Using self-evaluation to drive up governance standards

By Victoria De Naeyer, Director, Learning Circle –

The collapse of Carillion, the BHS Pensions deficit, the Patisserie Valerie accounting black hole, the VW Emissions scandal, the list could go on. A series of damaging business events, which effective corporate governance would have identified and mitigated, or even prevented altogether. 

Effective governance creates the conditions for people to excel in their operational roles, without placing the organisation at risk. It does this by providing four highly interconnected elements: leadership, clarity, accountability and transparency.

The governance board provides leadership by ensuring that there is a coherent bond between vision, values, goals and strategy. They set the direction for everyone to follow, communicating to all the purpose of the organisation and how that purpose will be fulfilled. Leadership sets the ethos and tone. What tone was set by aiming to sell BHS before the pension’s liability was uncovered?

Clarity is shown by establishing clear roles and structures, making sure you have the right people doing the right things in the right place at the right time. It should be underpinned by a schedule of delegation so that it is clear what decisions can be made where and that the risk to the organisation is managed at the appropriate level. Everyone should know how they contribute to the purpose of the organisation. Did Patisserie Valerie delegate risk to the appropriate levels and appreciate the implications of doing so? 

Accountability creates a constructive tension between enabling and preventing. Clarity of roles empowers people with ownership of their decisions and actions. Accountability empowers people with the responsibility of the outcomes of their decisions and actions, holds people to the standards required by the organisation to fulfil its purpose. Where was the accountability for the VW emissions scandal? Did the board really not know what the engineers were doing?

Transparency demonstrates that there is an integrity to how an organisation is run to deliver outcomes and meet its obligations. It gives staff confidence in leadership and the organisation as a whole. It gives external stakeholders the confidence in the organisation to meet its statutory and ethical obligations. Where was the transparency in Patisserie Valerie’s “secret overdrafts”?

To be effective in these four areas, a governance board needs to be able to create the right environment for open and robust discussion. They need to be able to build an open and trusting climate, enabling them to explore different ideas, encourage a range of differing viewpoints, and not shy away from uncomfortable issues.  

All governance boards set out to do these things, but only the best get it right. They are the ones who operate as a truly cohesive team. They have a highly developed sense of self awareness. They regularly review their own performance, self-evaluate against benchmarks and external measures, and plan improvements based on tangible evidence.

PCS delivers an effective, ongoing self-evaluation for governance boards. It directly measures governance elements such as clarity of vision and of goals, team balance, structure and roles. It provides information in support of key attributes of robust governance boards, such as openness to change, connection and communication; Attributes without which the board would struggle to ask the difficult questions, to hold themselves and others to account and to discharge their statutory and moral responsibilities.

PCS provides periodic measurement so that governance boards can plan development strategies and evidence improved performance over time. It supports succession planning and provides an early warning system for performance issues. 

For highly proficient governance boards, such self-evaluation is not just desirable, it is an imperative. 

To find out how PCS could help your business please contact us at or call 01395 233 040 


Zac's Challenges:

Zac’s tech business is growing rapidly. He’s gone from being a developer with a good idea to now overseeing an ever-expanding team. Zac knows that in order for the business to grow successfully, it needs to stay true to its founding values and his staff need to feel valued and engaged. Zac wants to understand if he and his team are on the same page and he needs to do it quickly and cost effectively.

Zac's PCS Solution

Zac decides to use PCS Lite to get a quick temperature check of how his team are performing and what they think about the business. The PCS Lite report quickly surfaces the fact that his team have lost sight of the organisation’s purpose and goals. Zac realises that he needs to improve his on-boarding processes and help orientate the new team members better in the company culture and vision. 6 months later, Zac uses PCS Lite to check his new onboarding process is working; concludes that the growing team are much better aligned to his vision and are generally operating in a more positive working environment.

Annabel's Challenges:

It’s Annabel’s job to help the Partners in the firm manage their clients and ensure they’re consistently adding value. Recently, Annabel has been asked by one of the Partners to find a tool or framework that the consultants can use to benchmark new clients looking for team and leadership improvement programmes. It needs to be cost-effective, established and reputable and able to be branded with the firm’s own logo.

Annabel's PCS Solution

Annabel recommends PCS Pro to the Senior Partners as it provides an objective measurement of team and leadership climate against which the consultants can build performance improvement programmes. PCS has a good track record, academic validation, excellent training and customer service, so she’s confident that it’s the right tool for the firm’s consultants to use.

Sarah's Challenges:

Sarah has to keep across the multiple training and development needs in the organisation and do it within a tight budget. Recently, Sarah’s been asked to design a L&D programme that improves the staff retention rate and helps staff feel more engaged with the changes happening in the organisation, not least the shift to more flexible working.

Sarah's PCS Solution

Sarah uses PCS to measure how different teams across the organisation are performing and look at any patterns which suggest the need for organisation-wide, leader or team training. Sarah notices that all teams and leaders have a low climate score in the Processes segment. Sarah knows that allocating budget in this area will improve performance. She works with the Senior Management Team to review the organisation’s processes as they transition to more flexible working and designs a training programme to support staff in the transition. She’s helped staff to feel supported, acknowledged and engaged which ultimately drives performance. 

Jim's Challenges:

Jim’s client has a team that’s not performing as well other teams in the organisation. The team has a high staff turnover, sickness and the lack of cohesion is impacting the team’s wellbeing and performance. Jim needs to get to the bottom of why this is happening and design effective coaching interventions which can generate tangible results for his client.

Jim's PCS Solution

Jim uses PCS Pro to measure / benchmark how the team and leader are performing across the 6 segments critical to team performance – Goals, Roles, Processes, Adaptability, Connection and Resilience. He can immediately see the disparity in Goals, Processes and Connection between the leader’s perception and those of her team. He uses this information to build a coaching programme designed align team and leader. After 6 months, the team seems to be more settled and productive. Jim remeasures using PCS Pro – the results show the client the effectiveness of his coaching intervention.