spoiled by the delusion that middle level managers and executives undertaking their normal management responsibilities are somehow ‘governing’ the organisation.  As a consequence, the governing bodies of organisations and corporations will tend to dismiss the Practice Guide as an irrelevance.

The key element missed by PMI is the understanding that good management practice is an outcome of good governance, and bad management practice is a symptom of governance failure. The role of governance is to ensure its organisation’s management structures and systems are ‘good’. The fact PMI have completely missed this important distinction in their Practice Guide and as a consequence significantly reduced its value to organisations is an opportunity lost! In most organisations both the governance of projects programs and portfolios needs improving and the overall management of projects programs and portfolios needs improving – these are both important, but require very different improvement processes!

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Sources of Power

powerNo sooner had we published WP1095 Power and Authority than one of our regular correspondent pointed out we had missed the concept of ‘structural power’.  Whilst originally seen as being relevant to the discussion of power differences between sovereign nations, the concepts also apply to organisations where the characteristics of a situation can affect or determine power. Important structural sources of power include knowledge, resources, decision making and networks.

Knowledge as Power: Organisations are information processors that must use knowledge to produce goods and services. Intellectual capital represents the knowledge, know-how, and competency that exist in the organisation which can provide an organisation with a competitive edge in the marketplace. Within an organisation, the concept of knowledge as power means that individuals, teams, groups, or departments that possess knowledge that is crucial in attaining the organisation’s goals have power, but only if they use the power to advance the interested of their organisation – hording knowledge to the detriment of the organisation is destructive and self defeating. Outside the organisation, the situation is reversed; protecting the organisations intellectual property is vital to maintaining its competitive power in the market.

Control of Resources as Power: Organisations need a variety of resources, including money, human resources, equipment, materials, and customers to survive. The importance of specific resources to an organisation’s success and the difficulty in obtaining them vary from situation to situation. The departments, groups, or individuals who can provide essential or difficult-to-obtain resources acquire more power in the organisation than others, as do external suppliers in a market where the particular resource is scarce.

Decision making as Power: The decision making process in an organisation creates more or less power differences among individuals or groups. Managers exercise considerable power in an organisation simply because of their decision making ability. Although decision making is an important aspect of power in every organisation, cultural differences make for some interesting differences in the relationship.

Networks as Power: The existence of structural and situational power depends not only on access to information, resources and decision making, but also on the ability to get cooperation in carrying out tasks. Managers and individuals that have connecting links with other individuals and managers in the organisation and beyond will be more powerful than those who don’t. The power generated by social media networks is a phenomena that is still emerging and is not well understood.

An additional ‘power source’ is ‘peer pressure’ – the power held by a group over its individual members.  The White Paper has been updated to include these concepts and can be downloaded from: WP1095 Power and Authority

Understanding management

Two new White Papers look at the function of management and the sources of power and authority used by managers and leaders.

WP1094 The Functions of Management describes the five functions of management, the supporting principles and the challenges of managing in a post bureaucratic organisation. Download the White Paper.

WP1095 Understanding Power and Authority looks at the sources of power and authority used by management and leaders.  Different sources of personal power underpin different types of authority.

WP1095 Power Autority

Download the White Paper.

Whilst both White Papers are based on general management theory, project managers are by definition managers and are increasingly expected to be effective leaders, so an appreciation of both subjects is useful.

Understanding the M in PM

Questions and Answers signpostThere are many interpretations of the P in PM; Project, People, Politics being three ….  But precisely what is involved in the Management part of PM.

Our latest White Paper looks at the functions and principles of Management and can be juxtaposed with the functions of governance in Dr Lynda Bourne’s latest blog.

Defining Management

A consistent theme in these posts is the assertion that governance and management are different processes undertaken by different entities within an organisation. In short, Directors or their equivalent govern, Managers manage.

This assertion is supported by the unequivocal view of governments, the OECD, stock exchanges world-wide, various ISO Standards, various Institutes of Company Directors and the Association for Project Management in the UK. The various laws, standards, definitions and guidelines published by these bodies all agree the Board has the exclusive responsibility to govern all aspects of the organisation and this includes the governance of project and program management activities.

The governance function has two key aspects; the first is deciding what the organisation should be and how it should function. These governance decisions are communicated to management for implementation and the primary outputs from this part of the governance system are:

  • The strategic objectives of the organisation framed within its mission, values and ethical framework.
  • The policy framework the organisation is expected to operate within.
  • The appointment of key managers to manage the organisation.

The second aspect of the governance system is oversight and assurance. The governing body should pro-actively seek assurance from its management that the strategic objectives and policies are being correctly achieved or implemented. The assurance and oversight functions include:

  • Agreeing the organisations current strategic plan (in conjunction with executive management). The strategic plan describes how the strategic objectives will be achieved.
  • Suggesting or approving changes to the strategic plan to respond to changing circumstances.
  • Requiring effective assurance from management that the organisations policy framework is being adhered to.
  • Requiring effective assurance from management that the organisations resources are being used as efficiently as practical in pursuit of its strategic objectives.
  • Communicating the relevant elements of the assurances received from management to appropriate external stakeholders.
  • Assurance to the organisation’s owners the strategy and policies are being adhered to by management and the organisation as a whole.
  • Assurance to a wider stakeholder community (including regulatory authorities) the organisation is operating properly.

From the list above, it is obvious that the governance system cannot operate without the effective support of the organisation’s management system. And, if governance and management are different systems within an organisation, they should have different functions creating different outputs. We believe this is the case and the purpose of this post is to define what management is and does.

The functions of management were defined by Henri Fayol (1841 – 1925) in his general theory of business administration and surprisingly, this is still seen as a one of the basic definitions of management. He proposed that there were five primary functions of management and 14 principles of management:

Fayol’s Functions of Management

  1. to forecast and plan,
  2. to organise
  3. to command or direct
  4. to coordinate
  5. to control (French: contrôller: in the sense that a manager must receive feedback about a process in order to make necessary adjustments and must analyse the deviations.).

Inherent in these functions is decision making!  The primary role of management is to make decisions and value judgements within the framework set by the governing body to achieve the objectives set by the governing body. The primary output from management can be defined as information and instructions that have to be communicated to others.

The communication is firstly to the workers so they understand what has to be produced, where and when; secondly to the governing body to provide assurance that the right decisions have been made and the right things are being produced in the right ways applying the organisation’s policy framework correctly.

Fayol’s Principles of Management

The principles of management define some of the ways the functions of management can be implemented – some of theses principles need adjusting to remain effective in modern organisations but the concepts are still valid:

  1. Division of work. This principle is the same as Adam Smith’s ‘division of labour’. Specialisation increases output by making employees more efficient.
  2. Authority. Managers must be able to give orders. Authority gives them this right. Note that responsibility arises wherever authority is exercised.
  3. Discipline. Employees must obey and respect the rules that govern the organisation. Good discipline is the result of effective leadership, a clear understanding between management and workers regarding the organisation’s rules, and the judicious use of penalties for infractions of the rules.
  4. Unity of command. Every employee should receive orders from only one superior, from top to bottom in an organisation (not practical in matrix organisations).
  5. Unity of direction. Each group of organisational activities that have the same objective should be directed by one manager using one plan.
  6. Subordination of individual interests to the general interest. The interests of any one employee or group of employees should not take precedence over the interests of the organisation as a whole.
  7. Remuneration. Workers must be paid a fair wage for their services.
  8. Centralisation. Centralisation refers to the degree to which subordinates are involved in decision making. Whether decision making is centralized (to management) or decentralized (to subordinates) is a question of proper proportion. The task is to find the optimum degree of centralisation for each situation.
  9. Scalar chain. The line of authority from top management to the lowest ranks represents the scalar chain. Communications should follow this chain. However, if following the chain creates delays, cross-communications can be allowed if agreed to by all parties and superiors are kept informed.
  10. Order. People and materials should be in the right place at the right time.
  11. Equity. Managers should be kind and fair to their subordinates.
  12. Stability of tenure of personnel. High employee turnover is inefficient. Management should provide orderly personnel planning and ensure that replacements are available to fill vacancies.
  13. Initiative. Employees who are allowed to originate and carry out plans will exert high levels of effort.
  14. Esprit de corps. Promoting team spirit will build harmony and unity within the organisation.

Whilst some authorities have added to and changed some aspects of Fayol’s work in the intervening 100 years, these additions and changes have generally expanded and clarified the concepts outlined above. In general terms Fayol’s work has stood the test of time, has been shown to be relevant and appropriate to contemporary management and defines what management is and does. A person undertaking any of the five functions, or employing any of the 14 principles is engaged in management (not governance).

What I believe this post makes crystal clear though is the difference between governance and management – when a manager is deciding the best options or seeking information on actual performance to use in decisions the manager is managing.