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Lean Governance and Program Management: Ensuring Value through Ongoing Strategic Planning


Governance, in any form, is all about ensuring delivery of stated benefits and alignment to strategy. In the context of enterprise portfolio management, it considers the relationships of programs, projects, products, and services, as well as their collective relationship to the overall strategic portfolio. In essence, governance is another word for ongoing planning and prioritization.

Lean governance adds a decided shift from rigid methodologies and exhaustive compliance to a more progressive focus on flexibility and innovation, while still ensuring alignment. It avoids unnecessary bureaucracy and fosters an adaptive and integrated top-down and bottom-up planning approach.

Lean governance acknowledges that we live in a less than perfect world where there is no such thing as a perfect model. Thus, it focuses on sparking conversations and enabling ongoing trade-off decisions during uncertain times, and at every level in the organization—all while keeping the desired outcome in mind.

Top Down and Bottom-Up Planning

To ensure alignment, both top-down and bottom-up planning are crucial at appropriate points in the planning horizon. From a top-down perspective, early on in the planning cycle, the following items can help drive an overall, reasonable plan:

  • A strategic plan, including missions, objectives, strategies, and programs
  • For each program and/or project:
    • An approved business case with target benefits and expected costs
    • Rough estimates
    • A high-level timeline
    • Expected roles needed for the project by month (this is the capacity view)
    • A high-level risk assessment
    • Value/Risk scores
    • Priority/Ranking

Once programs and projects are underway, things shift to a bottom-up driven approach, with more detailed estimates, realistic timelines, named resource assignments, actual start and end dates, and rolled-up actual costs. As a result, the original top-down plans should be updated accordingly and must remain flexible and adaptive.

As for ongoing planning and prioritization during execution, there are four capabilities to consider:

  • Using Program Management to Drive Benefits
  • Managing the Program Lifecycle and Gates
  • Managing Program Execution
  • Conducting Gate Reviews in an Agile World

This best practice will examine all four of these areas in further detail.

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