The Governance Ladder

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.


Location Based Social Networks

I was asked earlier this month by a colleague “what do you think will be big in 2010?” An obvious question for the beginning of January really and one which I don’t normally have many views on but this time I did, I replied quickly with:

“Location Based Social Networks will be big in 2010”

I think the reason I thought this was not based in science or crystal ball gazing. I think I was slightly influenced by the fact that iPhone is now available on other networks and will increase its user base. Now I’m not saying that iPhone drives location-based networks but i suspect that a large proportion of users (not based on any stats) are using a location-based social network of some kind. Perhaps not the best method to form an opinion but on reflection i started to think that they may actually be big in 2010.

I saw this interesting post on location-based social networking platforms, in particular foursquare in Harvard University.

The service, which is accessible from smartphones and other mobile devices, enables students and visitors to explore the campus and surrounding neighborhoods while sharing information about their favorite places……

……..We believe that Harvard’s participation will allow our community to engage with friends, professors, and colleagues in new ways. We also hope visitors and neighbors will benefit from the platform as it grows through use.

via Blown to Bits: Your Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness after the Digital Explosion.

Essentially the opportunity for a University is huge as it could help new students settle in and understand their surrounding quicker if they connect on the network.

Now when i mean by  “big in 2010”, i don’t mean that we there will be a revolution of location-based social networks but more that people we start to see the potential in them and will start to engage with them more often.

It did get me thinking about the possible applications and benefits:

  • Moving House – the networks could give an easier way to familiarise yourself with your new surroundings, perhaps where local libraries are, local schools etc.
  • Mobile and flexible working – if we started identifying “wifi hotspots” more proactively, then people would be able to connect offline in local “hubs”. Perhaps as councils we “think we know” the best places for people to work but it might be that they prefer sitting in a café connecting to the network.
  • Mobile Libraries – this i thought could be something that could be interesting for libraries to explore as way of connecting with people locally, it might also allow for a more flexible approach to “stops”.
  • Emergencies – we could start to create and tag “emergency centres” so should people need to find one they could use their network and the GPS to easily find the centre.

I have only started playing with location-based social networks, one of the challenges i have is that you benefit more when you get out more and this i felt was a key difference in these networks as they encourage real life social interaction more than some of the traditional social networks. I feel more inclined to respond to people who say “social networks are causing people to stay in their homes and disconnect from their community” – Well location-based networks have the potential to really tackle that view-point.

Like most networks however they always work better when more people are in them. That is something i believe will happen during this year and we will start to see people blogging about their “positive experiences” with them in ways which signal that a critical mass has now been met.

I look forward to this year and hopefully get to connect to more of you face to face.

If you don’t want anyone to know, don’t share it.

I have been on leave this week helping out at home whilst my wife recovers from an operation. It has been interesting staying in touch via the various methods i have available: blackberry email, phone, text, instant messaging, twitter, facebook, linkedin and my blog. What has been most interesting is the glimpses into peoples lives that give you just enough information to feel connected but not too much that you feel your space is being invaded by the various means by which we can all stay in contact.

It does raise a question around, how much information is considered to be useful to people and should we only share information with people in the context by which we have connected ourselves.

So for people who i have connected as friends i am happy to share a particular kind of information compared to those people who i classify as colleagues or peers. For me personally i would consider all those people i connect with a friend and if you know something i should know then i would love to think you would share it with me.

Am i supposed to be using different tools for different groups, if so that doesn’t seem to fit my life as i am finding that i use each one in different ways depending on the nature of communications not the audience or group i want to connect with. So it almost forces me to either share too much or not enough information to make my contributions valuable to others in the medium. This is why i have chosen the chinese proverb “If you don’t want anyone to know, don’t share it.” as the title of this post.

I guess for now i am going to have to learn as i go, unless someone knows the unwritten rules about this kind of stuff?

Over the last week or so, i have been thinking about the future and how i can use different tools within my council to help facilitate change and better ways of working, but i need to remember that i can do things now, and i am by starting and using this stuff myself.

Another chinese saying “yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery and today is a gift, that is why they call it the present”