Quick—what’s the main reason your organization’s committees struggle to fulfill their assignments on time, within budget, and at the desired level of quality?
“Hmmm…there are so many options; it’s hard for me to decide.”
And there you have it! Making decisions is a key prerequisite for action, but all too often, committees lack clarity about their decision-making process. As a result, they get bogged down in quibbling over details, hashing and rehashing the same arguments, and generally chasing their tails rather than moving forward.
To position your committees for success, make sure they have crisp answers to these questions before they dig into the work at hand:
- What is our scope? Be specific about the level of authority delegated to this committee, and where to go for decisions that are beyond their scope. For example, “You are free to decide how to spend the money budgeted for this project as you see fit, but any proposed expenditures that would exceed your budget must be pre-approved by the Board.”
- What is our process? While your Board’s decision-making process may be dictated by your by-laws, committees may be unsure about which approach to use. Familiar decision-making processes include:
- One individual dictates all decisions.
- Everyone has an equal vote; majority rules.
- Consensus—not to be confused with unanimous agreement. In consensus, everybody agrees that (a) all relevant arguments have been heard; (b) all relevant data has been gathered; and (c) the decision will not cause a catastrophe. Everyone can support the decision without complaints, even if it is not their first choice.
Each approach has pluses and minuses in different contexts, so there’s no one perfect answer. What’s important is that everyone shares the same expectations about what process is being used, how it works, and what role they play.
- What is the court of last resort? Whatever decision-making process is in place, the potential exists for hitting a stalemate. You can head off discontent (and possibly disaster) by identifying up front how ties are broken. For example, “If your subcommittee cannot reach a clear decision on any issue, the Event Chair has the final say.”
As a leader, your job is to get work done through other people. And making decisions can be hard work. Empower your people to be confident and effective in making decisions. Remember—not making a decision is a decision…and usually the worst one possible!