Among others, the Strategic Governance program takes its inspiration from the theories of Robert S. Kaplan and David P. Norton in Mastering the Management System*, the most important parts of which Fredrik says are presented in the program.
– During 40 years of research, the pair have identified some 100 dead ends in strategic governance and, based on these, we have packed the course with content from which all participants can benefit. It’s a matter of ‘goal-oriented governance’, not ‘one size fits all’. This involves understanding strategies and governance and adapting them to the specific circumstances of your own organization.
What does strategic governance entail?
– Although the word ‘strategic’ is charged with many different connotations, the definition we actually apply can be summarized as ‘long-term planning, implementation and review’ or ‘plan-do-check-act’.
What does the program address?
– The program entails participants developing their understanding of how an organization should set its targets and objectives, package these well as plans, identify risks, determine who is to do what and how to review and adjust the strategy and intermediate goals along the way. In addition, all strategies, no matter how good they are, eventually need to be dusted off and challenged, and naturally we also address this.
The program switches back and forth between theory and practice. For this reason, external lecturers in the field of GRC (Governance Risk and Control) are brought in to illustrate practical applications.
In your view, what are the key aspects to consider in operational governance?
– Understanding how governance works. I often meet individuals, including members of management teams, who lack a holistic view and who may come into contact with aspects of their organization’s governance structure. Understanding the whole is important, however, to be able to make an effective contribution, because the underlying thinking is systemic – everything is interconnected.
How is the program organized?
– We start with considering governance from a historical perspective and look at how it has developed. That answers the question of why we are where we are today. We then work through the program following a logical flow that starts with planning, is followed by implementation and concludes with review.
At what level do GRC officers need to master operational governance?
– You need skills in understanding and analyzing governance, not simply knowledge about the area. You should then use these in such a way that planning, implementation and review permeate efforts and, accordingly, follow the established plan. Governance is a signal that should seep out into the organization and does not occur spontaneously but requires work.
For example, according to Fredrik, charismatic and bold leaders convey their strategy more easily than those with stage fright who avoid standing before the masses. However, this must not supersede the management process, which should not be determined entirely by personality.
– The outermost sign of poor governance is that it gets you where you want to go more slowly, while good governance gets you to your goals faster.
The program targets those working with governance or governance functions GRC from all three lines of defense, including internal auditors, compliance officers, risk managers, controllers, etc. Those working specifically with business and strategy planning at a company will also benefit from participating.
Any tips for prospective participants who would first like to get a head start at home?
- Look at how the program is structured and reflect on that. Consider whether you are doing anything in these areas and what.
- Consider whether there is a common thread connecting. Do you find it all interrelated?
- Also, consider whether your organization’s strategy is easily understood. Often, it is not – although we may be reluctant to admit it.
– It is not uncommon, however, that strategies are unclear. If you ask me, and I have nonetheless worked with strategic governance for 15 years, I still find it unclearly formulated in many organizations.
Fredrik finds many strategies incoherent and unclear and quotes Swedish writer and academic Esaias Tegnér who said: “What’s said obscurely is what’s thought obscurely”. And there is a reason for that.
– Of course! Strategies are somewhat secret because they often contain very good ideas that we are afraid of revealing. Communications surrounding them are affected by this. If you want people to work according to your strategy, however, you must be able to communicate it and that is what we are trying to achieve with the program.
*Footnote:Harvard Business Review, 2007