Management vs Governance

Understanding the differences

The governing body must govern; that is, it must provide leadership and strategy and must focus on the 'big picture'. Governance is about planning the framework for work and ensuring it is done. As such, it is distinct from management (organising the work) and operations (doing the work). As far as possible, the governing body should therefore steer clear from making managerial decisions and getting involved in the day-to-day implementation of strategy.

This is easier said than done. The lines between governance, management and operations are easily blurred, as they are of course closely inter-related.

The larger an organisation is, the easier it is to define the boundaries...

Marking the Boundaries

The larger an organisation is, the easier it is to define the boundaries. The governing body governs, the chief executive officer/senior management team manages, and the rest of the staff and volunteers engage in operations. However, in smaller organisations, especially in those organisations without paid staff, it is easy for the governing body to get 'bogged down' with questions of shortterm management and operations and to lose sight of the need to focus on strategy for the longer-term.

In these situations, it is essential to find an effective way of balancing the demands for governance, management and operations, which are all crucial to the organisation's ultimate success. As small organisations grow in size and begin to take on paid staff, it is vital for governing body members, who are likely to have been used to 'pitching in', to concentrate on their governance role and to allow staff to get on with the jobs for which they have been recruited.

Find out more in our Governance section.