Shared Governance? What Is It?

Our blogs endeavour to inform and educate our audience on the principles of Organizational Alignment (OA). At iSeek, we meet our clients where they are, elicit their goals and objectives, then deliver frameworks, methodologies, or other approaches that deliver transformational results.

Today, our focus is Shared Governance and Stakeholder Engagement. Together, these OA principles create structure, engagement, teamwork, trust, and accountability that organizations require to achieve collaborative and transformational business goals.

Let’s examine what industry colleagues are saying about Shared Governance and Stakeholder Engagement.

Gen Guanci, consultant at Creative Health Care Management, addresses a key question in her post, Shared Governance:  What it Is and Is Not

She writes, “I often hear people say they have shared governance. They then go on to share an example, that for me, is clearly participatory leadership. There is no doubt that clarity about the difference between participatory management and shared governance is needed as organizations implement or strengthen their shared governance culture. Let’s take a closer look at the difference through the following example.

 Scenario: A group of staff is asked to trial several versions of the same product. The group completes this trial by comparing the various products, and then they forward their feedback to leadership. Leadership reviews the staff feedback and makes the final decision on what will be purchased. Leadership may or may not take into account staff feedback, yet, the staff did have the opportunity to participate in the product decision. This is clearly participatory management. 

Using a shared governance approach, let’s re-run the same scenario. A group of staff is asked to trial several versions of the same product and identify the product to be purchased. Leadership articulates the parameters or criteria that must be met by the product for it to be purchased. These parameters often include things such as budget amount, vendors in the organization’s buying group, quantity needed, etc. Upon completion of the trial, staff forwards their feedback to leadership. In addition to this feedback, staff informs leadership that the product they have chosen meets all the articulated parameters/criteria.

Upon receiving this information, leadership thanks the group and proceeds to order the product identified by the shared decision-making staff group. Because of the articulated parameters/criteria, the response from leadership in a shared governance culture would be “thank you,” and the purchase is processed through the system. This is true shared governance… leadership shared the parameters/criteria, and staff made the decision.”

In the article, Exactly What Is ‘Shared Governance’, author Gary A. Olson, provost and vice president for academic affairs at Idaho State University, explains that “shared” doesn’t mean that every constituency gets to participate at every stage. It also does not mean that any constituency exercises complete control over the process.


Continuing the discussion on shared governance in higher education, AGB President Rick Legon answers the question, What is shared governance? He states that, although governing boards hold the ultimate responsibility, they must share governance duties while respecting academic freedom and soliciting input from a broad campus constituency. Shared Governance is not a process of giving away their ultimate authority, but rather it is a demonstration of respect for the professionalism and the leadership of the other critical stakeholders inside the academy and even for some eternal stakeholders.

The key to genuine shared governance is broad and unending communication. When various groups of people are kept in the loop and understand what developments are occurring within the university, and when they are invited to participate as true partners, the institution prospers, according to Olson.

The end goal of true shared governance and stakeholder engagement is to balance maximum participation in decision making with clear accountability.


To learn more about Shared Governance and Stakeholder Engagement, contact us  today, and allow iSeek Solutions to better align your organization to achieve its desired outcomes. Subscribe to our blog and follow us on LinkedIn for future insights.

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