Committees kill. Kill committees? (no: make them better…or… how to get the camel back into a horse)

by Kurt on December 12, 2011

A camel is a horse designed by a committee! (Sir Alec Issigonis *)

In companies, we all live with committees (read: project groups, taskforces, working groups and the likes). In some instances days are entirely made out of committees. Terrible if you think about it. A great deal of inefficiency, a clear way to screw up work/life balance, and a risk of innovation getting killed. Why? Committees, in their very nature, only function when consensus is reached. And consensus, for innovation, is an absolute killer: it makes ideas mediocre and it slows down the process.

Don’t get me wrong here. Sometimes you can’t do without a committee. And team work, cross-functional alignment is paramount to getting things done in a large corporation.

With that in mind, you just need to make committees EFFICIENT!

Here are the 5 things (with their ingredients) you need to get right to get a group/committee to work well:


The ingredients: a clear, defined, written goal + challenged at the start but not being changed during the lifetime of the committee


The ingredients:  people that know the subject/task at hand + motivated to participate + empowered to take action + culturally diverse + accepting the team process


The ingredients: the leader must have and keep an overview (of the task and the progress) + has an “idea” of the endgame + listens & leads and leads & listens + facilitates more than tries to push his/her idea through + empowered to lead the group by his seniors + trusted


The ingredients: the goal/endgame leads, not the consensus + the will to make it happen + fight for the best, the strongest idea


The ingredients: quick is better than slow + precise timing for how long the group will work on a task is better than non-defined or “endless”


There are some key enablers not to loose sight of: an agenda, a timekeeper, minutes and action points. See my blogpost on meetings.

Put all of the above in a blender, and you’ve got a high right to succeed with your committee.


Here’s an interesting TED talk about how committees/team work & how groups get things done:

And, an interesting experiment around group dynamics:


What are your experiences with committees, taskforces, working groups, etc?


* Sir Alec Issigonis was the father of the mini.



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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Molly Rider December 13, 2011 at 6:31 pm

Loved your clear, concise points about how to form a great committee. Number 1 is so key. I also find that starting each committee meeting with a quick 1 minute review of the ultimate objective really helps keep people focused on the true purpose. Thanks!
I look forward to watching the ted talks when I have a few extra minutes.


Kurt December 13, 2011 at 10:40 pm

Hey Molly! Thanks. Stay tuned in for more …


Kurt June 30, 2013 at 9:29 pm

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