Governance of projects


A success factor or constraint

for effective project delivery?



By Martin Smit, PhD

Johannesburg, South Africa


In an editorial by the Editor of Project Management World Journal (PMWJ) (Pells, 2021) with the title: “Project Management needs a Higher Purpose Part 3: The Future of the Planet, Civil Society, Doing the Right Projects, What about Governance and the Power of Why”, Pells asks the question: Does governance of programs, projects or project management really work?”

Since my retirement from my permanent job at the end of 2018, I have been reflecting on my career as an organisational project management practitioner and have been publishing some opinion articles in the PMWJ (Smit, 2019, 2020, 2021, and 2021a). In this opinion article, I specifically would like to share an opinion about the governance of projects reflecting on the latter part of my career of some 45 years.

The aim of this article is to:

  • Give a high-level overview of project governance.
  • Respond to the question: “Governance of projects: A success factor or constraint for effective project delivery?” by:
    • Briefly sharing a case of the construction of two power station mega-projects in South Africa that are problematic.
    • Sharing some observations on the governance of projects that I made during the latter part of my career.
  • Make some concluding remarks.

Keywords:     project governance; project delivery, mega-projects case

HIGH-LEVEL overview of project governance

The high-level overview of project governance in this section is mainly based on a literature review I did on project governance in 2015 as part of my PhD thesis, as well as a featured paper by myself (Smit, 2017) with the title:Development of a project portfolio management model for executing organizational strategies” that was published in PMWJ (please see the Refences in this paper from which the content of this high-level overview was derived). The high-level overview also includes some key points about the governance of mega-projects as discussed in a podcast by Flyvbjerk during a Better Boards Podcast Series (2020).

Definition of corporate governance

A definition for corporate governance according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Principles of Corporate Governance is:

“Corporate governance involves a set of relationships between a company’s management, its board, its shareholders and other stakeholders. Corporate governance also provides the structure through which the objectives of the company are set, and the means of attaining those objectives and monitoring performance are determined.”

Differences between the functions of governance and management

There is often confusion about the difference between the functions of governance and management. The five functions of management are to:

  • Forecast and plan.
  • Organize
  • Command or direct (lead).
  • Coordinate
  • Control

Good governance is achieved by integrating, coordinating, and balancing the following six functions:


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How to cite this article: Smit, M.J. (2022). Governance of projects: A success factor or constraint for effective project delivery? Commentary, PM World Journal, Vol. XI, Issue III, March. Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/pmwj115-Mar2022-Smit-project-governance-success-factor-or-constraint.pdf

About the Author

Martin J Smit, PhD, PMP®

Johannesburg, South Africa


 Martin Smit is retired and continues to learn to keep abreast of the latest advancements in organizational project management. His career spanned some 45 years. He worked for Eskom, the electricity utility in South Africa, for 39 years where he held various management positions in construction-, outage-, maintenance-, and project/program- management. During the latter years Martin worked in the Eskom Project Management Office (EPMO) as an Organizational Project Management Specialist. He has extensive experience in the development and application of project-, program- and portfolio- management methodologies, processes, and best practices.

Martin is certified as a facilitator to conduct project definition readiness assessments. He is also certified to facilitate learning, conduct outcomes-based assessments and moderation. Martin has developed and presented various project and outage management training courses.

Martin holds a MSc (Management of Technology and Innovation) from the Da Vinci Institute in the domain of Project Management and a PhD in Engineering from the North-West University in the field of Development and Management Engineering. The title of his thesis was: “Development of a project portfolio management model for execution organizational strategies: A normative case study.” He also has qualifications in civil and mechanical engineering, information management, management, and maintenance practice. Martin has been a Project Management Professional (PMP®) since 1992 (No. 1071).

During his career Martin has presented various papers at national and international conferences and he has also published some articles in international journals.

Martin can be contacted at martin.smit@vodamail.co.za.

To view other works by Martin Smit, visit his author showcase in the PM World Library at https://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/martin-j-smit/