September 22, 2011

Getting Rid of Governance

Lets face it no one really likes governance. It doesn’t have a ton of Facebook friends. On Linked In, it has connections with whom you wouldn’t want to be trapped in an elevator.

It’s tiring to hear the virtues of governance over and over. I’ve seen companies where you would’ve thought that governance directly followed Godliness in the corporate lexicon so heartily was it venerated. Instead, I posit that it’s the straightjacket of big companies. It’s myriad committees gone hopelesssly wrong. It focuses on the negative.

Little good seems to come of being invited in front of a committee.  Ever watch those televised federal hearings?  Visit the local PTA meeting?  Sing in front of those judges on American Idol in the days of Simon Cowell?  For the most part, it ends with someone erupting in anger, tears or both.

Governance isn’t bad in principle. It’s the execution I find myself at odds with, mostly because it feels excruciatingly painful to go through it. There must be a better way to get there. My client Joe Nettum said that I could not – in any way shape or form – label Covalent’s efforts for Campaign Design Innovation as “governance.” He said it was paramount to killing it before it started. So, we all went on a quest: how can you redesign the concept without losing the underpinnings?
After a significant amount of thinking, we found ourselves loving the concept of Mastery.

If you believe as Joe and I do, that people…
– fundamentally want to do the right thing
– like and respect standards for excellence
– think doing the job well is intrinsic to the satisfaction obtained
– find passing along knowledge is more important than keeping it to yourself
– when given tools and techniques to learn and grow, will head in that direction
Then you don’t need governance nearly as well as you need some skill concentrations that demonstrate mastery. So, to articulate the principal skills, here is my recommendation:
If you look at the six skills we’ve placed into mastery, you might detect some reliance on a guild model. Apprentices are given the opportunity, under tutelage, to learn and make mistakes. To build. However, when the apprentices come to committee – it is most often to show a success to demonstrate their progress and be rewarded for what they have attained. They are supported by masters who shepherd their progress. In this way, we celebrate skill, but we make it encumbent upon the skilled to share what they know.

I would argue that the opportunity for a Mastery Council to say “yes” or even better “fantastic” would make the concept of going before that committee not only more interesting, but better received and more usable immediately after. There, wouldn’t you rather say you’re going to the Mastery Council? Much better.

There might not be fiscal rewards for doing this (we’re giving away free coffees – seriously, who develops whole marketing campaigns for free coffees?), but it’s the joy of getting that coffee – of gaining levels of expertise – that tastes truly satisfying.

Cristene Gonzalez-Wertz


To see more of Cristene’s thoughts about redesigning concepts and other general musings, you can read them on her blog Muse and Maven