11 years, 1 month ago

Governance and empowerment #openwork

Governance, the word that makes me think of the colour Grey. The thoughts below have been buzzing around my head for a while, so i thought i’d try and get the thoughts out of my head and into my blog.

Governance, the etymology comes from a greek word meaning “to steer or pilot a ship”.  

A lot of organisations spend a lot of time, effort, money and goodwill trying to do governance. Any sort of governance (project, corporate, architecture, risk, whatever), in my mind boils down to trying to achieve to things

1) Ensuring that what actors within the organisation are trying to achieve aligns with what the organisation wants to achieve.

2) Ensuring that how the actors within the organisation are achieving what they want to achieve aligns with how the organisation (as a collection of values and culture) want it to be achieved

In trying to achieve these two goals the governance framework (or frameworks) that an organisation puts in place should support the actors in achieving them. 

However, Governance is often seen as a hurdle, an impediment, a box ticking exercise, bureaucracy or a annoying delay, whether that’s a change board, project board, architecture board, release board, etc etc. This is because, in a lot of organisations governance is about control. Its about desperately trying to herd cats, jumping on in-flight projects and saying ‘nooo, you don’t want to do it like that’.

This happens because in my opinion and experience the Governance (with a big G) framework and governance bodies are often addressing a symptom rather than the root cause.

Why do you need control?

Why do you need oversight?

Change doesn’t misalign itself, risks don’t realise themselves. It is the results of actors acting that governance attempts to steer.

But why would the actors in your organisation do something that doesn’t align to the organisations goals? 

The symptom that a lot of governance efforts try to address is control of divergence in the what and the how of the organisation.

The real problem is about poor communication. Poor communication of vision (what we want to achieve) and principles (How we choose to go about achieving it).

The real solution is openness

Share vision

Share principles

Share expectations

Share risk

Share culture

Share concerns

Share arguments

Share events

Openness lived within an organisation leads to the above things being embedded within actors which leads to ownership, empowerment and self organisation. Agile teams have known this for a long time, communication through openness being a key enabler for self organisation. I’m not clear as to why that message hasn’t permeated to the areas of organisations that deal with governance?

What it comes down to is, there is no need ‘to steer’ if your ships are already being piloted in the right direction.