A committee is a group of persons asked to consider, investigate or act on some matter. It is a formal group that meets on an organized basis for consideration of matters brought before it.
A committee may also be known by a wide variety of other names such as task force, council, board, agency or commission.
The formality of the committee is expressed by the following features – chairman, secretary, agenda, minutes of the meeting, committee papers and reports and rules of procedure.
Some committees meet regularly but others meet for ad hoc purposes only e.g. parliamentary steering committees set up to monitor short term projects.
ROLE AND IMPORTANCE OF COMMITTEES
Committees abound in practically every king of organization. They are very popular with management and have become an integral part of their operation. Committees play the following roles:
• They facilitate coordination – each committee member may be reporting about or representing each of the functional areas of the organization.
• They foster support for decision: through the use of committees employees are given the opportunity to participate in decision making as they are allowed to present their view points.
• They are used because they produce more information for decision-making. There is a pooling of special know how and talents possessed by individual members. In the committee there are experts from different fields.
• Their use ensures that authority is distributed as decisions are made by a group. Proposals and decisions are based on group assessment of facts and ideas and not just one powerful individual’s preferences.
• They lead to employee development. Because of the extensive contact with people from different field, committee members get to broaden their knowledge. Young managers can learn a lot by sitting in committees.
• They are organized groups hence they can undertake a large volume of work than individuals or small groups working in isolation.
• They are used for group decision making, which gives very high quality decision. These decisions are more readily accepted than an individual’s decision. Committees bring about democracy.
• They improve communication between members of an organization. Information and ideas can be easily transmitted upwards and downwards.
• Through committees, unwritten policies can be explained creative ideas emerge in these fora.
• They are used to motivate employees. Employees are given an opportunity to express themselves and this boosts their morale and evokes a sense of ownership of the decision.
• They are sometimes constituted to postpone or avoid unrest and mass action. Delaying such action through a committee is a strategy for overcoming resistance, or opposition from affected people.
Despite the shortcomings of committees such as slowness in decision making, management hiding behind committee decisions and lack of flexibility, committees remain widely popular because of the benefits they accord management. The sheer size and complexity of modern organizations make it increasingly impossible for isolated individuals or small groups to meet the decision demands of the organization. Besides, the growing pressure from all sections of the work force for a greater say in the decision making processes of their organizations are creating expectations that decision making will become more open and democratic.