Why is the term ‘governance’ used so often as a descriptor for all things that have gone wrong in an organisation? Problems are due to ‘a break down in governance’ or ‘not enough governance oversight’.
On the other hand, good governance is seen primarily as having the right sort of processes, procedures, charters and policies. This notion of governance focuses on governance as a system, a series of checks and balances in an organisation, the fiduciary oversight of assets on behalf of the organisation’s owners and stakeholders. To me, this is a hijacking of the possibility and promise that governance can give to an organisation and its stakeholders.
What if governance was a lot simpler than most people believe it to be? What if all the governance processes and policies were just tools to assist the board ‘to make the choices that create the future for the communities they serve’?
The implications of this simple description of governance are profound.
1. Make the choices
Most people mistake ‘making a decision’ for ‘making a choice’. A decision is typically seen as something that is final and unchangeable.
If a board regards decision making as finding the ‘right answer’, then once they have found this, they typically stop questioning whether that ‘decision’ is actually working for them. If a board is looking for the answer, then the information they search for will typically be constructed and filtered to show how right the answer is. There is little questioning around alternatives and options.
What if we did all the required analyses, and then made a choice from amongst the various available options, and also reserved the right to change that choice if other things changed?
2. …that create the future
The role of the board is to make the choices that create the future for the communities they serve.
Creating the future is about being aware of what is happening in the strategic environment, focusing on the things that are likely to affect your organisation and then choosing what needs to be modified, created or stopped.
The definition of being strategic is exactly that: constantly ask what’s happening out there, what it means to me, and what I need to do about it.
3. ….for the communities they serve
The purpose of your organisation is to make a difference in the communities you serve. These communities will occasionally change as demographics and strategic focus shifts, and need to be continually monitored for the impact your organisation is having.
Stakeholder engagement should focus on the following questions:
By focusing on the communities you serve you maximise the possibility of the board being strategic, and minimise the possibility of being self-perpetuating and self-interested.
The discussions that this leads to are fascinating, interesting and can truly lead to change in our world – which is why our organisations exist in the first place.
Steven Bowman is a director of Conscious Governance.com online resources, based in Melbourne, Australia. He is sought after by not-for-profits (NFPs) globally as an expert adviser on conscious leadership, governance, strategic innovation, and awakening the power of strategic awareness. Visit www.conscious-governance.com or email him on email@example.com