11 Five S’s of Governance: Wearing your Strategy Hat.

Many years ago, Julia Unwin (Joseph Rowntree Foundation) did a talk at which she introduced her “5 S’s of Governance”. These are five ways or ‘modes’ in which boards/committees or even individual trustees can act or behave.  I’ve started calling them the five ‘hats’ – you can put on a different ‘hat’ each time you want to operate in a different mode.

Here is her description of all 5 S’s (as a .pdf).

It’s worth thinking about each of the 5 S’s in depth.  You might find your board tends to function in a limited number of these ‘behaviours’ and ignores others. Or maybe a particular trustee is strong in one way of thinking but not others.

My suggested technique is to learn about all five and then ensure that each board meeting ‘chooses’ a ‘hat’ to wear for a part of that meeting.  The questions and discussions that arise whilst ‘wearing that hat’ may help you to learn or uncover something or other.  Or perhaps assess your own skills and approach against the 5 S’s.


The description (from Julia):

Boards also make strategy. They listen to what others have to say, they consult the experts, and
their stakeholders, but in the end they make the big decisions that affect the future direction of the
organisation. Boards in strategy mode will say:
The external environment means that we have to re-think….
This is a golden opportunity to open our doors to people from….
We can come out of this a stronger organisation.

More comment and information coming soon…


This guide is just an introduction to Strategy at this stage. The guide will be updated with more relevant information over time and it’s an opportunity for you to suggest your ideas or ask questions to help us grow this knowledge bank.

But for now, put the Strategy ‘hat’ on regularly to ensure you operate in the right ‘mode’.