City road bridge at night with slow captured lights

In a previous life, I was a governance manager for two large metropolitan councils in Adelaide and an Auditor for State Government and a Big 4 accountancy firm.  I very much enjoyed the roles which had a large focus on ensuring the organisations had the appropriate policies, procedures, systems, controls and frameworks in place.

At the time, I felt I was doing a job that added real value to the organisation.  I was protecting the organisation from risk, ensuring everyone was being complaint with key legislation as well as giving comfort to our executive team and elected members that we had our house in order.

Fast forward many years and I now run my own business and have spent many years in the private sector prior to this.   It is a distant past from my previous governance roles in many ways.  In my general manager roles in the private sector as well as my current role in owning my own businesses, I have had the enjoyment of building businesses, delivering outcomes and taking risks to deliver innovation, new services and different business models.

These recent areas of responsibility have challenged me in a lot of ways to shift my mindset from what could go wrong which was my mentality when I was a governance manager to the opportunities and upside of building great businesses.  The thinking has changed my life in many positive ways.

When reflecting on this point and linking it back to my blog, I have recently questioned the value of governance roles in terms of the importance placed on them by some government and private sector organisations.  I think it has gone too far in restricting the business from taking the necessary risks to thrive, open up new markets, deliver outcomes and be more customer focussed.  We have taken the mentality of penalising the entire classroom when one person makes a mistake where a new policy, procedures, system or other control is put in place after one mistake.  I believe it adds more bureaucracy, stifles innovation and gets in the road of delivering good work.

Further, too much governance in all areas has potentially become a handbrake across business and society.  Another small tax to fill paperwork in for, three levels of government when other countries have two, quarterly bas statements rather than annually.  These areas alone add layers and layers of administration, overhead and resources that could be utilised for delivering more outcomes.

Too much governance?   I think so.  For me, governance is a little like throwing a rock in to a pond.  The rock itself causes a little disruption but the waves is what causes the bigger impact.  More governance is a little like this in that one extra form created by one person does not sound a lot.   However, consider when you have many people who have to fill it in, people to review it and others to process it, you have created a monster that has been set in motion that is hard to unwind.

To sum up, I would not employ a governance position in my business unless I absolutely had to.  That includes my previous self!  We need to seriously ask the tough questions up front with any more layers of unnecessary process and forms within any organisation, government agency and wider society.  It does the very thing we don’t want which is dumb everything down to the lowest denominator when we should be doing everything to streamline everything that prevents us achieving great outcomes.