Warning: this post compares governance to partying… proceed at your own risk!

As expected, Microsoft had several exciting announcements at Ignite, including unveiling their evolving Office 365 Groups capability. Groups shift the focal point of sites from a physical “town square” metaphor – where everyone gathers around a central piazza to post and receive their news – to a party metaphor, where everyone is generally in the same location, but they move in and out of groups like… lava in a lava lamp? …amoebas in a petri dish? jello in a college town…? Anyway, you get the idea.

 “This,” it was described by Microsoft’s Andy Haon and Eric Zenz, “is how millennials are used to working.” They come together to work on a project, complete it, disband, and move on to another project. They work on multiple projects throughout the course of the day, as one might interact with various cliques at a party.

But where Groups make it easier for us to quickly form our own collaboration teams, it amplifies one of the longest-running challenges in this space… Governance. Ah, the “g” word… where having too much of it can stifle creativity and frustrate teams; and too little of it can cause confusion… and frustrate teams. The governance challenge with Groups is similar to the governance challenge with Yammer, or even with Facebook. Let’s say I want to collaborate with people who love lava lamps. I perform a cursory search and find Lava Lamp Lovers of Los Angeles, Bring Back the Lava Lamp!, and LavaLamp Enthusiasts. None really meets my needs, so I go ahead and create my own group. You already know the rest of the story… groups either work to build their membership or, more often, are abandoned quickly as owners move on to other groups. And unlike in Rocky and Bullwinkle, there is generally no street sweeper following along behind us to recycle the leftovers (an image, I recognize, that may be before millennials’ time).

Now imagine if this were a high stakes corporate group, like “Nuclear Division R&D” or “Cybersecurity Support Group.” How do you balance the dynamic needs of these groups with making sure people in your organization are quickly and effectively looped in to the right conversations with the right people, at the right time? While there’s really no such thing as “solving” governance, simply having a framework and common language can help spark the right types of conversation.

My favorite governance model remains the one Microsoft issued with some of the earliest versions of SharePoint, with a little additional context regarding where more or less governance should be applied:


Several variations have been published since, but the key message is that different situations call for different degrees of governance. Add to this a template with roles and responsibilities, and you have the ingredients for a structured conversation about how to manage virtual collaboration teams, including what is enabled by Groups.

What governance models work for you?