The Governance Ladder

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NB: This is just my thoughts at this stage and i have no evidence to support any of what i write. If you can contribute, challenge or even support what i say i would be grateful.

I have recently been fascinated by what on face value can be seen as a boring subject – Governance. I am particularly interested in IT, Organisational and Corporate Governance now, but no doubt will read on other aspects as my understanding and thinking develops.

There are literally thousands of results on google around governance and most do focus at a national level and there were a significant amount of results of “Governance of Financial Institutions” and rightly so :o).

There has also been a number of posts around “Guidance over Governance” which are worth a read. I have also read a wide range of traditional governance websites, blog etc. However i will mention a few that i have read recently which helped clarify or contributed to my thinking – (this does not represent the full list of sites i have read – a simply search on google will provide you with that list):

OK so what am i referring to in the title of this post “The Governance Ladder” – i and starting to believe that there maybe a connection between the “Ladder of Citizen Participation developed by Sherry R Arnstein” and effective Governance in organisations.

Let me try and explain how i came to think about this connection. The participation ladder outlines 8 aspects of participation, starting at the bottom with Manipulation moving up the ladder to Therapy – Informing – Consultation – Placation – Partnership – Delegated Power and finally at the top is Citizen Control.

So my theory so far is i suspect that organisations that are operating in Participation Terms nearer the bottom of the ladder are more likely to adopt more formal governance structures and models where there are clear rules and the management are operating in a linear task model. This would pretty much be a command and control environment.

I also suspect that if an organisation is operating nearer the top of the Participation ladder then it would more likely see value in the engagement of people and therefore, understand that decision making requires clear communication, education and information. This approach is likely to spawn a “guidance – governance approach” where governance exists but it is less formal, supported by strong leadership and clear direction.

It is worth stating now that i don’t think it is a simple ass moving up the ladder and staying there, but it is about knowing which for of governance is appropriate for the circumstances. For example in a crisis or an emergency situation, you would more than likely value the rules and linear management styles. However if you were in an innovation space or even the whole discussion and debate around the use of social media, we would need a style of governance that supported joint exploration and sharing, where there are no rules as they organically develop and people share and collaborate on ideas and republish them.

The key thing for me in thinking this way is that i don’t believe that Governance should be seen as something which is rigid and fixed in an organisation. I believe that we need to start adapting our Governance to the circumstances and providing a greater level of education, awareness and information so that people (not the processes) can make better decisions in the first place.

So based on this idea and theory i have come up with a very rough starting point for discussion “Ladder of Governance”.

I know it needs work and more thought but i need to share it before i can move on.

8 – Joint Exploration – New ground, based on trust between people, we share what we find in order to develop and grow – no definable rules as they are organically developed
7 – Influence – Strong leadership and trust providing a clear direction and articulating a shared and common direction for decision makers to align to
6 – Guidance – Partnerships and collaboration, working together in a shared agenda but there are boundaries and basic rules
5 – Networks – Coming together for collective action and decision making. Being driven by what we know is right and shared direction of travel across organisation
4 – Encouragement – relinquishing some aspect of control to enable people to make decisions within flexible frameworks and principles
3 – Education – providing information for people to start to understand the consequences of their actions as opposed to be alienated from this in the previous steps
2 – Rules – the fear of breaking rules for some is enough to keep them on track and stay within the defined parameters
1 – Control – Command and Control, very top down and too much process and linear task driven management.

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11 thoughts on “The Governance Ladder

  1. Carl

    Great stuff. It’s late and I’m leaving for London in a few hours so not the best comments to follow I’m sure, but had to say something!

    First of all – weird that others have been using ‘Guidance vs Governance’ for years – I thought I made it up! lol

    Second – I like the lader. This looks a bit like Ken Blanchards 4 stages of Leadership in One Minute Manager. I think leadership and guidance are very closely linked – and that control is required where there is less competence, and guidance where there is more.

    For me, guidance and influence must be synonymous. The only way that I can let the community guide Like Minds, but still lead where it is guided, is through influence.

    Influence is a big deal – I’m reading a lot on it now and getting ready to post… 🙂

  2. Carl Haggerty

    Thanks Scott, i’m still developing my ideas around this and will post again soon as my thoughts clarify.

    looking forward to your post on influence

    • Carl Haggerty

      Thanks Adrian,

      I’ll give COBIT a look at the links your have posted. Have your blogged about your experiences anywhere that you could signpost me too?

      Carl

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