What we need now is good governance

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Paul Beeston


Paul Beeston


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As the country gets ready to elect a new government, it occurred to me as a professional advising clients on the best solutions aligned to the latest policy and practice that the differences between good governments and good governance can be a narrow one, both when it comes to our industry and our projects.

Without wading into the politics, governments are the formal, top down imposition of rule and laws.  In the case of our parliamentary system, governments quite often rely on the authority that comes with a clear majority to exert power and get things done.  Governance recognises that power may be dispersed and that acceptance of decisions, and indeed better decision making, may need wider participation.  Governments of all persuasions in their drive for power are capable of becoming detached from the beneficiaries of their policy and action.

Projects sometimes operate in a similar way to governments.  There may be a dominant client relationship that exerts power over other participants in the process.  Indeed the power may be concentrated in single or small group of individuals with particular goals that may not be aligned with the wider organisation.  Good project governance will result in projects achieving better outcomes. 

I have recently spent some time explaining our industry to those outside of it. Those conversations reminded me that our industry is as fragmented as it is diverse. Rather than trying to ‘fix’ those differences we should embrace them.  They provide us with varied and exciting challenges and the need for creativity and innovation.  If we think to look up from our default ways of working, our industry has kindly provided a plethora of toolkits and playbooks that extoll best practice.  Can they really all be the right approach to every project on every occasion?

Good governance can act as the guard rail to remind us of what the project objectives are and to “try on” a different perspective.  Diversity of thought can help here which can be in short supply in an industry still working on looking less homogonous.

At its heart, project governance provides assurance that a project will succeed against its objectives.  So, governance aims to deliver better outcomes and how it does that cannot be to blindly follow the latest playbook or toolkit without understanding context.  In a world categorised by volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity the context is at its most critical.

We should all embrace diversity of thought, try on some different perspectives and shun the comfortable path to habitual ways of working. 

Finally, as the news cycles remind us, governments have a defined term, and project governance should be put in place for the life of an asset.  It may need to be agile and change over time, but our built environment is in need of effective management over every stage of the cycle.

This is an abridged version of an article authored by Paul Beeston, RLB Head of Industry and Service Insight, that appeared in Building. For the full article, please read here.


Paul Beeston
Paul Beeston

Partner – Head of Industry and Service Insight