Sunday, January 31, 2010

Problems with the concept of governance

I have been bogged down by a combination of professional pressures with an almost obsessive interest on the Australian Government's My School web site. The main posts here are:

If you look at what I have written, you will see that my main focus beyond understanding the site is on the likely dynamic effects of the changes. There is actually some very muddy thinking here at official levels, similar in some ways to the things that I talked about in my last post, Why Jenny Maklin's standards approach to child welfare is likely to fail.

Turning to other matters, on 12 January Paul Barratt had an interesting post, ASC Board: changes ill-advised. The core of the post deals with the suitability of the new appointments to the Board of the Australian Submarine Corporation.

As a former head of the Australian Defence Department, Paul has a certain expertise in Defence matters. In terms of my own experience with complex technical projects, a board without a core of people with relevant technical expertise does strike me as risky.

In announcing the appointments, Australian Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner stated: 

... the appointees bring a range of skills and experience in legal and financial matters to the board, and will enhance the board’s high level of expertise and standards of governance.

The emphasis on governance that now surrounds so many official appointments, statements and processes is actually highly problematic in an organisational sense. Simply put, governance has become confused, conflated, with management, a very different concept.

I was trying to work out the other day when the word came into popular vogue. As best I can remember, it really emerged as a very popular concept  after the US Sarbanes–Oxley Act of 2002. I am sure that it was around before then, but that was the time that I first noticed it becoming a popular service area among a range of professional services disciplines.

I have a particular personal problem with the way that the concept is now used because I find that in some of my professional roles, project management is an example, it actually interferes with effective service delivery. This leads to great personal frustration.

I must try to spell this out at some point.



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