It seems a question I posed last week, which asked whether our understanding of corporate governance might be flawed, struck a chord. Many readers replied via email and LinkedIn, and two picked up the phone to discuss the matter further. The general tenor of the feedback was supportive, which is gratifying. However, one person said they were confused by the corporate governance rhetoric. They suggested that an analogy might be useful, to help them (and others) make sense of various claims and counter-claims.
The best analogy that I know of is parliament (House of Commons, House of Representatives, Congress). When the House in session, Members meet together in the debating chamber to speak, debate and make decisions on various issues. Most people would agree that this is governance in action—parliamentarians working as a collective, presumably with some purpose in mind. But is this the extent of governance, or does the scope reach beyond the debating chamber? Take the following examples. Are these closely related activities governance?
Few readers would have difficulty in giving these activities their correct names: drafting of statutes, implementation, lobbying and selection. None of these activities are governance. Intuitively, we know that the governance of our country only occurs in one place, the debating chamber, and even then only when the House is in session. Assuming the analogy is fair, why is the scope of corporate governance viewed so differently by so many?
Is this analogy helpful? If you know of another that works well for you, please feel free to share it, so we can all learn from the exchange.
Thoughts on corporate purpose, strategy and governance; our place in the world; and, other things that catch my attention.