Effective Committees

Effective committees can be one of the most important working forces at the heart of an organization. Committee work can and should be an extremely rewarding experience to both the individual and the organization. The purpose and objectives of a committee may be clear and concise, but as with any group of people trying to achieve a common goal, many other factors will determine whether or not the committee will in fact succeed in accomplishing its task.

Advantages of Committees

There are several basic reasons for setting up committees that are common to all regardless of the tasks they are to complete.

  • Responsibilities are shared
  • More members become involved
  • Specialized skills of members can be used to best advantage
  • Inexperienced members gain confidence while serving on the committee
  • Matters may be examined in more detail
  • The organization is able to complete its business more efficiently by delegating some work to committees

Questions to Answer in Developing Committees

  • What is the purpose of the committee?
  • What are the responsibilities and limitations?
  • What are the specific tasks?
  • When should the job be completed and what type of report is expected?
  • What is the role of officers and how is the membership decided?
  • Is there a budget?
  • What is the term of office for members, methods of filling vacancies, and appointment of the chair?
  • What is the authority of the committee?
  • What resources are needed? What resources are already available?

How to Develop a Committee

Selecting Committee Members

Selecting committee members is most effective as consideration can be given to skills, interest, and size of the group. Five to nine people on a committee are usually the best for most situations.

Selecting a Committee Chair

A committee chair is the key leader of the committee’s work. The committee chair orients the members as to the purpose of the committee and expectations of the organization. The chair’s role is not necessarily one of bringing technical expertise to the group. The chair must be organized and know how to organize - both programs and people. He or she must know how to involve others and how to motivate them to do the work of the committee.

Other responsibilities of the chair include:

  • Preparing and presenting committee reports to the organization
  • Setting agendas, calling meetings, and soliciting input from all members
  • Ensuring that the chair is succeeded by another member of the committee

Signs of an Effective Committee

  • Purpose of the committee is clear to all
  • Careful time control: length of meetings, as well as development of overall committee time path
  • Sensitivity within to each other’s needs; good communication among all members
  • An informal relaxed atmosphere
  • Good preparation on part of the chair and members
  • Interested committed members
  • Minutes are complete and concise
  • Periodic self assessment of committee’s performance
  • Recognition and appreciation are given to members so that they feel they are really making a contribution
  • The work of the committee is accepted and makes a valuable contribution to the organization

Ways to Increase Participation in Committees

  • Ensure committee chairs understand and can convey the role of the committee to members, and that the chair and members have up-to-date lists of roles and responsibilities
  • Ensure adequate orientation that describes how the committee contributes to the organization’s mission
  • Have ground rules that support participation and attendance
  • Consider using subcommittees to increase individual responsibilities and focus on goals
  • Conduct yearly committee evaluations that include a clear evaluation process where each committee member evaluates the work of the committee
  • Attempt to provide individual assignments to each committee member
  • Develop a committee attendance policy that specifies the number of times a member can be absent in consecutive meetings and in total meetings per time period
  • Generate minutes for each committee meeting to get closure on items and help members comprehend the progress made by the committee
  • In committee meeting reports, include noting who is present and who is absent
  • Consider having low-attendance members involved in some other form of service to the organization, such as a "friend of the organization," who attends to special events rather than ongoing activities
  • Have a "summit meeting" with committee members to discuss the low attendance problem, and use a round-table approach so each person must speak up with their opinions
  • Rotate in new members to the committee every year

(Source: Free Management Library)