Good governance and organisational development go hand in hand

06 October 2022

GGI executive director Mark Butler argues that realising the full potential of people and organisations requires the bringing together of good governance and organisational development.

The world has changed dramatically in the last five years. Everyone recognises there are new demands for greater agility, pace and value being placed on people, organisations and systems.

But is this permanently changed world being matched by deep change in the world of work? How is the relentless demand to make measurable, visible impact in the world being supported at a human level?

GGI has long been an advocate for modern governance as a cornerstone of the future. We argue that good governance is a great enabler that can deliver unique outcomes of added value. As GGI’s CEO Andrew Corbett-Nolan wrote recently: “Good governance adds value. It is lean, transparent and ethical, focused on tackling operational challenges in ways that complement the big-picture vision. It always seeks the best outcomes for stakeholders and is never content with merely staying out of trouble. Good governance is about delivering meaningful and measurable outcomes.”

But what we also recognise more and more is that there needs to be a vital link between good governance and rigorous, evidence-based organisational development (OD), if our vision for good governance as a foundation of the future is to achieve what it must do.

Modern governance twinned with high-impact OD

Organisational development has undoubtedly grown more accepted as a discipline in the last 50 years, but it has sometimes struggled to shake off a reputation for being the softer adjunct to human resources. For some, OD has become a loose catch-all for softer activities related to “development” rather than something of high value in time of challenge. This has perhaps undermined its credibility as a serious practice.

Such a position is dangerous. The right type of OD, as a partner to good governance, is much more precise and valuable. It is important for leaders to understand and embrace the value of OD, as well as good governance, with a new clarity of purpose in the emerging world of work.

The added value of OD, seen alongside good governance, comes from its focus on the human measures of success for organisations, systems and places, and on the alignment of the structural, cultural and strategic realities of work with the needs of an ever-changing climate of expectations and demands.

Sound OD and the good governance for which GGI advocates share many of the same foundations and characteristics. Like modern governance, high-impact OD is grounded in a scientific and humanist understanding of people, values and behaviour, combined with deep knowledge of what is evidenced to work well.

OD and good governance are intertwined. They are both about realising the potential of people and about adapting and embedding values and learning into both culture and practice. They share an aim of achieving change which is sustainable beyond individual projects and programmes. They also share a currency about how their own work should be done – about their own professional processes and practices on the one hand, and the working practices within the organisation on the other.

In our work at GGI we increasingly bring the two together.

  • It is visible in what we are doing with the new systems and collaborations where skills in influencing and impact in different roles are key, as leaders and professionals increasingly work across traditional organisational and professional boundaries.
  • It is the foundation of our capacity building and development for boards, executives and teams, and the way we help align leadership development at all levels of a system or an organisation.
  • It is built into our creative, whole-board coaching, as well as the peer-based personal coaching we provide to leaders and professionals across and between sectors.
  • It informs our approach to talent and skills assessment and succession planning, and our tools and resources for assessing and reshaping culture, based on a balanced approach to equality, diversity and inclusion.
  • It has led us to work on the difficult area of assessing how core values can be lived and communicated and their impact assessed.
  • It drives all our work on increasing the efficiency and productivity of individuals and teams.

OD and good governance are distinct disciplines and should remain so. But the power of their connecting and working together is vital, so that new forms of organisation and working can be developed on a sustainable basis.

GGI will be bringing this joint added value to whoever we work with – supporting people, organisations and systems not just to survive, but to sustain themselves and make positive impact, long into the future.

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

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