I received an interesting question a while back and thought it worth sharing my response. The question came from one of my followers and went like this, “What do you think of Committee decision making and/or problem solving? What would be required to ensure Committee success?”
I agree that committees tend to take longer and are potentially not as responsive as you need to be. It all depends on what you create a committee to do and the guidelines you establish for its mode of operation.
I’m a big proponent in having committees made up of business representatives alongside IT representatives. For example, one of the things I always try to do when managing a Programming Support organization is to create a “steering committee” to review the outstanding programming change requests that exist in our programming backlog in order to determine what gets assigned for the next period (usually monthly) and what does not get prioritized. There are several reasons:
- The business is in the best place to know what needs to be a priority, , , not our IT organization.
- The business needs to realize that our company can’t fund IT to have unlimited resources and therefore work has to be prioritized.
- If we (IT organization) are left to prioritize these jobs on our own, we will never be as responsive as our business clients want us to be. Never! Clients will simply want everything completed “right now”.
When your clients are in the middle of determining what gets worked on and when, , , it’s a struggle initially, , , but over time it simply becomes our normal process of how we manage the business.
I can tell you that when the business units are making the trade-offs and are ultimately responsible for prioritizing the work, it makes life much better for the client as well as the IT organization and easier to support the client in this area.
I don’t believe all things work well in committees. We don’t run companies or manage in a democracy, , , but in places like programming support, strategic project initiatives, project portfolio management, etc. a committee can be very helpful.
I still like the fact that IT is represented as a full member of the committee and the IT representative is often who facilitates such meetings. Certainly, IT must be able to influence decisions but getting the client positioned to feel they are more in the “driver’s seat” and in control of their own destiny is a good thing for everyone.
The downside about running your company “by committee” is that you can have gridlock if you aren’t careful. In my view, a committee is best when used as an advisory group to help the management team make good decisions. More brain power is a good thing but can certainly slow the process.
When creating a committee, it is important to establish good guidelines that help focus the members of the committee on the it’s mission and objectives along with operating guidelines to work within.
Be sure your committee is assigned a role that does not slow an organization’s responsiveness if this is a key measurement of performance.
Finally, committees can be very effective when making decisions about company direction, determining key initiatives for an organization to work on, even deciding the priorities of your programming backlog, etc.
For example, in 1991 our company President created a senior management committee in March to focus on cutting company expenses during the 3rd and 4th quarter. We wanted to take the company public the following year and felt we needed to achieve major expense cuts in order to achieve our 3rd and 4th quarter financial forecasts because of an expectation we would not achieve budgeted revenue numbers.
This committee met initially to understand the issue and to identify a list of cost cutting ideas. We assigned each “cost saving initiative” to a manager from the group. We met a second time to deliver our recommendations for how much we could save in our assigned cost saving initiative areas along with how we should go after the savings and when we should be able to achieve the savings.
When we all left the 2nd committee meeting, each of us had specific cost saving initiatives responsibility to make happen for our company and we were required to report monthly on our progress. We focused on the opportunities plus the President of our company tracked performance.
This committee focus was a huge success in achieving our objective and it positioned the company for a successful public stock offering the following year.
Managers make decisions but a committee used properly can be very effective in supporting managers of your company.