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7 Best Practices for Governance Success

Have you ever heard the (sarcastic) phrase: “hello, we are from the government and we are here to help”? The underlying intent obviously is to imply that government, or governance, is really not that helpful. I agree that governance performed poorly can be a detriment, but it doesn’t have to be. There are some practices that can increase the likelihood of success of a governance program, and therefore, help you avoid the above referenced perception.

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If you’ve been following along, you know that we are talking about how to “sell” the need for governance by describing its benefits and some pushback for which you need to be prepared. In this post I want to offer some best (good) practices that you may want to highlight (and actually use when you get the go ahead) to help solidify the case for instituting the program.

  1. Get Sponsorship
    For a sustainable program, executive sponsorship is essential. Governance activities can often be perceived as “overhead” and not essential to getting the “real work” done. Sponsorship and championship at the executive level makes execution and enforcement so much easier when everyone knows it has the backing of leadership.
  2. Connect to Business Outcomes
    The governance activities and artifacts must clearly demonstrate how they contribute to the achievement of a desirable outcome of the business. Just reporting high quality information is not enough to maintain interest. Users pay attention when they can see how that high quality information helped accomplish a goal or objective of the organization. This “makes it real.”
  3. Use a Small-Wins, Iterative Approach
    The “don’t try to boil the ocean” analogy is just as necessary in governance as it is in solution development. Deploy artifacts (rules, policies, controls, etc.) in small quantities focused on well-defined use cases – and then repeat – to help validate that the program continually delivers things of value.
  4. Embrace Hi-Touch Communication
    Governance is not about the information, but about people’s behavior towards and with the information. Successful programs maintain high engagement, enthusiasm and commitment by the people in the organization. This is all dependent upon communicating broadly, consistently and timely. This includes not only keeping people apprised of what’s going on, but education, training, reminders of their roles, marketing governance offerings, etc.
  5. Measure and Publish Results
    “What gets measured gets done” is a quote attributed to Tom Peters and is a foundation to the Six Sigma Methodology. For governance, measuring serves two purposes: making sure things get done as indicated by this quote, but also to prove the value of the program to the enterprise (which only works if you market the accomplishment – see the communication practice above.) Demonstrating that what is being done by the governance program adds value to the organization further solidifies the capability as a critical element of the organization’s ongoing operation.
  6. Build it Into People’s Jobs
    As referenced earlier, governance is often viewed as overhead and therefore not critical. So, if not explicitly assigned to do the work – and given the time allocation to perform it – very often it falls off the side of the desk. Incorporating the activities as part of job and role descriptions will help ensure that governance does not end up falling by the wayside.
  7. Employ Change Management Techniques
    I mentioned that it is people’s behavior that is the true focus of governance. That being the case, much of governance is about altering how people do what they do. It is helpful therefore to see the role as a governance practitioner as a change agent, so adopting some of those techniques can offer many benefits. One good example is the ADKAR(R) model (Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability and Reinforcement) that is published by Prosci that you may want to look into.

This by no means is an exhaustive list, but if all these are put in place I believe the chance for success increases astronomically. Please add others to the comment section that you think are helpful as well.

So now that the concept has been “sold” and we are armed with a set of practices, I thought I’d spend a little time discussing how to execute some of these ideas. As a start, in my next entry, I want to review some ideas on how to determine your starting point, whether there is nothing in place or there is a program that has been running for years. I hope you’ll join me and thanks for reading my post.

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Mark Steinbacher

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