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Governance – what do we mean and how do we do it?

Part 2

How many Ss spell governance?

This model is designed to help boards decide which mode they are in.  Many of the best boards signal which mode is required for which subject. Good boards are able to readily identify the right mode.  And outstanding boards can move with confidence, and clarity between the modes.

Too many boards behave as if Strategy is the only mode that counts. They risk developing big and irrelevant plans. Others privilege stewardship. They risk protecting and failing to change. Boards which only support are simply cheerleaders, just as perpetual scrutiny is demoralising and nearly always retrospective. Stretching out of context is wasteful.

The challenge for governance is to deploy all five modes, appropriately and with confidence.

Strategy – determining direction, looking five years ahead, shaping the organisation, designing the sort of organisation you want to lead.

  • Is this where we want to be going?
  • Does this direction make sense?
  • Are their alternatives?
  • Have we thought about…?

Stewardship – protecting the assets – including the staff, reputation, capital and investments.

  • What will this do to assets?
  • Does it allow us to serve future generations?
  • What do we risk ?

Support – encouragement, ensuring the right resources are there, enabling, facilitating, problem solving.

  • Is the new system of information management really helping?
  • Is our senior team at risk of burn out?
  • Have we protected them against the attacks and abuse we know they are receiving?

Stretch – being ambitious, encouraging more to be done

  • Can’t we do better than this?
  • Have we registered what X down the road is doing?
  • Is this really as good as we can be?

Scrutiny – checking, assurance, providing external validation.

  • Are really doing this safely enough? What do others say about our performance?

 

 

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Governance – what do we mean and how do we do it?

Part 1

Who’s who on a board
It is very easy to download from the internet, or ask your solicitor, for a list of roles and responsibilities. What does the honorary treasurer do? Should you have a senior independent director? What about the chair and chief executive officer? Does a company secretary serve the board or the organisation? This is all very interesting. But in my observation of boards, both as an adviser and as a member, I have identified a number of different roles, and these all pose different questions:

The Peacemaker asks – can’t we find a common way? Surely there is a different approach?

The Challenger says – can’t we do better? This is simply not good enough for the homeless people in this town. Is it just because it has always been done this way?

But the History Holder says, do remember where we come from. When we started we thought that we could really change opinions about obesity. We need to go back to our roots, and remember what worked in the past.

And the Compliance king or queen will always say, can we afford it? What will the auditors say? Is this legal?

To which the Passionate Advocate will respond, for goodness sake, surely we must take a risk. People are dying of this disease, we must do more.

And the Data Champion says – it is all very well shouting, all the evidence shows that however often we do that, it makes no difference to the outcomes for mentally ill people.

And the Wise Counsellor says, we are not the only people trying to tackle this issue, we need to think carefully, plan properly, and take this step by step.

But the Inspiring Leader will describe her vision, will point to the hills, will enthuse and excite.

While the Fixer says, I think we can get together outside the meeting and sort this out.

And the Risk Taker says, the crisis in Darfur is simply too great. Let’s just spend the money, and it is such a good idea that the funds will flood in.

While the Strategist says, we need to think about what will happen in 2010, and recognise that if the Department of CPT does make the changes that they are planning, then our position will be much stronger and the whole environment will be different.

And the User Champion says, I am worried that we are ignoring the interests of our beneficiaries. We haven’t mentioned their needs all though this meeting.

All those voices, and all those questions, make a really strong board. All good boards hold in balance the entrepreneurialism of the strategist, and the risk taker, along with compliance king or queen, and the data champion. I have seen boards that are entirely entrepreneurial and they are pretty scary. I have also seen boards that are entirely compliance driven, and they are  truly terrifying.