Marghanita da Cruz
The term governance is poorly understood - it is sometimes equated with government and in the case of other organisations with compliance - but it is the way in which any group of people organise themselves, assign responsiblities and authority to decide on allocation of resources. The group may be a religion, sporting club, country, village or a business. The group needs to deal with external constraints (rules, regulations, social pressures) placed upon them but also organise themselves and their resources in order to flourish.
The AS8000 series of Corporate Governance standards define Corporate Governance as "the system by which entities are directed and controlled." An entity being "a company, Corporation, government, not-for-profit or other legally constituted organisation".
With these formal definitions in mind, David Williamson's 1976 play the Club, provides a demonstration of Corporate Governance . "The action of the play takes place in the committee room of a top professional football club". The committee room, could be the board room of any organisation today. The play provides a useful, if dramatic, insight into the dynamics of board room discussions.
The play has 6 characters. Three "board members", two executives and the bright new recruit. The board members include Gerry the professional administrator, Ted, the President who can recall incidents in games he watched as a 6 year old and Jock, the Vice President who holds the record for the most games ever played for the club. The other characters are Laurie, the club coach, Geoff, the new star recruit, and Danny, the team captain.
Football clubs are undergoing change and a professional administrator, Gerry, has been appointed. Gerry is courting rich investors and makes no apologies for this. "I don't love the club and I don't particularly like the game and that might make me an oily weasel in your eyes, but I'm the best football administrator in the country and you are only the second best coach". A demonstration of well established responsiblities and competencies.
The season isn't going well. After two good games the expensive new recruit seems to have lost the plot and the opposition's young star is running rings around the aging Captain. The Captain's poor performance and the lack of action by the Coach has been observed by those in the grandstand.
The Coach is aware that change is in the air and feels undermined that he wasn't consulted on the new star recruit. He has told the team that he is handing in his resignation and this has been leaked to the press. The resulting scene provides an insight into the human factors that need to be respected in times of change.
"Gerry: I think I should tell you that the Committee took a pretty dim view of your press statements, Laurie. If you had any grievances you should have come to us."
"Laurie: He [Ted] was the one who authorised us spending all that money on him [Geoff] ..."
"Gerry: It goes a bit deeper that. Keep this absolutely confidential, but Ted kicked in with an extra ten thousand out of his own Pocket".
The expensive star recruit's perspective, is summed up in his comment to the coach. "Love the club? Jock, Ted and Gerry?"
Imagine for a moment, that the coach is the ICT Director and the Administrator the CEO. The star recruit was the new ICT system negotiated on the Golf Course or advertisement in a glossy magazine.
The interaction between the decision makers, their advisers and other stakeholders demonstrates that many factors contribute to outcomes for an organisation. That individuals are seeking different rewards, provide different perspectives. The tensions, competencies and corporate memory all contribute to bringing about change in the organisation.
"Ted: In all fairness I think I should point out that there's another side to all this. There's another side to all this. There's no excuse for Geoff turning up late to training, but it's a bit degrading for a footballer of his calibre to be asked to do twenty push-ups in front of the whole team."
"Jock: Rot. When I coached...."
"Laurie: Those sort of methods don't work anymore."
"Geoff: They'd find it pretty hard to sack Laurie if we made the finals.
"Danny: Bastards. We'll win the bloody flag."
"Laurie: We won't win the flag but we could make the finals."
"Danny: It will help if moneybags here got off his arse and started trying. Put him on Taylor tomorrow"
The project seems back on a track... though Gerry and Jock's plan to get rid of Laurie may have come unstuck, Ted's money seems to have been well spent. But he has resigned following a newspaper article about his behaviour towards a stripper at a club function. Whether the outcome is the best for the club or whether personalities have prevailed is unclear. Whether members, other investors and regulators would be satisfied with the decision making process is a matter of speculation - but with limited guidance on what is expected can anyone be held to account?
Alternatively, AS8015-2005 defines Corporate Governance of ICT as "The system by which the current and future use of ICT is directed and controlled. It involves evaluating and directing the plans for the use of ICT to support the organization and monitoring this use to achieve plans. It includes the strategy and policies for using ICT within an organization."
The AS8015 framework also provides six guiding principles:
The parallels with ICT are there - the new opportunities provided by new technology, gut instinct, team dynamics, the conflicting interests of stakeholders including employees, managers, board members and executives. With most people in an organisation using some form of ICT, perhaps its performance is felt as keenly as that of players in a favourite football side.
David Williamson's play provides an invaluable insight into corporate governance, whistleblowing, change management and team building!
About the Author Marghanita da Cruz is Chair of the ACS Governance of ICT Committee (www.acs.org.au/governance) and Principal Consultant of Ramin Communcations (www.ramin.com.au).
This article appeared in Aug/Sept 2006 Issue of Information Age.