Scrum and Project Governance

The following was originally published in Mike Cohn's monthly newsletter. If you like what you're reading, sign up to have this content delivered to your inbox weeks before it's posted here.

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."