The article below by Dr Schori and Mr Garee is quoted wholesale because it’s amusing, anthropomorphic, so easy to relate to, and accurate.
Committees have a tendency to be inefficient and ineffective, consuming resources and delaying results. Consensus is necessary, but usually that’s at strategic or policy level. If it’s necessary for daily or tactical decisions committees tend to be unwieldy. Far better to achieve a balance of responsibility and competence wherein people rely upon and trust one another. As with so many aspects of “management” there are exceptions and the challenge in this case is to be one. Be exceptional, as an enterprise, by maintaining your nimble physique as you grow and mature.
‘Management by committee’ signals final stages of company ‘life cycle.’
By Thomas R. Schori, Ph.D., and Michael L. Garee, Principals, Millennium Marketing Research, 808 E. Ironwood, Normal, IL 61761-5239. Tel. 309-532-8466 –
Having spent a large part of our professional lives in corporate environments, not surprisingly, we’ve also spent a fair amount of time in meetings of one committee or another. In fact, many are the days in which we’ve spent the whole blasted day in some such meeting! We’d like to say that it was time well spent, but in most cases that simply was not the case. Our experience, of course, is not at all unique. In many companies, it appears that virtually every decision, large or small, momentous or trivial, is made by a committee.
Without question, it’s good management practice for a chief executive officer (or members of his or her senior management staff) to seek the advice and counsel of internal experts before making certain key decisions. But seeking advice and counsel is far different from managing by committee, a subtle distinction that’s seemingly lost on many companies. In the former, regardless of whom the CEO consults, it is he or she who makes the final decision, not a consensus of those who were consulted, as would be the case in a company managed by committee.
How pervasive is the practice of managing by committee? Very. Almost anyone working in a medium to large business today observes at least some of this practice on a daily basis. This practice, i.e., managing by committee, is characteristic of organizations that have entered the last two stages of the phenomenon which we previously have dubbed the Company Life Cycle [Described by us in our December 22, 1997, column, entitled, “Like products, companies also have a life cycle”].
If your company doesn’t manage by committee, you’re indeed fortunate. It means that your company is either still in the “toddler” (new company, very nimble) stage or the “adolescent” (company experiencing rapid growth) stage. Either way, your organization still has at its helm someone who continues to manage with visionary zeal, and is not afraid of making decisions. On the other hand, if your organization is one of the management by committee variety, of which there are far too many, watch out! If you’re not in a position to change it, you might want to “spruce” up your résumé because your company has already progressed to the “aging athlete” (established company merely “running in place”) or “old geezer” (company characterized by turgidity, headed for imminent decline) stage of its life cycle. Such a company probably is not long for this world.