Skip to content

Change governance, do the leaders of organisations get it?

Investigations and audits of major programmes, both in the public and private sectors, all too frequently reveal that governance arrangements are inadequate. The latest example was highlighted in the September 2013 National Audit Office report of the early stages of the Governments flagship Universal Credit programme.

The governance of change is one, important, element of corporate governance. It focuses on the value stream from setting strategy at one end, to the realisation of the benefits which should be at the heart of the business case of every change programme. This value stream focusing on an organisations major programmes and key changes, is the area of interest of the APMs Governance Specific Interest Group(SIG) and our priority is to influence senior leaders (CxO and equivalent) of organisations to adopt good governance practice.

In the private sector, guidance on corporate governance is provided by the Financial Reporting Council (FRC) in the form of The UK Corporate Governance Code. The code, first produced in 1992 and last updated in 2012, is principle based, covering five topics of leadership, effectiveness, accountability, remuneration and relations with shareholders, and it operates on a comply or explain basis. Corporate governance is about what the board of a company does and how it sets the values of the company.

The Financial Reporting Council recently held an open day at which the Governance SIG was represented. We posed some questions but more importantly made contact with the FRCs executive directorship providing the opportunity for closer future working on areas of common interest. We were pleased to hear, in response to one of our questions, a FRC director state We absolutely agree that the management of change is a board level issue.

So returning to the gently provocative change governance question do the leaders of organisations get it? Some undoubtedly do get it. Where the organisations board or equivalent has a mature approach to projects and change, with governance requirements that are clear, fit for purpose and communicated, competent professional leadership is in place with defined accountabilities, the leadership values and culture support open and honest, warts and all, reporting and setting strategy is properly joined up with its execution facilitating the right changes being done, successful outcomes on a repeatable basis are highly likely.

Regrettably, however, too many boards dont understand what is required and thus there is much room for improvement and still work to be done to influence the improvements required.

Whether as shareholders, contributors to a pension fund or taxpayers were all adversely impacted by organisations and their accountable leaders that fail to deliver value from the investments in change they make.

2 comments

Join the conversation!

Log in to post a comment, or create an account if you don't have one already.

  1. Adrian Pyne
    Adrian Pyne 31 October 2013, 09:17 AM

    Many times we in the profession bewail that the executive level does not "get it". I am pleased to see that Andrew makes the point that the profession needs to find ways to engage and persuade. It is not (necessarily) their fault. To "get it" they need to know at least something about change in their gut as well as in their heads - hearts AND minds we sometimes call it. I am pleased that individual SIGs have been working to influence the "C" level. Another example of SIGs leading the way. Even more pleased am I that APM is now engaged on finding ways to engage with the "C" level as part of its change programmes.And I would add to Andrew's focus on Governance. he is right that mature organisations are more likely to "get it". Such maturity consists of much more than governance of change of course.The challenge for us is to find ways to influence executives that they are key players in creating the environment for change. This environment of course includes governance, and other stuff too, portfolio management, programme and project management approaches. All of which need to be addressed in terms of not just processes and tools, but especially the people aspects, e.g. ; organisation, roles........and culture/behaviour.We can win minds with process and tools but hearts are won when behaviour - how people feel about change, ow they react - is suitably addressed. 

  2. Miles Dixon
    Miles Dixon 29 October 2013, 01:36 PM

    Well said Andrew!  It is widely accepted that over 60% (at least) of change initiatives fail, and whether "leaders of organisations get it" must be one of the key issues here.  However as well as seeing the light, they need to see a path that leads to successful change.The excellent APM webinar on 22nd October on "Using research to improve the delivery and effectiveness of change programmes" introduced by Merv Wyeth and presented by Jim Dale and Rod Willis emphasised among other things the importance of evidence-based research rather than 'doctrine' in undertaking change.  The continuing work of the Governance SIG, currently updating the "Co-Directing Change" publication, draws together best practice and guidance particularly for those leading change at the top of organisation.  These and similar initiatives emphasise to me that we are starting to see a step change in the quality and robustness of advice and guidance available to those at the CXO level, as well as to other participants in change intiatives, which will in time lead to a much higher success rates for change intitiaves.Yes it is vital that "leaders of organisations get it", but equally it is vital that this is backed up by truly robust and dependable evidential-based advice that will generate successful outcomes.  I believe this is now within sight - we just have to make it happen!