What is governance?

Governance. Preferably good¬†governance. We all know it’s there. We all know that we need it. But when it comes to the crunch, it’s something that we find challenging¬†to define. It’s like the perfect chocolate sundae. Or a sloth. Difficult to describe, but we know it when we see it.

In broad terms, governance is about who has the power to do what within an organisation. It defines the rules that balance the needs of different stakeholders, such as members, trustees, senior management, employees and service users. It says who can make decisions and how these decisions should be made.

Governance inevitably generates a fair amount of paperwork. Constitutions, schemes of delegation, financial regulations, policies and procedures all have to be developed. Business plans need to be prepared. Financial statements need to be audited. And they all have a valuable role to play.

But governance – and especially good governance – is about more than just words on a page. It’s about instilling within the organisation a culture of transparency, respect and integrity. It’s not about what we are supposed to do. And it’s not about what we say we’ll do. It’s about what, when things hit the fan, people across the organisation actually do. And like that perfect chocolate sundae, it’s well worth the effort to get it right.

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