When we talk to our many Housing Association customers, it’s clear that the sector as a whole understands what Governance is and its importance. Most housing associations have a suitable risk register, a well-run set of board and committee meetings and a good sense of their KPIs and strategic goals. What we hear increasingly, though, is a wish to connect all of this information into a more holistic, joined-up approach to Governance.
At the centre of your governance framework should be the organisations objectives, and everything should link back to them. These objectives must be well-defined and communicated clearly, so everyone understands them.
The rest of your governance framework, Risks, Meetings, Performance, Actions and Compliance, are interlinked with each other but especially through your strategic objectives.
At your board and executive meetings you should have a clear idea of how each agenda item and decision you make impacts your goals so that you know you are spending your valuable time and energy where it will have the most impact.
Risk management should always link back to your objectives. Most organisations currently concentrate on dealing with threats when managing risks, but we should also be considering opportunities. A good Risk management framework will focus on how uncertainty affects your objectives, positively or negatively.
The result of your work in setting objectives, running meetings and risk management should be a clear set of actions; this is where organisations often begin to struggle. You may have action lists that aren’t being progressed as fast as you’d like, actions not being assigned to the right people or actions that aren’t well defined or prioritised correctly. By mapping a clear path between your objectives and your actions, you can ensure that your focus is in the right place, your priorities are correct, and you can drive more actions to completion.
Performance metrics are a vital way to both measure your progress towards your objectives and provide an early warning for issues and risks that need to be dealt with. Your performance measures will all feed back into the governance process to tell you more about whether you are achieving your objectives, what threats and opportunities are starting to emerge and what results you are seeing from your decision-making.
In a regulated industry such as housing there are also well-defined, external compliance issues that need to be met. These specific activities need to be scheduled, actioned and tracked and need to link back to your risks and objectives to be able to demonstrate assurance and compliance. Many quality and compliance models are moving to a risk-based approach, aiming to ensure that specific quality objectives link to risks and those risks link to appropriate, managed responses.
By mapping connections and relationships across separate governance areas, your organisation can improve performance, control threats and opportunities and build a culture of accountability and assurance.
While building this framework is not, in itself, complex or difficult to do, it does require a move away from the separate solutions, spreadsheets, word documents, folders and email chains that many organisations still base their governance processes on. Moving to a more joined-up, holistic governance process requires a modern, integrated governance tool.
Using a well designed, visual, digital dashboard gives you a clear view of your risks, objectives and results from the highest level down to specific departments and teams. A good dashboard will let you see an overview of the current status, spot any warning signs or problems and then drill down into the details when you need to.
Modern digital governance tools provide an integrated, easy to use interface with all the controls and alerts you need to deliver outstanding performance. Choosing the right tool is essential but selecting the right partner to work with is also vital.
For any housing association interested in improving their approach to Governance visit www.decisiontime.co.uk