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It is a Governance Issue or a Management Issue? An Often Made Misdiagnosis

It is popular these days to label almost every complaint about the management of an organization as a governance issue. This belies the notion that having structures, policies, and procedures in place that incorporate the principles of good governance within an organization will ensure that good and sound management decisions will be made by those in charge.  No it won’t.  Good governance is not a panacea for bad management.  It is extremely important that organizations have good governance but to succeed they must also have good management.

At the end of the day it is the quality of the individuals involved that may be said to make all the difference. Bad management of an organization is not always on account of the failure of the organization to have the principles of good governance in place.  Application of the principles of good governance serve to keep what one might call bad management in check, and to expose it, but at the end of the day within the framework of good governance principles bad managers can still make bad decisions.  Something akin to “regime change” may be what an organization requires in order to lift it out of the doldrums of bad management, and of course the presence of structures and processes of good governance should make this an easier end to achieve.

Similarly, I often hear in non-profit organization complaints about “governance” by a particular group within the organization who are not happy with the direction the organization is taking. The complaint is often labeled by the dis-satisfied group as a “governance issue” within the organization.  And, it may not be a governance issue at all – there may be transparency, accountability, inclusivity, etc. within the organization’s manner of function.  It just so happens that of two separate directions to take, the one adopted by the organization, and the majority of its members in a very democratic way, is not the direction favoured by the group complaining of a “governance issue” within the organization.  This is not a “governance issue” and it may well not be a “bad management” issue.  It may be simply that choices of direction from time to time have to be made by organizations and members may feel passionately about the rightness of their supported direction so that when it is not the one selected, within a good governance model, the sky is going to fall and the group responds to the organization’s decision with the labelling that there must be something wrong with the organization’s governance.

Not necessarily so. One must be careful in diagnosis and treatment: there may in fact be nothing that needs treatment at all.  And if treatment is required, it may not be the governance of the organization that requires treatment; it may be that its management does.

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