Feb 12th, 2022

What is Agile Governance: 4 Guiding Principles for Good Governance in Agile

Naveen Kumar Singh
Naveen Kumar Singh

Naveen is a professional agile coach and has been working independently for a long time in the Asia... Read more

Agile governance is a process that focuses on bringing the most value by focusing on what matters.

Good governance ensures that the policies and decision-making process align with successful delivery when you incorporate agile in your organization's strategic goals through projects and programs.

But before we explore more on good agile governance, let's talk about agile governance. 

What is Agile Governance

Agile governance is about how a company monitors and guides its agile projects. It refers to how you govern your entire organizational work at different levels to deliver better transparency and clarity at work. 

Agile governance is about understanding your organization's risk-taking appetite, your enterprise's tolerance level, and your challenges. 

Be it smaller, global, or local organizations, agile governance assures that whether your organization's risk-based controls are working or not to help you manage risks. 

The primary purpose of agile governance is to make sure the goals of an organization align with the agile project.

According to Ole Jonny Klakegg, Professor of Project Management at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, agile governance can "create value" by aligning any agile project with the organization's goals. 

The agile governance framework can apply to a single agile project or a company's complete agile projects portfolio.

As a result, agile governance practices help organizations evolve and improve over time. 

Guiding Principles for Agile Governance

For successful agile governance, you can follow these below-mentioned principles:

1. Effective Team Collaboration: Organizations need to collaborate with the team. However, team collaboration requires a change in mindset to implement an agile culture in an entire organization.

Instead of forcing your team to perform, please encourage them to work with you. Agile governance helps organizations share knowledge, remove challenges, and foster collaboration.

Also, to create an effective collaborative team, provide tools and workspace that allows them to self-organize and deliver.

2. Mirror the Agile Manifesto: When you use agile in the governance of projects, it adds a touch of proactiveness to your organization.

That means your delivery team gets self-organized and empowered. It helps them to be accountable for their success and failures. Also, they become a cross-functional team. If you don't know what a cross-functional team is, here's a heads up for you.

A cross-functional team comprises skilled employees who can work at a high level for an extended time efficiently and effectively, accomplishing productivity at the minimum expense or zero wasted effort.

The agile project governance approach is far different than the traditional one. The traditional approach monitors the delivery team to check what they've done to improve the estimates and predictions in a plan to decrease the variation between baseline and forecast.

On the other hand, while using an agile governance approach, the delivery team decides what they must do based on the product backlog. 

It prioritizes items while delivering the minimum viable product to the customer. They deal with every product-related risk or challenge, focusing on agile behaviors such as collaboration, effective communication, and transparency. 

Using the agile manifesto principle, the cross-functional team works together with the help of constant feedback from the customer and the product owner.

3. Monitor Performance Metrics: The delivery team focuses on self-monitoring by tracking their empirical performance metrics for successful agile governance.

While using agile, empirical performance metrics ensure the delivery team effectively delivers a minimum viable product.

Agile encourages the delivery team to "fail fast and learn fast" using empirical performance metrics.

The team collects performance data to improve their performance. They visually show their progress status and update it frequently to track their performance.

4. Focus on Team Behavior and Practices: The agile mindset encourages organizations to adapt the governance process.

Rather than reporting and informing, agile principles teach that the true assessment of the delivery teams depends more on engagement and observation with the team and stakeholders.

If you want to ensure agile delivery, it's important to focus on good communication and engagement. In agile governance, the organization gives the decision-making authority to the teams. Agile governance is simple and supportive. It trusts the team and gives them authority to focus on agile delivery.

In agile, the person who will govern the team should regularly speak with each team member. They should offer the team support and assurance.

They should monitor the team's progress on a lighter note. Also, in good agile governance, it's crucial to regularly reflect on how the delivery team is working and find ways to improve the delivery.

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What are the Best Practices in Agile Governance

You can follow these experts' recommended best practices to make sure your organization is adopting all the basic principles of good agile governance:

  • Make sure your organizational needs match with an agile project. And to ensure alignment, provide simple documentation at the start of an agile project. The documentation must clearly describe how the project's work will match your company's strategy and goals. 
  • While working on a project, ensure to continuously report to your organization about the new value after each iteration.
  • The product owner should share updates from stakeholders and business conditions with the delivery team. This information might contain details that can impact work progress and challenges. 
  • Use an agile project software that gives access to essential information about an agile project to the stakeholders and other organizational members who aren't part of the delivery team.
  • The delivery team must have access to various metrics such as the burndown chart and CFD. The burndown chart will help them understand what tasks they need to complete and the time needed. 
  • Ensure to welcome changes throughout the project.

Key Challenges of Agile Governance for Work Projects

Adopting a new concept like agile and working on it in an assigned way in your organization can take time. You can't adopt agile without facing any challenges along the way.  So, it's crucial to support the delivery team as they try to encounter the hurdles while adopting agile. 

However, the primary challenges regarding the governance of agile projects are the following:

  • Challenges may arise while adopting agile governance, including training, coaching, and DevOps practices. 
  • Some team leaders may not understand agile and, consequently, don't give team members the right autonomy to stay effective. 
  • Creating the appropriate organizational environment and culture where leaders encourage self-organizing teams can be challenging. 
  • Agile methodology embraces documentation. However, sometimes unnecessary documentation can be a waste of time. 
  • In agile, the iterative work produces the best product; there isn't room for any "expected" outputs. However, an organization can need information on expected outputs, which differs from agile methodology. A product's actual outcomes can be different from what you expected initially. 

How to Apply Governance into an Agile Project

There can be a conflict between the agile methodology, and what some company leaders view as appropriate governance. But, once the company understands the ins and outs of agile, they can easily implement appropriate governance into agile projects.

Here are some pointers to remember while applying agile to your organization:

  • You can allow your agile team to perform normal project management tasks within agile. But, organizations must understand that project management and project governance are two different concepts. 
  • After deciding to adopt agile governance while delivering products, your organizational leaders and team members should come together to set goals expectations and negotiate and agree on what is reasonable and useful to the organization. Everyone in the team should stay on the same page regarding organizational goals and expectations.
  • Your agile teams should focus on reporting their work progress that aligns with those expectations.
  • Ensure to invite organizational leaders to your daily standup or scrum meetings. This will help them stay informed about the progress and challenges of an agile project.
  • Start with modified agile processes like "hybrid" to focus more on agile governance and help organizational leaders adopt agile better. 
  • To become more comfortable and better with agile governance, encourage your organization to start with a small pilot project. 

The Bottom Line

In conclusion, with agile, governing teams are way more straightforward than traditional teams, supporting transparency. The primary focus of agile governance is to deliver outputs rather than milestones. It teaches a team to bring simplicity and documentation to their work process.

Agile governance should trust the organizational team and provide them the authority to make decisions to deliver efficiently. People who manage agile governance should support open and constant communication with the team to support and assurance. 

Lastly, the governance methods you'll incorporate in your organization should be light-weighted, which means monitoring a little but frequently. And often reflect on how your team is working to help them improve the overall effectiveness of the agile team.

Agile projects have a 64% success rate, whereas projects under the competing methodology known as waterfall only have a 49% success rate. Agile projects are nearly 1.5 times more successful than waterfall projects.


Agile delivery governance refers to the framework and processes put in place to ensure effective management and oversight of agile projects. It involves setting guidelines, monitoring progress, making decisions, and aligning activities with organizational goals, all while embracing the agile values of flexibility, collaboration, and responsiveness.

Agile government refers to a flexible and adaptive approach to governance that emphasizes responsiveness, collaboration, and iterative decision-making. It uses Agile principles and methodologies to enhance government processes, improve service delivery, and efficiently address complex challenges while prioritizing citizen needs and feedback.


Agile governance focuses on adaptive, iterative decision-making, empowering teams to respond quickly to changes. It prioritizes collaboration, transparency, and flexibility over rigid processes. In contrast, traditional governance tends to be hierarchical, emphasizing strict rules and formal approvals, hindering agility and innovation within organizations.


Governance in Agile ensures alignment with organizational objectives, risk management, and compliance. It maintains transparency, accountability, and effective decision-making across teams. By balancing autonomy and control, it fosters agility, enabling adaptive responses to change while maintaining overall coherence and direction within the organization.


Naveen Kumar Singh

Naveen is a professional agile coach and has been working independently for a long time in the Asia Pacific. He works with the software development team and product team to develop awesome products based on empirical processes.

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