Landlords need to embrace the iPad generation and reject the past
Don’t get left behind
Organisations in the social housing sector are trying to come to terms with a number of radical changes: welfare reform, the affordable rent regime, the new world of development, tenant scrutiny, social media, regulation changes - the list goes on.
The approach that many are adopting is trying to make each change fit with something that already exists. Rents - that must be finance. Tenant scrutiny - that’s an extension of resident engagement. New development - that’s just old development but with no grant. And so on.
The impact of social media really ought to be challenging the approach but there seems to be a tendency to see even this as just the ‘new PR and communications’.
In each case we can just imagine the chief executive’s cogitation as they work out which director to give the change to so that it is ‘owned’.
Operationally that might work, although it will be increasingly trying to stick together many disparate elements with chewing gum, wire and sticky-back tape - let’s unkindly call that the Blue Peter model.
In governance terms the Blue Peter model is already at its limit and tinkering - changing the terms of reference of the audit committee, tweaking the board appraisal process - won’t provide a 21st century governance infrastructure. What is needed is a new governance model altogether that sees all of these changes in a unifying whole.
Fortunately, courtesy of some key academics working in the governance space, the shape of that new model is starting to emerge in two ways.
The first key concept is that of the governance network where the governance is shared across nodes in a network (as against the unitary, autonomous board ‘in control’). The thinking here is about the relationships between the board, the committees, the funders, the tenant scrutiny panel, the tenants and the regulator and moving beyond the simplistic organisation (internal) versus stakeholder (external) model.
The second concept is that of digital era governance. The increasing ability of some IT systems to capture governance processes and align them with corporate performance, together with a regulatory framework that is now less prescriptive and more open to innovation, means the potential for a significant leap forward is greater than it has been for a generation.
The social housing sector is not, visibly, in the vanguard of these changes, though it will soon become obvious that the difference between those organisations that are part of the iPad generation, versus those that choose to follow the Blue Peter model, will be more than digital.
Mark Sweeny, senior consultant at Altair