Strategy sets the direction to corporate success

Lyn Provost

First of many parts

Good governance makes a real difference to any organisation.

A report that I tabled last year as Auditor General set out eight elements of good governance in the public sector.

It was based on evidence and observations of practise in the public sector but many people have told me that the elements are equally applicable to the commercial and charity sectors.

Element 1

Set a clear purpose and stay focused on it.

In Alice in Wonderland, Alice comes to a junction and meets the Cheshire Cat who asks her where she is heading.  Alice replies, “I don’t know,” to which, the Cheshire Cat retorts, “Well, it does not matter which path you take then!”

Unfortunately, too many organisations do not adequately think about their purpose and strategy.  It is a key governance role to set strategy.

Strategy and Direction

Advice from management is useful but ultimately it is the governing body’s job to set the direction.  In the public sector, book shelves are littered with strategies and it is good that someone has thought about direction.

But it is the second part of Element 1 that I think is the hardest, namely, to stay focused on the strategy.  In my experience, the ultimate purpose rarely changes – but how you get there is very dynamic and you need to change things as things change around you.

My time in Police is an excellent example.

Police orientation

The purpose of policing is clear and has remained so for decades, if not centuries.

But how that is achieved changes all the time.

Instilling a need for ongoing change into a very traditional culture is not easy.

Let me use one illustration. In order to police for the community and with the community, Police needed to be more representative of that community.  Our aim was to be more diverse.  More women, more ethnicities, more diversity of religious beliefs and so on.

We wrote a strategy, we put in place plans and we monitored what succeeded and what failed. One spectacular success was a phrase book in multi-languages, and hence, police officers could speak to people in their native language.

This was very comforting in tragic times.

Lyn Provost, who retired earlier this year as Controller & Auditor General of New Zealand, was the Guest Speaker at the Seventh Annual Indian Newslink Sir Anand Satyanand Lecture held at Alexandra Park, Auckland, on Monday, August 7, 2017. The above is the first in a series of slightly modified versions of her edited speech. For full text, please visit;;

Photo Caption: A section of the audience at the Lecture  

Related posts

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: