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Perrin Carey

11 June 2020 at 11:30:00

Governance is described in many ways, however I have long wrestled with it being a noun. It distracts from the real essence of what I think governance is; action

As I was wandering through the woodland on my familiar morning walk, it struck me that 'governance', the word, is a noun.

I know, surely I have better things to be doing with my time than worrying about the particular 'part of speech' that governance is associated with, but it got thinking...what if governance was a verb instead?

Definitions of these terms in standard dictionaries are often pretty bland and you have to head to the academic literature to get more juicy and meaningful descriptions.

One of the academic definitions, I have come to like, is by Stephen Bloomfield, 2013

“…governance is the governing structure and processes in an organisation that exist to oversee the means by which limited resources are efficiently directed to competing purposes for the use of the organisation and its stakeholders including maintenance of the organisation and its long run sustainability, set and measures against a framework of ethics and backed by regulation and laws.”

However it still lacks the simplicity and openness to be truly helpful.

In her review of the Home Affairs Committee in Guernsey, Professor Catherine Stait notes,

"Good governance is developed, achieved and maintained by the continual application of effort, self-awareness, mutual trust and mutual challenge.

Good governance cannot be imposed by the introduction of standards, rules or protocols. Rather, it is continually co-produced by members of the organisation, in all their diverse roles, by the way in which they learn how to blend rules, processes and controls with strong values and positive behaviours, to achieve a model of good governance that works for their particular purposes and context."

I think this begins to unravel the complexity of governance and how, in reality, it is very much an action, hence my view that it would better to be a 'verb'.

Achieving and maintaining 'good' governance is very hard,

It takes grit, determination, honesty and openness,
It requires us to unpack the culture that exists in our organisations and deal with the bits that stink and we'd rather not look at,
It pushes us to inspect closely our systems, processes and ways of working, and
It asks of us to realise that governance is not a destination, but a road upon which we must travel in order to 'build better' our organisation.

My work has challenged me in all sorts of ways, but my most recent, where it involves completely shifting culture towards 'better', remain the toughest.

Sometimes, I get it right
Sometimes, I get it wrong

But each time, I learn.

Governance, it's not a place.
You can't say you have it.

You can perhaps only say you're moving towards it, or better still, doing it.

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