Browse By

Governance – no pain, no gain?

Governance has come up a few times recently and it’s generally a pain.  However pains are best not ignored if you want to stay healthy.

In one case, talking about the re-development of an organisation, I was told: ‘we don’t want to waste the first year just talking about governance as many places have done: we want to get on and implement things.’  Whilst I agree with that, the irony is that the previous two years had been largely wasted and better governance might have avoided that by giving local people more power to challenge the contractors of the service.  But now I’ve got the opportunity to comment on the terms of reference for the new governing body and to be honest I feel I’ve got better things to do with my time.

I don’t want the narrow minded pedantry and bureaucracy.  I want the open road of creativity and working positively together to solve problems and come up with great new ideas.

Instead I find myself making arrangements for the AGM of another body and trawling through the constitution to check we’re doing it all right: giving enough notice for the meeting, working out which trustees need to retire and be re-elected, checking the quorum.

In another recent example, a committee involving both public and voluntary sector bodies had an item on the agenda to review its terms of reference.  The chair couldn’t remember why it was there and so moved on.  But it had actually been put there because it had been agreed they should be reviewed each year.  But who seriously wants to spend their time doing that?  So never mind properly recording decisions (and the reasons behind them) so you remember what you’re doing and why.  Never mind ensuring the group was fit for purpose and that it was actually making a difference.

Of course governance is about more than just constitutions.  Amongst other things it’s how structures, processes, meetings and behaviour promote effectiveness and accountability.  It’s about personalities, attitudes and the will to work together.  However the documents – the constitutions and terms of reference – can helpfully embody good practice and therefore provide a map or a check list to follow.  They are also there as a back stop, for when things don’t go right.  In the examples I have experienced the risks don’t just come from one place.  It could be the volunteers, the trustees, the employees, the contracted organisation.  If things go wrong, it may not be the constitution or the contract that saves you.  However, it is one tool that can usefully be employed.  So I hope you’ll excuse me because unfortunately I have to return to reviewing some proposed terms of reference.  Let’s just hope the pain is worth the gain.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.