Governance as a service
At times for people working in public services — and particularly for people delivering digital products or services — governance can feel like a drag, a set of hurdles to get over.
But it needn’t be like that.
Governance can be a service that responds to the needs of those who use it.
Therefore, based on my own experience, I’m starting to write something about how I see governance as a service, and how you can adopt that approach/mindset.
Several people have already written fantastic things about how governance can support people to do the right things in the right way, particularly people working in an organisation that has adopted agile ways of working. However, it seems that we are a long way from this being the normal experience that people have about governance. Particularly, when we consider organisational /corporate governance.
So I thought it might be helpful if — as well as sharing my own thoughts — I also pulled together a short reading list for those who want to improve governance, or who want to try and influence others to improve governance.
Realising that there was probably lots of things I had missed or wasn’t aware of — and inspired by how Paul Maltby had put together a reading list for government policy people interested in digital — I asked on Twitter for suggestions and gathered recommendations from my network.
Below is the list I’ve got so far, divided into three loose groups/subject areas.
Do you have any other examples of useful reading that I should include?
Governing agile services/digital delivery
- Governing agile services, in the GDS service manual
- Trust but verify: Reimagining service assessments, by @jukesie 2019 — the latest evolution of Matt’s thinking on this subject (for earlier versions, see Assessment evolution, 2016, and We need to talk about service assessments, 2015)
- Exploring the user needs of technology governance, by Andrew Greenway, 2013
- The Tricky Problem of Governance, by Ashley Stephens, 2014
- Governance for Service Delivery, by Ashley Stephens, 2014
- Governance for agile delivery: Examples from the private sector, by the National Audit Office, 2012
- System Error: Fixing the flaws of government IT, by the Institute for Government, 2011
- Making a success of digital government, by the Institute for Government, 2016
- The Lean Governance Mindset, by Scott Ambler, 2016
- Building what’s useful: governance and agile delivery, by Jamie Arnold at Co-op Digital, 2017
- Principles for governance of agile, user-centred delivery, by Mark Dalgarno, 2017
- We all need governance, by me, 2018
- From stand-ups to scrutiny, a series of three posts in 2018 by Beatrice Karol Burks and Jonathan Flowers about governance in local government, covering ‘agile habits for local government’, ‘Why show and tells matter (and why sponsors don’t come)’, and ‘Traditional governance for agile teams’.
- Using the ThoughtWorks Technology Radar to track governance, by Neal Ford, 2018 — an example of how large organisations can take and communicate governance decisions around technology to a large number of dispersed people/teams, with a discussion about governance as control vs governance as guidance and trying to find the just the right level between the two.
- Questions Senior Leaders Should Ask Their Data Delivery Teams: How to improve the likelihood of success whilst reducing the governance burden on teams, by Robin Linacre 2019
- Healthy governance for digital services, a series of blog posts by Steve Parks, 2019
- What does good product governance look like? by Kylie Havelock, 2020— a case study explaining how people at Citizens Advice designed a new governance model for their products, and what they hope the outcomes will be, includes principles, remit of their Product Board, and a template for providing product performance updates to the board.
- An example of Governance as a Service’: Checking in with our project sponsors, by me, 2021
The official stuff
- Corporate Governance in Central Government Departments: Code of Good Practice, by HM Treasury & Cabinet Office, 2017 (The word “user” doesn’t appear once. Nor does “agile”, or “service”, except in the context of “public service”, “civil service” or “audit service”. )
- Corporate Governance in Central Government Departments: Code of Good Practice — Guidance note, HM Treasury & Cabinet Office, 2017 (Again the words “user” or “agile” don’t appear. Nor does “service”, except in the context of “civil service” or “audit service”.)
- The Green Book: Appraisal and evaluation in central government, HM Treasury, 2013
- Agile digital and IT Projects: Clarification of business case guidance, HM Treasury and the Government Digital Service, originally 2015 and updated March 2019
- Governance: Why it matters, by the BSI (British Standards Institution) in The Gazette
- BS 13500: 2013 Code of practice for delivering effective governance of organizations (££), by the BSI, 2013
- BS 13500 Introductory Guide, by Tomorrow’s Company, 2013
- International Framework: Good governance in the public sector, by the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC) and the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountability (CIPFA), 2014
- Good Governance Standard for Public Services, by the Independent Commission on Good Governance in Public Services, 2005
- Agile governance principles, report by the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on the Future of Software Development and Society on how to apply principles from agile software development to policy making and government policy decisions, 2016
- Examples of agile governance, 10 examples from around the world of governments applying the four agile principles from the World Economic Forum report
- Agile Governance: Reimagining Policy-making in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, World Economic Forum, 2018
The impact of the wider organisation — including organisational governance — on delivery
- Rediscover the 12th principle, by the 12th principlists, 2015
- The Government IT Self-Harm Playbook, by Dan Sheldon, 2016 (This article is just generally brilliant, but the entry on “Agile” is relevant here, because it talks about the interface between civil service governance and agile and asks how the question “how can we deliver in an agile way within institutions that are most definitely not agile?”)
- Is Whitehall’s obsession with business cases getting in the way of delivery?, by Andrew Greenway in Civil Service World, 2016
- The Entrepreneurial Organization at Scale, by the SD Learning Consortium, 2016
- Agile governance: an oxymoron? talk slides by Dan North, 2012
- Why agile doesn’t scale, by Dan North, 2014
- Governing agile delivery, video of a talk by Dan North, 2018, plus slides
- The IT Investment Risk Management Framework, by Chris Matts and Tony Grout, 2016 (“The framework should be the smallest set of constraints that the organisation imposes on the development organisation to ensure that the risks associated with the IT investment are managed appropriately. The constraints should be helpful and instructive rather than arbitrary.”)
- Design Organizations for Agency and Self Determination: Reflections from European Organization Design Forum 2016, by Simone Cicero, 2016
- The power of conversations to improve public governance, by Dave Mckenna, 2017
- What makes public governance good?, by Dave Mckenna, 2017
- What is ‘governance as a service’? Designing a service that adds value: A case study, by me, 2017
- PMOs and the Slow Motion Car Crash, by Adrian Stalham, 2018
- Why governance is good, by Cate McLaurin, 2018
- Making a big difference, from the back office, by Dave Conabree 2018 — this post isn’t specifically about governance but about how to apply design thinking to processes generally (HR, finance, procurement) and includes a great set of design principles, including empathy first, eliminate unnecessary steps, and challenge everything.
- The Hidden obstacles to government transformation, by the Institute for Government, 2018 — a report examining how business cases are used within the UK civil service. It suggests ways in which planning, implementation and leadership can be improved, leading to better outcomes for digital transformation projects.
Let me know if you think there’s something I should add to this list.