Matt's Articles

Team Governance

 


 

You asked for it! Here are the five steps for the perfect process. In five simple steps, you can attain perfection, outshine your peers, and reach new levels of excellence. This is the wonder recipe for superior results. And I am about to explain exactly how to get there…

 

This is, of course, a joke! We often go looking for simple answers and as much as this framework has 5 sections they are not simple steps. They are not steps at all; they are closer to questions you must answer. Last month we considered whether your organization has clearly defined roles and responsibilities and is the process critical to delivering excellence to your customers owned by someone? 

 

These are tough questions. Organizations that really want to continuously improve know that there has to be time and space available to ask these questions, seek the answers, and put improvements in place. That is, establish and revise the processes, policies, and norms that allow the organization to have clearly understood and effective roles and responsibilities. Who, where, and when these questions are asked and answered is all about team governance.

 

Strictly speaking, governance is all about how we set policies and create action. From my perspective and experience, this is best accomplished at the local team level, which is why I refer to it as “team governance”. Governance at the top of the organization is disconnected from the day-to-day realities of getting the work done and the obstacles people face on a daily basis. The people that do the work are best at establishing the rules and practices for getting the work done right. When the top of the organization gets too prescriptive they unnecessarily constrain innovative solutions and take responsibility and ownership away from where it is most effective the team. Alternatively, self-governance doesn’t work well either. When governance is left to the individual people get sloppy and fall into bad habits. Without peer review, we tend to cut corners. Team governance provides a healthy balance between the two extremes.  

 

Team governance provides the ability to both checks on our work and the coaching to improve that work. This is the mechanism that we use to help people become responsible and accountable. This layer provides our first opportunity for improvement in the organization. The team members can check each other’s work, coach each other to follow the standard, and as a group, find opportunities to change and improve. The interactions of the team are a mechanism to recognize deviations from the standard, become accountable for following the standard, and improve on that standard.

 

The structure of team governance matters. Governance should include specific checkpoints in daily work against daily targets. For large programs, it includes reviews with all the cross-functional stakeholders to check their expectations against progress and decisions that will impact their organizations. This is not a simple status of activities or just discussing new information. This is a reflection on the goals of the team as compared to the actual team performance. The reflection must correlate the team’s actions to the observed outcome. All members of the team must have a voice and accountability for the team’s outcomes as well as those policies and practices that produce the outcomes. The team is empowered to their own governance, thus their own outcomes. This means they own both the result and the mechanism to create that result and are held accountable. This is why team governance provides the first level of improvement in the continuous improvement framework. 

 

Whatever the form, team governance is an essential building block of the continuous improvement framework because it is the only space where people can talk about how they do their work rather than simply getting the work done. To be effective, team governance must occur frequently, must include all individuals responsible for the work, must begin with an assessment of the current state or current performance, must facilitate the discussion of why (why did we beat this goal? why did we miss that goal?), and must produce change (let’s try this next time. let’s change that role. let’s purchase this new tool). It must be repeated often enough that the team can assess the efficacy of the decisions and process changes that they make.

 

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