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Good Governance perches on firm quadruped

Good Governance is the pathway to a good society.

In commerce, it is the pathway to a Good Business.

What is Good Governance? Put shortly, it is the process of holding decisions up to educated, informed and independent scrutiny.

It is more than a process; it is a culture, an atmosphere.

In well-governed organisations, it is something that people breathe.

Each element of good governance, ‘educated,’ ‘informed’ and ‘independent’ deserves a lecture of its own.

Perhaps future lectures in the Indian Newslink Sir Anand Satyanand series will develop those themes.

Strength and stability

What is a good business? Obviously, it must make money, but the profit motive alone will not create an enduring business.

I think of a good business as a four-legged stool.

Each leg represents an important cluster of relationships – with shareholders, customers, employees and the wider community. Shorten one leg and the stool is off balance. Take one leg away – it becomes inherently unstable.

The four-legged stool model occurred to me when I was involved in staff training 33 years ago. The origins of the many market crashes since then have tended to validate the significance of this model.


The Global Financial Crisis has thrown up some spectacular case studies.

Goldman Sachs, for example, tried cutting two legs off the four-legged stool – the relationship with the wider community and the relationship with its own clients.

As to the first leg, it showed that some of the world’s most powerful businesses no longer live in an identifiable community, to which they feel accountable.

As to the second, Goldman Sachs set one group of clients up against another.

It then, in effect, placed bets, which would reward it when one of its own client groups suffered serious losses.

In the end, Goldman Sachs fell from a very tall two-legged stool. Curiously, though, most of the injuries were sustained by the millions of people that it fell on.

Perhaps the market is not perfect, after all. But, that is a discussion for another day.

The predatory behaviour, which led to the Global Financial Crisis, illustrates why Mohandas (Mahatma) Karamchand Gandhi listed in the seven deadly sins “Commerce without morality.”

Such behaviour could not have survived in a climate of Good Governance.

Editor’s Note: Brian Stephenson is an eminent Barrister based in Auckland. He would be the Master of Ceremonies at the forthcoming Indian Newslink Sir Anand Satyanand Lecture on July 30, 2012 at Stamford Plaza Hotel in Auckland. The picture appearing here was taken by London based Arnaud Stephenson. Born in New Zealand, he is a fledgling photographer, reaching the status of a professional. His credits include The Times of London, the English National Ballet and corporate events. Travel, portraits, arts, and textures are among his specialities.

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