If you work in government or in a large corporation, you have undoubtedly found yourself on occasion, for good or ill, in a governance committee meeting. While considering the good, the bad and the ugly of governance in practice last week, I decided to learn a little more about it.

I explored the Management Accountability Framework (MAF) on the Treasury Board Secretariat website of which Governance and Strategic Management is one element of the framework. MAF is used to structure the review the management practices and performance in most small and large departments and agencies across the federal government. In MAF, the Governance and Strategic Management element is defined:

“Maintains effective governance that integrates and aligns priorities, plans, accountabilities and risk management to ensure that internal management functions support and enable high performing policies, programs and services.”

Via Wikipedia, I discovered the short article on the UN website regarding Good Governance which provided a nice definition:

“Simply put ‘governance’ means: the process of decision-making and the process by which decisions are implemented (or not implemented).”

The article goes on to describe that good governance has 8 major characteristics:

  • Participatory;
  • Consensus oriented;
  • Accountable;
  • Transparent;
  • Responsive;
  • Effective and efficient;
  • Equitable and inclusive; and
  • Follows the rule of law.

Finally, I found an interesting article in Governance by Jonathan Boston and Chris Eichbaum entitled New Zealand’s Neoliberal Reforms: Half a Revolution. The article describes New Zealand’s journey from a neoliberal “revolution” in 1980s during which invariable majority governments made decisions quickly and with little consultation. This was followed by the constitutional push back and a multi-party parliament in 1990s, which slowed the pace of change and decision making. The article provides an interesting comparison of two (2) points on the spectrum of governance.

It would appear that for governance in practice, balance is key. On one end, too much governance, or governance for governance sake, means nothing gets done or what does get done is inefficient or unresponsive. On the other end, not enough governance results in a loss of trust for those affected by the decisions made.

Thanks for reading.


Disclaimer: Note that while I work as a public servant, this is entirely my own initiative and what I post here does not necessarily reflect the view of the government, my office or my position there in.

Craig Sellars
Craig Sellars is a passionate Canadian public servant and biologist. Connect with Craig on Twitter @CraigSellars.