Scrum and Project Governance

I've been running into a lot of issues of project governance lately. Fortunately, Scrum can be combined quite successfully with different approaches to project governance.

By "governance" I'm referring to a level of project oversight that exists a level above the level of project management. After all these years, I'm as agile as can be, but that doesn't mean I don't see the need for project governance. The challenge is that a company's project governance and project management approaches need to be consistent. 
For example, if Mountain Goat got big enough that someone could start, say a $2 million project without me noticing, we'd put in a governance model. It would be something like: I need to know about any project above a certain size. I'd want to see a one page description of the project that showed me the key benefits it would deliver (probably in the form of epic user stories), a guess at a budget and a guess at a number of sprints. Both of those last items would be given as ranges. I'd then expect something like a quarterly update. Within those quarters, the team would be free to manage the project as they saw fit--although I'd certainly hope they'd take some form of Scrum or agile approach! 
Unfortunately, in many companies, we see an inconsistency between project governance and project management. The team is told, "You can be as agile as you want but only after you write this detailed and perfect requirements document."

A Free PDF to Help You Choose the Approach

A Free PDF to Help You Choose the Approach

I’ve created a PDF you can download that will help you decide which approach is best for any story you’re adding detail to. It also includes examples of the two approaches.

Download my PDF


Mike Cohn

About the Author

Mike Cohn specializes in helping companies adopt and improve their use of agile processes and techniques to build extremely high-performance teams. He is the author of User Stories Applied for Agile Software Development, Agile Estimating and Planning, and Succeeding with Agile as well as the Better User Stories video course. Mike is a founding member of the Agile Alliance and Scrum Alliance and can be reached at If you want to succeed with agile, you can also have Mike email you a short tip each week.

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