Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Problems with the definition of governance

Towards the end of my introductory post Problems with the concept of governance I said:

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.

One of the reasons why governance has become such a difficult concept is that there is, in fact, no agreement on the just what the word means. People use it in many different ways. You can see this if you look at some of the definitions of governance on the Web. You can also see why I say that governance has become conflated in some ways to management, in fact a very different concept.  

  • administration: the persons (or committees or departments etc.) who make up a body for the purpose of administering something; "he claims that the ...
  • government: the act of governing; exercising authority; "regulations for the governing of state prisons"; "he had considerable experience of government"
  • In grammar and theoretical linguistics, government refers to the relationship between a word and its dependents. ...
  • Governance relates to decisions that define expectations, grant power, or verify performance. It consists either of a separate process or of a specific part of management or leadership processes. Sometimes people set up a government to administer these processes and systems.
  • The process, or the power, of governing; government or administration; The specific system by which a political system is ruled; The group of people who make up an administrative body; The state of being governed; Accountability for consistent, cohesive policies, processes and decision rights
  • The combination of processes and structures implemented by the board to inform, direct, manage, and monitor the activities of the organization ...
  • Measures put in place in order to ensure smooth functioning and control of a company. Such measures reinforce the importance of transparency of information.
  • Means in which the leading authority, often the board of directors in foundations, guides and monitors the values and goals of its organization through policy and procedures.
  • In the context of SOA, governance defines the model to ensure optimal reuse of services and enforcement of corporate policies (eg, business design, technical design, and application security).
  • issues related to the involvement of stakeholders - scientists, industry, consumers and public authorities - in the process of innovation policy design, implementation and evaluation
  • Governance describes dynamic distribution of power, learning and benefits among firms in a value chain Governance refers to the inter-firm relationships and institutional mechanisms through which non-market co-ordination of activities in the chain is achieved. ...
  • governance Governance is exercising authority to provide direction and to undertake, coordinate, and regulate activities in support of achieving this direction and desired outcomes. Source: Glossary – Framework for the Management of Information in the Government of Canada
  • is the process of overseeing a work activity at a level higher than direct managerial control. Governance processes provide executives and staff with clarity on stakeholders expectations. ...
  • shorthand term for political, social, economic and administrative institutions and policies that affect the supply of public services. ...

If you look at all these definitions, governance is used to refer to both structures and processes. It can be used in a top level sense, or can be cascaded down through the organisation. It can be used in terms of provision of a framework in which decisions are made or the process of making decisions. Or it might include the lot.

From a purely professional viewpoint in the delivery of services to clients or if acting as a manger, if the word governance is used in any of the documentation, then you must clarify just what the word means in that context.      

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