Are You Guiding Or Governing?
It’s a discussion I’m sure many of you have had: whilst you respect your community or audience and want them to run with ideas and bring value to the table, you don’t trust them enough to give them full ownership, either because they might get it wrong, or they might not keep it up.
The reason why this discussion is important for us is because all of us are asking: how much do I govern it?
Guidance and Governance
I see two mindsets, at either end of an upside down triangle (much like this). On the left, we have guidance, which is a hands-off approach that says ‘go for it’, and at the extreme, will let anything happen. On the right, we have governance, which is a sign-off approach that says ‘hold on it’, and at the extreme, will let nothing happen.
In my head I’ve got these two terms pretty together. I know what I think they mean – something that I explained sometime ago in this post on where I see PR going this year.
For me, guidance is the new way of thinking. It says that with good leadership, I can guide people without needing to govern them. However, I’m beginning to rethink this, just a little.
You don’t need me to tell you that either mindset, at the extremes we have listed above, becomes a real problem. But in balance, each has important strengths that we need that often create the same goals. For instance:
- Guidance creates unconferences that destroy the speaker/attendee divide and get us learning together in a de-centralised way
- Governance creates a smooth conference feel that has many controls in preparation to deliver a powerful learning experience, in a centralised way
Or lets take Open Source Software. By definition, it is about guidance – an openly available code base that you can modify and do whatever with for free. Yet, there are some rather strict guidelines and learning curves that govern Open Source – meaning that the average person probably won’t get round to using much of it in their life.
Governance is also not a negative thing. Governance provides a safety that a guidance mindset can’t. It often provides structure that guidance can’t too – especially on a larger scale. As much as we bash schools and the education system, there is a certain problem with scalability of new learning methods.
You see where I’m going here.
Guiding and Governing
Here’s what I’m beginning to realise: there are somethings that have to be governed, as much as I want to make everything open. For instance, in church I’m always going to govern the doctrine. But I don’t govern the way that people live – I can only guide it.
If we go back to our starting example – organice growth has to come from guidance. You set a vision, you set the end goal, and then you let people move there and even beyond there. But what underpins this and maintains the ground that you have won organically is a governane mindset – setting policies, procedures, structure.
This means that we need to be guiding, and then we need to be governing.
Your Leading Thoughts
- I think you can also say the same about innovation vs duplication, or even social vs broadcast. So, tough question, but do we err too much on the side of guidance, innovation and social without acknowledging how much broadcast, duplication and governance is really at work?