Posts Tagged ‘governance’

One of the biggest challenges in chaotic situations is managing time, or should I say, finding enough time. A sign of time is critical and a change in approach is needed is spontaneous overtime that steadily increases. The probability of failure increases proportionally. What to do? The trick is to switch from management to governance.


The trap in such situations is trying to be the Flash – a comic book character who could race around so fast it appeared he was multitasking. With this approach each person, event, work package, etc., are approached on an individual basis. Wrong!

Management is fine when the situation is sufficiently stable for rules to be enforced and management by exception can be used. The challenge is getting to that spot. This is where governance comes into play.


Governance is applying management efforts across a boundary rather than on an individual basis. In chaotic situations the leader will die the death of a thousand razor cuts when attempting to shoulder all the individual challenges and difficulties people will bring to the table. At the boundary level the number of interactions decreases, returning some of the leader’s time.

What works is leaving everyone in the caldron to stew and figure out, as a group, how best to stabilize the situation. They all sink or survive as a group. This has the effect of cutting down petty behavior and pushing people to think. It is summed well in a quote from Mary Case, “No pressure, no diamonds.” A key characteristic of complex systems not only surviving but also thriving is the presence of a pressure that will not let up until an adaptive solution has been created.

Power and Survivability

The first most important attribute to gauge in a complex situation is how much power you or the sponsor above you has. Power is simply the ability to influence. This was covered in Managing Expectations. The power umbrella must be sufficiently broad to cover enough stakeholders and resources for an adequate solution to be generated. Once the power has been gained it is then critical to avoid a major pitfall – excessive preoccupation with the design specifications and their implementation.

Functional versus Design Specifications

Design specifications ARE important since there needs to be a testable deliverable for successful completion of the project. Success and the devil are in the design details. At the leadership level, though, one’s focus should lean towards the functional specification. Leave the team to solve the design problems. If the leader gets pulled into design problems two things happen: there is no leader, and the dynamic among team members gets upset because a powerful person has stepped into the design effort. People play to the highest power present – they address the powerful person’s presence rather than focus on solutions.

“How do I focus on the functional specification?” is the question. The answer brings us back to the boundary between individuals and groups. By insisting on the expected performance at the boundaries between subsystems along with the boundary between the overall system and the outside world the leader keeps perspective. Once teams learn decisions and judgments will be made at the boundary level the healthy pressure is on to work with other team members and stakeholders.

When the desired responses are achieved the leader then can reward all the individuals who contributed to the success. Obviously, this is something of a paradox because the individual learns to succeed by cooperation with other team members and contributing to client success. When this frame-of-mind permeates the project flexible relationships develop, amplifying the power present in the situation. Why? Customers can feel it emanating from the team and want more of it. The odds of success go up.

Five Elements of Corporate Governance

by guest on August 25, 2009

rk-iconsGovernance is everywhere.

As we all know, our universe is governed by 5 elements of nature:

1. Land
2. Water
3. Air
4. Fire and
5. Sky

Without these elements, really, there is no life.

The elements of nature bring in different assets to our existence. Our ancestors have acknowledged these and we all know their importance.

Now, what has this got to do with Governance?

[ Note: Governance is the set of policies, roles, responsibilities, and processes that you establish in an enterprise to guide, direct, and control how the organization uses technologies to accomplish business goals.]

Before we answer that question let us see what is one of the major driving forces of this world:

It’s the economy.

Opening up of economy ensures that a countries limitations are overcome through partnership and collaboration. This comes with not only an increase in opportunities and challenges but also an increase in the dependencies on each other. These collaborations, partnerships and the numerous opportunities are tempting desires in a philosophical sense and human minds go to great extent to reap those in all possible ways and means. Any disturbance in these balances stand to impact the lives of thousands of people.

One thing that can guide us from all these imbalances is Governance. Governance could be lethal or soothing based on how it is used leading to the thought that “Governance itself needs to be governed!” One way to think about this is using the “elements of nature” framework outlined above.

Let us look at each of the elements of nature in the context of Governance:

1. Land: Being Grounded.

The mass of the universe is land, which we call Mother Earth that holds all living beings. Without land, there is nowhere for us to live.

Organizations can very much manifest the quality of the land in the following ways:

  • Corporates need to be grounded and look at things as others see them.
  • Only when Corporates are grounded, they fuel other elements of corporate governance
  • Fundamentals of Corporate Governance is about dealing with the ground realities from all the stakeholders perspectives including the employees

2. Water: Being Flexible

We can tell from the past human missions that all manned and unmanned missions to other planets are in search of the most precious resource – Water. Water is essential for us to survive. The attributes of water is such that it takes the shape where it’s contained – a lesson in flexibility! Once it occupies the space, one needs to dive-in to understand what is inside. This is the element which brings in the sense of taste.

Corporate governance should take these basic attributes of water and inculcate these in their organizations thus:

  • Being Adaptive and Flexible
  • Understanding matters deeply than looking at its surface
  • Getting the taste of what is being guided and governed

3. Air: Invisible Presence

Governance is all about not knowing that you are being governed. To me, that’s the highest level of governance; it should be as simple as electricity flowing from the switch, water flowing from the taps. No drama! Just silently going through the motions of doing what it does. Governance needs to be invisible yet exist everywhere like air. It should transmit the sounds of governance to the right levels as to the true attribute of air which transmits sound and it will show its color if something is mixed up.

4. Fire : Destroying Evil

This is the ultimate weapon. Fire absorbs the good and destroys the evil. The only attribute of this element is that, it can be seen, Evil forces that act will always see the fire behind them waiting to destroy them. Another quality of fire is it leaves no trace of what it destroys.

Corporations should have the fire to clear the evil forces that hinders the growth of the Organization. The governance should be structured in a way that it is clearly seen as a lethal weapon to all the destructive forces.

5. Sky – Endless possibilities

Even in utmost turmoil, one thing that holds us together is Hope and the endless possibilities. History shows many instances of this quality. If we observe closely, when you try to reach the sky, it expands itself infinitely. Men have traveled farther to moon only to understand the limitless possibilities that sky brings in. We know we cannot capture it we can only appreciate and acknowledge it.

The rule is very simple – The possibilities are endless. Sky is the limit.


Rajesh Kannan leads the develpment of Odondo. Odondo, an offering from Compassites is a service that helps the Directors and management to listen to real people and feel the pulse of their organization. Odondo’s goal is simple; to facilitate robust communication that feeds into a 360° IT enabled solution. You can follow him on Twitter at @Odondo