Senior-Exec-Prog-Board-182x182Agile projects are traditionally viewed with sceptiscm when it comes to Project Governance.

Yet it is possible and is infact very simple to construct and is basically common sense. The Project Management governance approach that we have seen working at a Japanese Investment Bank in the City of London, was based on DSDM Atern which it used for all of its projects, I.T. as well as non-I.T.

In large corporate organizations such as Banks or Insurance companies, good governance and discipline is required so that senior executives can be assured of transparency and ultimately successful project delivery. This includes such items as project risk, financial spend, business plan realisation, high-level plans and milestones, sponsor engagement, business engagement and vision not to mention technical oversight and non-functional robustness with a clean handover to production operations.

Without it, senior management get very nervous.

It is also one of the first questions that they have when confronted with teams wanting to adopt pure Scrum. When Scrum is adopted, all of the project rigor and governance needs to be added, yet with DSDM Atern based projects, it comes as part of the method, as standard, designed into the method and not ‘bolted on’ to the side as a quick solution to going Agile.

The Typical Scenario

Traditionally, there would be a Project Steeing Committee or Project Board meeting that would occur monthly. This would be the platform that Project Managers would be called too, to report in if their project was reported as RED or AMBER (RAG-status).  The senior executives would then be asked for help, where necessary.

However, there is one major issue with this approach: It is completely dependent on the Project Manager reporting a RED or AMBER status and we all know that that does not always happen.

The Project Management Steering Committee

If an individual project however, has its own Steering Committee, the individuals within that Committee can decide on the project’s status.  This Committee, if based on the roles of DSDM Atern, can be created from the Sponsor, Visionary, Project Manager, Technical Co-ordinator and all the Team Leaders. They thus, meet once a month to agree on the reporting status of the project.

The post on Scaling shows an example for a project with three Agile teams, and these would be the members of the project’s Steering Committee.  Of course, the project may decide if the Team Leaders are part of the Steering Committee or not.

(Steering Committee Members, based on DSDM Atern Roles)


If the project’s Steering Committee then decide to report RED or AMBER, it is not the Project Manager that reports the project’s status, but the project’s Sponsor.


Then once a month the sponsors gather with the senior executives to report on their projects. This has the following advantages:

  • Ensures that the Sponsor understands the status of the project.
  • RED and AMBER projects are reported as soon as they are judged by their Steering committee to be endangered.
  • Increases transparency of projects.
  • Allows the Senior Exec Board to have an overview of the actual status of all of their projects.

This can been seen in the diagram below, which shows five DSDM Atern based projects reporting (via the Sponsor) into the Senior Exec Programme Board.  Of course a pure scrum team and a Waterfall based project can be substituted, as long as each has a defined, agreed sponsor and Steering Committee.

(Click on image to enlarge)


There are some additional advantages of having such an overview, the Senior Executive Programme Board can:

  • eliminate projects or sub-projects that are delivering the same results (yes, this does happen).
  • support projects in difficulty by stopping less value projects in order to re-align resources onto the projects delivering the highest business value.
  • protect the project manager and project team-members from the politics of the senior executives.