So, seven articles later, where does that leave us? We have talked about 15 principles for designing your internal governance, and I have listed them all together for you below for convenience. However, I do want to re-emphasise one thing I said at the beginning:
“What good governance is NOT about is bureaucracy, box-ticking and delays. It requires finding balances – between control and practical delivery; between the risks of delegation and the cost of control; between wide ownership of decisions and strong accountability for them; between a simple structure and efficient decision-making; between minimum overhead and an effective audit trail – which provide the optimum basis for success. Every organisation has different arrangements because the optimum trade-offs depend on the context.”
The principles for internal governance are just the things you should have in mind when you design your system. That does not mean that the result has to be complicated. It should be ONLY as complicated as you need it to be in your particular circumstances. If you are a large public sector organisation, it may be necessary to be at the high-control end of the spectrum. If you are a small development company, you probably need something much lighter-weight and more flexible – but that is not a reason for not thinking about it. Some principles are good-practice rules which are likely to apply everywhere. Others are choices you need to make. The important thing is that the choices you make should be deliberate, and should be consistent. By deciding exactly what principles for internal governance you are going to work to before you start, you give yourself the best chance of success.
15 Principles for Internal Governance
- Authority and accountability must go together.
- No-one will have authority to ‘mark their own homework’ (i.e. conflicts of interest will be avoided).
- Collective and Individual Authority are different. What will their respective roles and interfaces be in the structure you will create?
- The governance structure should be strictly hierarchical. All bodies which have Collective Authority must have a place within that hierarchy.
- Individual Authority is delegated through the line management arrangements, but it forms part of the overall governance structure and must join up seamlessly with the rest of it.
- The design should start by establishing those areas where the Board should make delegations (starting by noting the matters already reserved to the Board), and how they should be grouped.
- What (if any) dual-key approval arrangements are desirable?
- The authority grid should include qualitative as well as quantitative delegation limits, and should not be restricted to areas where a financial limit can be set.
- Escalation levels will be set to provide an appropriate volume of requirements to escalate, decided on the basis of business need and practical delivery.
- Decisions about committee membership should be made in the light of the delegation levels set, not the other way round.
- The list of staff (or roles) to be included as members of the Collective Authority bodies will balance the need for ownership of decisions with minimum meeting membership.
- Clear rules for meeting attendance will be agreed and maintained.
- What formal documentation (e.g. Terms of Reference, Letters of Appointment) will be mandated?
- In what circumstances will formal authorisation and/or acceptance of documentation be mandated?
- How widely will the arrangements be communicated?
The full articles in this series can be found at these links:
- The Midas Touch – what is Governance for?
- The Midas Touch again – Starting to build Internal Governance
- The Midas Touch again – Authority and Accountability in Internal Governance
- How many ways can you design a tree? – Hierarchy in Internal Governance
- Snakes and Ladders – Delegation and Escalation in Internal Governance
- Why are YOU here? Choosing members of Internal Governance Meetings
- What’s in a word? Documentation for Governance