Recent articles/blogs from Michael Meehan and Dan Foody both emphasized the typically negative connotations associated with governance. Michael compared governance to getting a colonoscopy with an IMAX camera, while Dan pointed out that “governance is about defining the box that you’re not allowed to think outside.”
I won’t argue that most people have a very negative reaction to the term, but there’s a key point that missing in the discussion. Governance is about the people, policies, and processes put in place to obtain desired behaviors. Governance does not have to be about command and control. If your desired behavior is complete freedom to try anything and everything, clearly, you don’t want rigid command and control structures. If your goal is to be a very innovative company, but your command and control structures prevent you from doing so in a timely fashion, that’s not a problem with governance per se, but with the governance model you’ve chosen. While the United States has clear separation between church and state, the same can’t be said for many other countries in the world. If the desired behavior for those countries is strict adherence to religious principles, then clearly there will be some challenges in applying the United States’ governance model to those countries. It doesn’t mean those countries don’t need governance, it means they need a different style of governance.
One of my earliest posts on the subject of governance emphasized that the most important thing is that your governance model match your corporate culture. If it doesn’t it’s not going to work. I’ll also add to it that your employees need to accept that corporate culture as well. If the people in the company don’t agree with the desired behaviors that the leaders have established, you’re going to have problems. We need to stop attacking governance, and instead educate our staff on the desired behaviors and why they’re important so that people will want to comply. It must be the path of least resistance. That’s still governance, though. It’s just governance done right.