Everyone wants to have good governance practices in place, as long as they don’t have to implement them. Here are my 7 key elements to deal with the problem.
If the system pointed blame up the ladder it would work... but no organisation would want it. No one wants responsibility for implementation. And since that dynamic is always present, a good governance system has got to ensure visibility, accountability, knowledge, competency, foresight, communication, and confidence. I'll post more thoughts on this soon; meantime, check out our Corporate Governance module »
That’s the problem in a nutshell. Politicians want a good governance system so they have someone to blame when things go wrong. Directors want the system so that they don't catch the blame. That puts the burden on operational management to implement everything... which often means they're a scapegoat.
Nailing the real problem
So what’s the real problem with governance systems, do you think?
If the system pointed blame up the ladder it would work - but no organisation would want it. We need a system where workers follow good governance practices because it’s easier than not doing it. One where operational managers want to do it because it makes them feel good. Where directors finance it because then they could concentrate on strategic objectives. Where politicians want it because it makes them look good.
Wanted: big picture thinking
I can already hear the cries of those currently responsible for good governance practices: “But that’s what governance does!!”
No, that's what it should do. Sadly, only a few lucky souls have managed to achieve such a system in the field.
The starting point for fixing anything is to understand the issue. This step, so often skipped, avoids fixing the wrong problem. This means looking at the big picture.
And who’s best at looking at the big picture? Executives and directors.
Essentials of a good system
To help them focus, here are my 7 key elements of a good governance system.
- Visibility: responsibilities, processes, decision making, image
- Accountability: standards, expectations, commitment, ownership
- Knowledge: health, information, reporting, performance & outcomes
- Competency: development, ethics/attitude, management, capabilities
- Foresight: Risk, risk, risk, innovation, planning, research
- Communication: vision, value, velocity, volume, vibe, viral
- Confidence: security, consistency, traceability, sustainability
I'm assembling my thoughts on each element, and possible ways to achieve them. But I can say right now that, like any system, it can’t be put together piecemeal. It needs to be a comprehensive integrated programme designed as one, by those who are most experienced at the big picture (kind of like Fast Track).
Make the time.