The Effective Project board. Keeping projects and programmes on target written by Jan Postema.
This book is divided in two parts. The first part is about the theory behind project boards (project governance, strategy alignment, project manager world, project boards and project success and roles and responsibilities) and the second part describes the practical implementation of the project board (how to secure a project and how to prepare your organisation). As a red thread throughout the book you will find a case about a quality management system implementation project. In the first part we see how they started and operated as board members and in the second part what needs to be changed, in the project board, to make it a success.
As I am running, from time to time, what I call project board awareness workshops, related project board books always have my special attention. After reading this book I will add some topics to my workshops. E.g. the introspective questions to check if I am eligible for a project board as well as the usage of the eligibility chart. Thanks for that.
Part I: the theory
In the first chapter the author focusses on the rationale fort his book. As the author said there is hardly any publication on project boards. At the end of this post you can find a list of related project board / project sponsor related reviews on my blog. The book only talks about changing the business by the temporary projects and programmes and not about managing changes by permanent teams in a business as usual part of the organization
The second chapter positions projects in an organization. Projects need to serve a strategic goal, are aligned with the strategy and are intertwined with the organization. From that perspective the project governance needs to fit within the wider governance framework (Relationships, change, people, finance, viability and sustainability).
Chapter three puts the project board in the spotlights. Project boards embody management support. The Standish Group, as well as many other research put top management support as the number 1 for project success. A Project board bridges the gap between change and business as usual and are the extension of the organisation’s governance. The chapter gives a list of several sources of dissatisfaction with project boards. The author also gives an explanation of Best Value Procurement (BVP) and the consequences for the project board. If you look at the performance (low, high) and perceived competition (low, high) you can see four procurement methods: Price-Based (low, high), Best-Value (high, high), Negotiated Bid (high, low) and Unstable (low, low).
The next chapter shows that project boards bridge different worlds. Functional versus matrix, formal and informal, hybrid, and managers with different objectives. The project board manager (authority, interlocutor) and project manager (expert, aide-de-camp) must have a clear view on each other’s role perceptions (acceptance, commitment, service provisioning, trust).
Chapter five explains how project boards relate to project success by explaining their functions. The author gives and explains several pitfalls for project boards (indecisiveness, micro managing, lack of trust, too much trust, …). The chapter ends with an overview of different types of project boards (Advisory board, Counselling board, Sounding board, Interest group and Project board) by looking at configuration, responsibility, authority, organisation and decision process.
The last chapter of part I looks at a few roles with many responsibilities within the project board. The project board’s functions are direction setting, rationing, structuring & staffing and advising & auditing. The author follows PRINCE2 by explaining three kinds of board members: executive, senior user and senior supplier. The project manager is not part of the project board. The author sees the sponsor not as a separate role but as a needed quality of all board members and gives an overview of the sponsor’s responsibilities. Tensions in the project board are probably the most conspicuous. Sources of tension are organizing principles, employee identification, access to resources, organizational size and complexity, external pressure, relationships and tasks or processes.
Chapter 7 describes the first step to get the project back on track. It starts with a board decision tree to decide what type of project board you need. As a next step you need to understand if the right project board members have been selected. A nice tool is the eligibility chart based on Bourne’s Stakeholder cycle. In this tool you score for each project board member the following items: proximity, urgency, power, direction of influence, interest and support. The total score gives you the eligibility. In the appendix you get the complete eligibility chart including the individual score descriptions. And be aware, a project board must be there from the start, it can’t jump onto a moving train.
Chapter 8 focusses on the second step: prepare the ground. Make your organization ready to work with project boards. You get some rules of thumb for initiating a project board, principles for the composition of a project board and a very simple tool to access if an individual candidate project board member is eligible to join a project board based on a decision tree with introspective questions. When project boards are up and running, measure their project board’s performance.
The book ends with an epilogue summarizing the four aids starting with the rules of thumb, then looking into the principles and introspective questions and finally the eligibility chart.
The book is definitely worth reading, gave me some new helpful insights and as stated I will use some during my project board awareness workshops.
For a next print I would suggest to include explanations for the figures used. Some are self explanatory but not all.
To order: The effective project board
Available reviews on project sponsorship and/or project boards: