Simplifying governance

07 November 2022

Principal Consultant David Holden puts the case for keeping things straightforward

What is governance? The word is derived from the Greek verb kubernaein meaning ‘to steer’.

Governance is all about direction and control, about what is seen and unseen. Where do you want to take your organisation, what course do you need to plot to take you there, and how quickly and safely do you want to get there?

“Good governance makes it really difficult to do the wrong thing and really easy to do the right thing.” – Prof Andrew Corbett-Nolan

The Cadbury Commission says governance is “the system by which an organisation is directed and controlled, at its most senior levels, in order to achieve its objectives and meet the necessary standards of accountability and probity.”


When steering a ship, you need to keep it and your crew and passengers safe. You need early warning systems you can trust, and professionally trained crew who are clear about their roles and know what to look out for.

It’s your job to ensure that the crew are clear on the individual contributions they make to the smooth running of the ship. You must know what to do if things start to go wrong and how to quickly get back on course. And you need to run a tight, efficient operation.

When things go wrong, you need to learn from mistakes, incidents and accidents to prevent bigger problems happening later on – or the same old issues recurring over and over again.

If something needs to be fixed, the ship’s captain rarely has the luxury of throwing unlimited resources at the problem. Solutions must usually be found by using what’s available more effectively.

In exactly the same way, organisational problems are best addressed by reviewing what’s available and using it better, not by adding extra layers of bureaucracy – more meetings, more policies, more processes.

Governance should not consist of layer upon layer of bureaucracy. It should be simple, lean and easy to understand. That’s certainly our approach at GGI. The issues we help you address may be complex but we like to keep the solutions clear and uncluttered.

Focus on the brilliant basics

Here are just a few examples of how we advise you to maintain that clarity by focusing on the basics:

  • The three As report – a tool designed to ensure boards are alerted, advised and assured on issues raised in meetings
  • Wave goodbye to poor meetings – GGI’s three waves approach is the perfect complement to the plan-do-check-act cycle
  • Making Meetings Matter – how to improve efficiency and reclaim hundreds of hours of wasted time per year across your organisation

Let GGI assist you by reviewing your meeting structure to see what works and how to make your organisation more efficient and effective, saving you time by reducing the number of meetings you need to hold.

We can also undertake CQC inspection ready well-led reviews including using the new CQC draft framework and also other aspects of core governance.

All of this will help you remain ship-shape long into the future.

Meet the author: David Holden

Principal Consultant

Find out more

Prepared by GGI Development and Research LLP for the Good Governance Institute.

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