Focusing Our “Grow and/or Improve the Business” Initiatives: Governance

In most companies, every area has ongoing initiatives whose purpose is to grow or improve the business.  Unless there’s a process for vetting these activities few ever achieve the projected results.

This is particularly true for initiatives that cross departmental or functional boundaries.  Because improvement opportunities typically require some level of change, they must have commitment across the affected parts of the organization in order to be successful.

While this can significantly improve the probability of success, ensuring the organization is fully aligned on what initiatives are the highest priority, assuring those initiatives have the resources they need, and monitoring the progress of the portfolio of initiatives improves the probability of success even more.

A Project Governance Team, comprised of the leadership of the organization and representing each functional area, business unit, and general administration can serve this purpose.  This team governs how the organization spends its discretionary time and helps bring clarity to what otherwise is chaos.

The team’s effectiveness is greatly improved if there’s a facilitator who does the heavy lifting for the team.  An effective facilitator schedules the meetings, develops the agenda, manages the cadence of the meeting, documents decisions, produces and publishes minutes, captures and follows up on action items.  He develops drafts, or straw models, of the processes and tools the team uses, significantly reducing the amount of time the senior executives spend in meetings.

Having the facilitator produce drafts of the processes (project review, gating process, resource rationalization, project prioritization) and tools (charter, business case, agenda, minutes, action log) that will be used prior to the meeting when they are to be discussed, allows the team to focus on content rather than on format.

The first order of business for the team is to develop a charter that states the shared vision of the purpose, responsibilities, process, and tools they’re going to use.  Charters typically contain:

  • Purpose
  • Scope
  • Metrics
  • Membership
  • Schedule

The next step is to establish the baseline of active projects by collecting the set of initiatives the organization is currently pursuing and having each project sponsor develop a standard business case that includes:

  • A Description of the Project
  • The Purpose of the Project
  • A Competitive or Market Analysis (if Relevant)
  • The Cost of the Project
  • The Return on Investment
  • The Resources Required
  • The Project Schedule
  • The Current Status of the Project

A set day and time for the meeting establishes the cadence for the team, improves participation, and drives the team’s progress.  Often early in the team’s lifecycle the team will want to meet weekly to complete the start-up activities and review each of the projects.

Once that initial phase is complete, the team can transition to meeting less frequently.  Setting up a weekly schedule for the same day and time each week in advance, then cancelling the meeting if there are no agenda items, affords team members the opportunity to work independently during that timeslot when there is no meeting.

Setting up this team and putting in place a process to optimize the “Grow or Improve the Business” resources an organization has available can help insure the organization is aligned and that the initiatives it supports will be successful.

Leah Ward-Lee is a management consultant and business writer based in Dallas, Texas and the author of $1,000 Start-Ups.  Her next book, The Executive’s Toolbox, will be released in early 2017.