Governance vs. management: Have you ever prepared detailed actions for a meeting and realised that it would take hours to sort through the governance talk to get to your ideas?
Have you ever prepared detailed actions for a meeting and realised 10 minutes into the agenda that it would take hours to sort through the governance talk to get to your idea of the meeting? I bet you were not only frustrated, but had better things to do.
The model of governance is top-down, where an organisation’s governors formulate a strategy and specify outcomes; coupled with management (organising the work) and operations (doing the work) covers detailed actions and delivery mechanisms to realise the governance strategy.
A governing body can focus on the 'big picture' and leave the operational decisions to the management team.
Governance is about placing the framework and setting up the vision for an organisation without blurring the lines between governing and managing – easier said than done.
For large organisations, these boundaries can be easily defined – the governing body governs, the CEO/senior management team manages, and the rest of the staff engages in operations.
However, in smaller organisations, especially in charitable organisations without paid staff, the governing body can get bogged down with concerns about short-term management and operations, and tend to lose sight of the ‘big picture.’
This means even a check of the meeting agenda to gather intelligence about the type of meeting can lead you astray. Governors can quickly veer off into operational matters that derail meetings. This is often due to well-intentioned project-level reporting that isn’t focused on delivery or is seeking direction from the wrong audience.
Instead of allowing this to happen, find an effective way of balancing the reporting demands for governance and management.
Set the boundaries of the discussion, and park any topics that will confuse the outcomes.
Don’t let a management team inherit outcomes that grind operational decision making to a halt.
Positive governance starts before the meeting even begins – be clear on what roles your team plays, and what is expected of each participant. Otherwise, you run the risk of your attendees tuning out as if they’re at the wrong meeting.