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Project Management Frameworks in Local Government

June 2016


The recent round of mergers in NSW has again reinforced the importance of adopting a project management approach to time bound, complex, multidisciplinary projects. Morrison Low has assisted a number of councils develop tailored project management frameworks specifically focused on the local government operating environment that more efficiently manage the variety and size of projects councils undertake. 


The NSW merger guidelines required merging councils to establish a Project Management Office to support the interim General Manager within the first 30 days. Morrison Low assisted the new Cumberland Council develop its merger implementation project plan and we noted during this assignment that one of the challenges for Cumberland was the absence of a project management framework or project management culture within the merging organisations. This is not all that surprising as historically we have found that few councils take a project management approach to project delivery for all but the largest infrastructure projects.


A project management framework provides the connection between the delivery of council strategy and governance, reporting and the management of risk associated with the delivery projects.  Councils deliver small and large projects every day. All projects have defined benefits, inherent risks, involve multiple stakeholders and have varying complexities. A community event, if not well planned and managed, can present as much risk to public safety as a road construction project yet we rarely define the scope, the expected outcomes, resources and accountabilities or the risk management requirements for small to medium size projects.


Rather than a ‘one size fits all’ project management model, councils need to adopt a scalable project management approach that applies relevant project management elements on a project by project basis to address specific projects risks and outcomes. We encourage councils to carefully think through the project management needs for their organisations as it is a means to an end not the end itself. If councils are not careful it can become a constraint to efficient performance. We strongly believe any project management framework must avoid councils being consumed by unnecessary process yet enable projects to be responsibly managed according to organisational priorities. For more information contact s.bunting@morrisonlow.com