Project Governance


Advances in Project Management Series

By Martin Samphire

United Kingdom


There is a strong correlation between good governance and more successful projects. Good Governance is taking on a more prominent role in senior executives’ minds as greater scrutiny is exercised and accountability for performance is expected. So what does good governance of project management look like and how can it be achieved? This article sets out some of the core principles, identifies the key players and enablers, and provides ten golden rules of good governance.

  1. Introduction

Project failure rates and the reasons for failure are little different now from 30 years ago. The UK Cabinet Office and National Audit Office (NAO) list common causes of failures that have been well publicised over the last ten years – which strongly resemble those identified by the Harvard Business School some 30 years previously:

  • Lack of clear link between the project and the organisation’s key strategic priorities, including agreed measures of success.
  • Lack of clear senior management and Ministerial ownership and leadership.
  • Lack of effective engagement with stakeholders.
  • Lack of skills and proven approach to project management and risk management.
  • Too little attention to breaking development and implementation into manageable steps.
  • Evaluation of proposals driven by initial price rather than long-term value for money (especially securing delivery of business benefits).
  • Lack of understanding of and contact with the supply industry at senior levels in the organisation.

All of the above are mainly poor governance issues. A recent survey by the UK’s Association for Project Management (APM, 2015) confirmed that governance elements are key factors in project success. The PMI (2014) Pulse of the Profession Survey and the PwC (2012) Global Survey have indicated that there is a competitive advantage for businesses in developing good governance practice.

One cause of governance failure is that organisations become ‘comatose’ and do not always enforce learning from past mistakes and successes. Moreover, the project environment is becoming increasingly more dynamic so organisations need to be more agile and flexible in their governance response. “I’ve started so I’ll finish” is no longer an appropriate strategy.


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Editor’s note: The Advances in Project Management series includes articles by authors of program and project management books previously published by Gower in UK and now by Routledge worldwide. Information about Routledge project management books can be found here.

About the Author

Martin Samphire

United Kingdom


Martin Samphere
is the owner and Managing Director of 3pmxl Ltd, a consultancy that is based in the UK and specialises in implementing major transformation and helping clients to transform their business using structured PPPM approaches.   He has over 30 years management consulting, change, project, programme and portfolio implementation experience in both the private and public sectors – in the UK and internationally. He has directed and contributed to a number of complex business and organisational change programmes to fundamentally reshape and improve client business performance, often enabled by technology. He has also led a number of assignments to improve an organisation’s capability to better manage portfolios, projects and programmes

Martin is a mechanical engineer by training and started his career in major capital project contracting in the petrochemical sector with Foster Wheeler. He moved into consulting with The Nichols Group and thence to Impact Plus and Hitachi Consulting, helping organisations to implement organisational change in a more structured project and programme oriented way. He started 3pmxl in 2011.

Martin is Chairman of the UK based Association for Project Management (APM) Specific Interest Group (SIG) on Governance. This Governance SIG has developed guidelines for Governance of Project Management, including ‘Directing Change’, ‘Governance of Multi-owned Projects’, ‘Sponsoring Change’ and ‘Directing Agile Change’. He was also formerly a committee member for the APM SIG on Portfolio Management. He authored chapter 19 on Governance in the 2nd Edition of the Gower Programme Management Handbook (2016).

Client organisations he has worked with have included: Atkins, Arcus Partnership, Capita, Devon and Cornwall Constabulary, DNV-GL, eni, Metropolitan Police Service, Northumbrian Water, Practicus, Proger S.p.a., Saipem, Thales, Thames Valley Police, Thames Water, Turner and Townsend, Valldata.