Governance is FUN


Strictly Boardroom has seen the huge increase in interest in governance in recent times. This has been caused by various scandals and public disquiet over the way banks are run, public services are delivered and the behaviour of public representatives (such as the Westminster MPs expenses scandal and now questions about MLAs in the Northern Ireland Assembly).

The role of Non-Executive Directors as the guarantor of the public interest has assumed great importance. Much of the discussion has focused on governance structures that allow for formal roles of Audit Committees, risk management, senior independent directors, conflicts of interest etc etc etc …. Such formal roles are business like, professional and detached. However, we think it should also be fun.

In the peerless BBC Comedy series, Yes Minister, Private Secretary Bernard Wooley suggests an advertising campaign to promote the value of administration. He thinks a suitable slogan would be ‘Administration saves the nation –Red tape is fun!’

We are not advocating a similar campaign for governance. Good governance means that Boards should operate according to best practice to ensure that the interest of shareholders and/or the public interest is protected. There should be integrity, safeguards against conflicts of interest and strict rules. We feel, however, that there is an element missing from all of this debate, FUN. Let’s assume that you have been appointed to the Board of a private company, a public body or a charity. A key part of your role is governance, of course, but surely there is more.

Boards and their members should be active participants that enable the organisation to be successful. While this is a very responsible role you shouldn’t fail to see the wood for the trees. Good governance is about helping the organisation to meet its objectives and you are more likely to do this if you are committed to the purpose of the organisation. Such commitment will mean the experience is fulfilling and enjoyable.

On a Board you should have a collegiate relationship with colleagues; you can help shape a successful organisation and make a real difference for customers, service users or citizens. You still have to be objective, be prepared to challenge staff and board colleagues and, at times, criticise. However, all board members should remember why they are involved in a particular board –whether they are paid for it or not. If it is not enjoyable, fun or helping give a sense of fulfilment why are you doing it?  You always have the choice to be involved in something else.

Alan Hanna – Associate, Strictly Boardroom