Death by committee (HLD 399)

30 April 2021

I have spent the morning typing up the minutes of a meeting of one of the committees I’m on.

Don’t get me wrong – this is a good bunch of people, and the committee itself is purposeful and driven. And fortunately we recorded the zoom meeting so typing up the minutes is quite easy.

But – don’t you agree, generally speaking, that “A committee is a cul-de-sac down which ideas are lured and then quietly strangled”?

I read, in the minutes of yet another committee meeting, that to get something sorted out quicker, they would form a sub-committee……Who would do the work required, make plans, report back to the main committee for approval, who would suddenly need to know all the ins and outs of the decisions, and take a bit of time to look at all the issues. And query most of them. And send the sub-committee back to think about some other options.

Death by committee. It’s a thing.

There are committee meetings you attend where you leave feeling empowered and enthused. There are committee meetings where you leave already weighed down with things you have to do before the next meeting. And there are committee meetings where you sit quietly listening to all the empowered and enthusiastic workers who will take on any task given to them.

I’ve often felt, when it comes to committees, that either I am very interested and have a lot of knowledge about the work of the committee and are keen to get involved, or that I feel very out of my depth amongst the more educated and learned people already in the group. I am encouraged, however, by the theory that committees operate most effectively when their members come with different skills, knowledge, backgrounds and experiences.

Types of people you will find on committees:

Big ideas people – don’t want to do it, they’ve just got ideas.

History buffs – “well, in the past this happened”. They know everything that’s happened, who said it, and why it didn’t work.

Legally minded – they know all the rules and regulations.

Pressure release people – quick to offer up a joke (that’s me!).

Workhorses – they’ll do it. Doesn’t matter how busy they are. Just sit quietly and wait until they put up their hand.

Dumb question people (also me) – usually ask a question that was answered five minutes ago.

Tangentialists – they will wander so far off track that you wonder whether they’ve packed a compass.

Pontificators – usually have the last word.

Some thoughts gleaned from the internet about committees for you to add to the minutes of this meeting:

We have a committee meeting tomorrow to discuss forming a subcommittee to discuss why we have so many meetings. Don’t be late.

A committee is a group that keeps minutes and loses hours.

If Columbus had an advisory committee he’d probably still be at the dock.

A committee is a group of people who individually can do nothing, but who, as a group, can meet and decide that nothing can be done.

If you want to kill any idea in the world, get a committee to work on it.

A camel is a horse that was designed by a committee.

They sit there in committees, day after day. And they each put in a colour and it comes out gray.

I survived another meeting that could have been an email.

And the one I totally agree with – “Any committee that is the slightest use, is comprised of people who are too busy to want to sit on it for a second longer than they have to”.

Meeting adjourned. Back to work now 🙂

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