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Governance: Strategies to think about

Governance has always been sort of a hot button issue. Now more than ever organizations are really trying to figure out how to get the right mix of governance that enables them to have repeatable processes to understand what’s working, what’s not, and drive repeatable performance. I’ve always believed that good governance starts with an alignment of interests; it’s really important to have not just the stick but a carrot as well.

Sometimes it’s hard to get the appropriate incentives in place to encourage people to do what they’re supposed to do but when you do, it’s really powerful. If you can show people the benefit that’s in it for them, you’ll get much better results than simply telling people, “Thou shalt do x.” Sometimes even just putting the governance process in the context of the big picture of what you’re trying to achieve can be enough.

Oftentimes you’ll find that governance applied at the lower levels of the organization may make exquisite sense to management but not so much to the folks that are charged with the executing of the environment. There may seemingly be no rhyme or reason why they’re performing these actions in the sequence that they are. So just providing that context, that touchstone to organizational value can be something that drives better data quality, greater willingness to participate in the process, and ultimately lead to a more successful government system as a whole.

As a side note to that, if after explaining the big picture to the folks who are going to be operating in the governance environment there is still pushback, you should immediately explore that pushback. It may be that the executive view of what the governance process is supposed to achieve, and the actual value that is being achieved, or the effort required to achieve the value has been mischaracterized or misunderstood by management.

I think that that final piece is ensuring that there’s an appropriate feedback loop on the governance process. It is something that occasionally gets left off but it’s incredibly important. One of the things that I’ve seen time and time again is as organizations bring in outside executives, consultants and other third parties that are not directly engaged in the value stream, you end up with layers upon layers of governance process and information gathering that is either duplicative or wasteful. So if just a little bit more attention was paid to the people that were required to execute a governance environment and deliver the business value, there would be a more lightweight process in place.

The other thing to be aware of is that governance often works. So you need to be careful not to stifle innovation or agility by virtue of implementing something that does not provide the organization with enough flexibility to respond to evolving requirements. We all know that the world is changing at a greater rate than it ever has in the past and you can certainly govern yourself to the point of poor performance. So I think those are some things to be on the alert for with regard to how you set up governance around your processes and around your organization. I’m very curious to know what other folks have thought of or have been using.

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