Spare a thought for governance:

Curating a better future


Advances in Project Management


By Prof Darren Dalcher

Director, National Centre for Project Management
Lancaster University Management School

United Kingdom



It seems that governance and effective decision making have never been more important and critical to sustaining human endeavours. The aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic has served as a cruel reminder of the need for effective and rational decision-making capability within leadership at all levels. Many a citizen have glanced at their appointed leaders in their major time of need, and found them wanting, bereft of inspiration, authority or insightful reflection; incapable of making the really important life-sustaining decisions in a timely fashion.

In years to come, as people reflect on the events of 2020, it might well be that we come to recognise them as the beginning of major changes in how people and organisations work, behave and prioritise their needs. MBA students and researchers may marvel at the opportunity to glance and walk through a real-life lived experience; an experiment in collective transformation conducted at breakneck speed. For in 2020, operational necessities have forced society as a whole to pivot in real time, to abandon the office, work from home, suspend education, rethink health priorities, reconfigure our high streets and shopping habits, forego holidays, abandon cinemas and the arts, and generally rethink how society, life and organisations operate.

Most of us recognise that the pandemic will inevitably reshape our world and require a significant reset to life as we know it. The biggest tragedy would be if we learned nothing from our intense experiences and remain equally unprepared to face future hardships. Leadership has failed us again. As we oscillate in and out of indeterminate lockdowns and restrictions, we survey the state of a fragile economy and a deeply fractured society that need rethinking and re-nurturing. The fast unravelling events have also exposed the fragility of our systems of governance and the incapability of our elected leaders to protect our interests and to balance long term considerations and immediate needs. Consequently, our significant reset, must begin with the very systems that are meant to support, endure and sustain society, its citizens and the organisations that endeavour to co-exist with it.

Now we know: When our leaders fail again, we will require anti-fragile governance systems that will allow us to survive, thrive and make up for shortcomings in leadership… The need for improved governance, in society, in organisations, as well as in projects and strategic initiatives, is broadcast loud and clear.

So, what is governance?

There is a rich discourse surrounding governance and its role. Dalcher (2017: 2) summarises governance as the way of steering, organising, amplifying and constraining both power and actions. In other words, it is how the rules, guidelines, norms, practices and actions that underpin an area, are developed, justified, sustained and regulated. Stoker further abridges governance to ‘creating the conditions for ordered rule and collective action’. (Stoker, 1998; p. 17)


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Editor’s note: The PMWJ Advances in Project Management series includes articles by authors of program and project management books published by Routledge publishers.  Each month an introduction to the current article is provided by series editor Prof Darren Dalcher, who is also the editor of the Routledge Advances in Project Management series of books on new and emerging concepts in PM.  Prof Dalcher’s article is an introduction to the invited paper this month in the PMWJ. 

How to cite this paper: Dalcher, D. (2020). Spare a thought for governance: Curating a better future, Advances in Project Management Series, PM World Journal, Volume IX, Issue XI, November. Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/pmwj99-Nov2020-Dalcher-spare-a-thought-for-governance.pdf



About the Author

Darren Dalcher, PhD

Author, Professor, Series Editor
Director, National Centre for Project Management
Lancaster University Management School, UK


Darren Dalcher, Ph.D., HonFAPM, FRSA, FBCS, CITP, FCMI, SMIEEE, SFHEA, MINCOSE is Professor in Strategic Project Management at Lancaster University, and founder and Director of the National Centre for Project Management (NCPM) in the UK.  He has been named by the Association for Project Management (APM) as one of the top 10 “movers and shapers” in project management and was voted Project Magazine’s “Academic of the Year” for his contribution in “integrating and weaving academic work with practice”. Following industrial and consultancy experience in managing IT projects, Professor Dalcher gained his PhD in Software Engineering from King’s College, University of London.

Professor Dalcher has written over 300 papers and book chapters on project management and software engineering. He is Editor-in-Chief of Journal of Software: Evolution and Process, a leading international software engineering journal. He is the editor of the book series, Advances in Project Management, published by Routledge and of the companion series Fundamentals of Project Management.  Heavily involved in a variety of research projects and subjects, Professor Dalcher has built a reputation as leader and innovator in the areas of practice-based education and reflection in project management. He works with many major industrial and commercial organisations and government bodies.

Darren is an Honorary Fellow of the APM, a Chartered Fellow of the British Computer Society, a Fellow of the Chartered Management Institute, and the Royal Society of Arts, a Senior Member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and a Member of the Project Management Institute (PMI), the British Academy of Management and the International Council on Systems Engineering. He is a Chartered IT Practitioner. He sits on numerous senior research and professional boards, including The PMI Academic Insight Team, the CMI Academic Council and the APM Group Ethics and Standards Governance Board as well as the British Library Management Book of the Year Panel.  He is the Academic Advisor, author and co-Editor of the highly influential 7th edition of the APM Body of Knowledge. Prof Dalcher is an academic advisor for the PM World Journal. He can be contacted at d.dalcher@lancaster.ac.uk.

To view other works by Prof Darren Dalcher, visit his author showcase in the PM World Library at http://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/darren-dalcher/.