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Lean Governance

We continue the Agile PMO Super Series with a focus on Lean Governance as requested by the members.
If there’s one thing you need to know about Lean Governance it’s this – there is no one authority on what lean governance is and how it works.
On that basis then, what should the PMO be doing?
In this session, Matt explains what the definition is, gives an overview of what lean governance consists of (the principles and drivers) and explains how it’s not necessarily what you’re doing in governance but how you’re doing it that constitiutes lean governance.
You should be doing further reading around the subject from the various different sources and in this article, we’ll share those links with you.
Let’s get started.

Why Do We Need Lean Governance?

To understand lean governance, we need to first understand what governance means in a traditional project management context. You can read the definition from APM here.
When it comes to Agile led delivery, governance should be in line with the Agile Manifesto and the principles. The UK Government does a good job of laying out their governance principles for Agile led delivery here.
Where does the term “lean governance” come from? It stems from Lean Thinking: Toyota and the ideas of cutting out/reducing waste, cost and risk in any aspect of business but originally started in manufacturing. There is a Lean Enterprise if you want to take a look here. Over the years, Lean IT  Software Development has become Agile or SCRUM and lots of terms have popped up with ‘lean’ in the title hence lean governance.
As mentioned in the image below – PMI also have their definition of governance, specifically lean governance in their framework called Disciplined Agile. You can read that one here.
In Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe), lean governance is part of lean portfolio management and is defined as:

Lean Governance is the oversight and decision-making of spending, audit and compliance, forecasting expenses, and measurement.

Overview of Lean Governance

When we talk about principles – these are the concepts or values that guides actions and behaviours. So Lean Governance has principles which comes from lean thinking and are applied to governance such as delighting customers and pragmatism (from PMI) or in the image below, focusing on the team and giving them just enough governance to deliver the work and value to their customers.
For lean governance it’s about doing the right things, do those right, prove that you’re going it and do it without delaying the project, delivery etc. To do it without delay, the key drivers below indicate how that can be achieved.
You’ll start to see why there are different schools of thought around lean governance – it’s context specific – or organisation culture specific, or aligned to how we get things done around here. Each organisation should be looking at their own governance framework from the top down – with project / delivery specific governance slotting into the enterprise level governance framework.

It’s Not What You Do – It’s How You Do It

Like many aspects of Agile and agility, it’s about a change in behaviours and a change in mindset. It would be too easy to expect to see a Lean Governance Framework that could be pulled out of a box and set up with a line-by-line instruction!
What the PMO can do is look closely at the current governance frameworks that already exist in the organisation – especially the ones related to projects, programmes and portfolios – and think about how we might change some aspects to take on a more lean-agile approach:

If you are unsure about what a governance framework looks like and what is included in it, here’s some resources to check out:

  • Start with the basics from Wiki.
  • A paper from PMI that gives the overview and components of a project governance framework, you’ll find that here.
  • An example of an organisation governance framework from the HM Passport Office, access it here.
  • A free course from Open University on project governance and the PMO is worth reading here.

There is an interesting Prezi from the Office of Strategy and Performance that you can see here. It should give you some ideas on where to focus within your own organisation, for example, it could be the way that projects are selected, or how we choose to implement project standards.
If we use the Lean-Agile approaches as a guide to how we might change our existing approach to governance, in time, that is how we will create our own lean governance framework.


Recorded Session

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