What is the role of the project board and how can members direct successful outcomes?
In predicting that man would land on the moon by the end of the decade, US President John F Kennedy became the ultimate project sponsor. According to an often-quoted story, when JFK asked a cleaner at the NASA space center what he was doing he responded: “Mr President, I’m helping put a man on the moon!” A perfect example of complete team engagement in the project goal.
Of course, not all projects have such powerful outcomes. But what they all have in common is being dynamic environments which bring change and uncertainty. As such, they not only need managers to get things done, but also a clear sense of direction. This remains true no matter what the size, scale or scope of the project in question.
Within this context, it is vital that members of the project board not only understand their accountability for driving projects but have the skills to do so successfully. They also need to recognize the crucial differences in the disciplines involved with this aspect of senior management, compared to their other business responsibilities.
Why does this matter? Because effective senior management involvement is one of the key contributory factors to a project’s success. Get it wrong, ignore the importance of your role or misjudge what the project team requires from you and you risk creating problems and even project failure further down the line.
This need for greater understanding is the driving force behind the publication of a new AXELOS guide - “Directing successful projects with PRINCE2®: The essential guide for project board members.”
Developed through extensive consultation with those familiar with the challenges of the project board and based on real-life experiences, the book provides a valuable reference source which can be used at any point in a project’s lifecycle.
It addresses key questions that are frequently asked by board members; providing clarity on issues such as expectations, role dynamics, project control and effective application of PRINCE2. Not only that, it explains why the directing role is so important to a successful project outcome and sets out the key duties and behaviours required. For example, senior managers must:
One of the key takeaways from the guide is that the ideal working relationship between project board and project manager is a perfectly balanced 50/50 split; where the project board directs effectively and the project manager delivers projects to timescale and budget.
Clarity and confidence are required from both parties. Without them, the balance shifts. This may be through lack of rigour on the part of the project manager or micro-management from the board, but it results in a much greater chance of project failure. And this is why a 50/50 balance should always be pursued.