Project Management

The Goldilocks Theory of Governance: How To Get To 'Just Right'

Mark Mullaly is president of Interthink Consulting Incorporated, an organizational development and change firm specializing in the creation of effective organizational project management solutions. Since 1990, it has worked with companies throughout North America to develop, enhance and implement effective project management tools, processes, structures and capabilities. Mark was most recently co-lead investigator of the Value of Project Management research project sponsored by PMI. You can read more of his writing at

Last year saw the identification of the Three Bears Theory of Project Management. Now, we introduce the Goldilocks Theory of Governance. The ideas are related--and not only because they borrow their names from a fairy tale. Like project management, we struggle with the amount we get versus. the amount that we actually need.

When we speak of project governance, we are referring to the oversight of our projects--how the organization for whom the project is being done asks questions, makes decisions and adapts itself in order to use the results of the project. Unlike the delivery responsibility of the project team, the governance responsibility is to represent the interests of the organization and make sure they can be delivered. This means not only providing guidance to the project team, but also managing the expectations and the participation of the larger organization.

Why relate governance to a fairy tale? The more cynical among us might say that’s because the idea of effective governance and the actual practice really aren’t that far removed from fantasy. The astute reader also won’t require much effort or imagination to figure out where we’re going: some project managers suffer from too much, while others not enough; only an elusive few, however, can say that their governance is “just right”. If that were all there were to it, …

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