We get the governance culture we design

October 5, 2016

The way we distribute the value of our water resources is at the heart of the debate about water takings in Ontario. Whose needs take precedence?  Those of a corporation or the public?

good goverance is about accountability


Most people don’t think they are interested in the topic of governance.  But we talk about it all the time.

Creating value is the goal of good governance.  Corporations create value for shareholders.  Credit unions and cooperatives create value for their members.  For governments, it is about serving citizens.

However, good governance is about more than creating value.  It is also about who gets to decide how that value is distributed.  Often this means balancing many competing interests – like customers, employees, shareholders, regulators and more.

The culture of our organizations is  influenced by the governance approaches we adopt.  For instance, a recent troubling example is the culture Wells Fargo established that resulted in 5000 employees creating fake accounts to meet performance quotas

Meanwhile, Ontario electricity ratepayers are concerned that they will play second fiddle to shareholders after the privatization of Hydro One.

Canada is having a fascinating governance conversation through electoral reform.  If you want to encourage a culture of opposition and polarized debate, first past the post would be your choice.  If you want to promote a culture of collaboration, then proportional representation offers a better starting point.

We can create more positive governance cultures by design but that means we have to talk about it.