Governance & Process, Guidance & How To

Planting governance seeds

…… Part of The Basics series. First published in May 2010 ……

I ran a workshop recently: “Using governance to future-proof the intranet.”

My underlying key message is this: Intranets evolve. They are a process, not a project. Therefore you need to plant “governance seeds” throughout the organization. They will grow and develop as the organization evolves. They will help build a new attitude towards the intranet. They will bring more impact than a governance document!

The “governance seeds” involve strategic principles, jobs descriptions, processes and tasks, existing bodies and offering choices.

  1. Strategic principles.

    Define strategic principles for the intranet itself: this is the foundation on which everything else is based. Strategies change. Strategic principles last.

  2. Job descriptions.

    Integrate intranet-related responsibilities into job descriptions (e.g. part-time publishing): this should also be part of  performance reviews. HR should be your partner.

  3. Processes and tasks.

    Embed the intranet into as many tasks and processes as possible. Business and functional managers are your partners on this.

  4. Existing bodies.

    Use existing bodies for strategic decisions: it is much more powerful to get intranet decision-making into the mandate of an existing high-level body than to create yet one more high level body to decide strategy for the intranet.

  5. Choices.

    Offer choices to business units, countries, professions and teams. People work in different ways. Delegate these choices as close to the user as possible. Get that decision point as low as possible but at a level where people are accountable. One possibility: offer them choices in publishing models. However, make it clear what is required to succeed. For example: decentralized publishing models may result in faster “time-to-market”, but they also require more training and support.

  6. New-comers.

    Find mechanisms to bring new-comers and high level managers together on a regular basis for both feedback and creative sessions about how the intranet can support new ways of working. Integrate the results into your intranet development plan.

  7. Middle management.

    Define a strategy for getting buy-in from middle management. It can be easy to get senior management on board at least theoretically. (They don’t always have to do anything!) It is easy to define what users need. (There are different techniques for this). The trick is to get buy-in from the intermediary levels who may feel “by-passed” by the intranet. They lose visibility and their sense of identity when “their sites” are blended into an enterprise portal, for example. If they are not on board, you will encounter both active and passive resistance. In many ways, the future of your intranet lies with the middle layer of management. Getting them involved is like having an insurance policy. In many organizations, the middle layer outlives the people at the top.