06 March 2005

MANAGEMENT BY COMMITTEES-Dr.A.Sreekumar Menon

MANAGEMENT BY COMMITTEES-Dr.A.Sreekumar Menon
Psychologist, Specialist in Management Science and Author of Award Winning Management Books

In all most all the organisations, especially in larger ones, one finds the institutionalization various committees.

Some examples of committees are Shop floor Productivity Councils, Departmental Committees, Foremens’ Committees, Institutional Coordination Committees, Special Project Teams, Research Administration Committees and so on .Memberships in those committees cut across the formal hierarchical levels in the organisations .

Committee functioning offsets some of the ill-effects of centralized or pyramidal organisational structure.

The Committees are broadly of two types:- Viz.

1. Committees superimposed on the formal structure
and
2. Those functioning independent of formal organisational structure.

When the hierarchical control of functions is superimposed on the committee functioning, it is called a Matrix Structure. In Research and Development Organisations, one finds this type of structure. There are very few l hierarchical levels In this the operating personnel form project teams. The Discipline Head controls the work of project teams rather than the work of individual workers as in the type of Hierarchical type of organisational design. Committee setup offsets the negative effects of tall organisational structure such as delay in organisational communication, lack of individual freedom, standardization of operations, which give no scope for individual initiative and creativity and innovativeness and problem solving skills etc, which are the backbones of organisational dynamism, growth and development. In addition to the functioning of these committees, several meetings are also arranged with during working hours as necessary means for effective administration and management. Some companies take pride that they are managing by Committees. There are Organisations, where just the opposite trend can be observed. They might be of the view that setting up of Committees and conducting meetings for organisational decision making is share waste of valuable time, which could be better utilized properly by formal assignments and direct communication of what is to be done. What could be reasons for holding such opposite views? The underlying reasons could be several. There may not be common sharing of understanding regarding the purpose or goals which are to be achieved. Even those who have set up such committees may not be clear as to why such Committees were set up in the first instance or they might have thought of achieving certain objectives, for which Committee mode is not the right kind of action. Committees are mechanisms for democratic functioning of the organisation or running of the organisation in which employees participate. Democratic values being most cherished values of our century. Business and Industrial Organisation receive public acclaim and look prestigious, when they run their organisations democratically rather than in centralized way. In other words, it has sales appeal and boosts the social image of the company, how ever short run, it may be. Another reason is that the Centralized or Top heavy or pyramidal type of organisation might assume that it is easy to talk to a group of people rather than to people individually.

The right motives in setting up committees and conduction staff/employee meetings should be abiding faith on the part of top management in democratically running the enterprise, thereby upholding the general democratic principles cherished in our constitution and belief in the capabilities of employees at the levels and appreciation of the principles of Group Dynamic and their usefulness in achieving optimum employee productivity vis-à-vis employee satisfaction through participation in groups.

The management which is guided by these motives has real faith in the participation of employees. The committees could be setup to serve one or more of the functions such as problem solving, goal diagnosis and consultation, planning, goal setting, review, decision making and so on. Top management should be clear regarding the purposes when committees are set up that is whether the objective of the committee is to solicit problem solving by employees for seeking geed back and consultation with employees for joint decision making. Many times, the top managements are not clear about the goals of the committees, they set up.

At other times though managements know why a committee has been set up, they do not communicate the purpose to the employees. This results in conflicting expectations on the part of the management and the employees. For instance, the top managements may set up say a Foremen’s’ committee or shop superintendents committee as a channel of communication to get to know about their opinions about the effects of the policies and actions at the shop floor level and to advice them on matters that affect them and their departments. The top managements might reserve to themselves the authority to make decisions. The members of the committees not being aware of the top management’s thinking might expect the top management to make decisions jointly on certain matters. When they find this not happening, they may feel disheartened regarding the whole committee affairs. The membership and chairmanship of the committees are wrongly considered as elitist positions, positions enjoying status. Getting nominated to these committees by the Top management is considered as the privilege both by the managers and employees, and as adding feather to the cap. Executives may gauge their status by the number of committees, they serve. Top management also may times nominate to these committees employees who are loyal to them and who enjoy their confidence rather than based on their interest and capabilities. These images should go, if committees were to serve the real purpose. Only those employees who are active able and possess leadership qualities and conference skills (skills in conducting and attending meetings) should be nominated.

The membership and chairman ship of these committees should be as widely distributed in the organisation as possible, and almost all executives should be allowed to serve in some committees or other.

Inter-Departmental Committees

Inter-Departmental Committees are set up for communication, coordination, joint consultation and joint decision making. The scope those Committees provide for employee participation should be made clear. Employee might like to know on which matters they will be consulted, and which matters will be decided jointly. Consultation means seeking views and opinions with out necessarily accepting them. In joint decision making, employees influence decisions. In communication, the information which in the judgement of Top Management is passed onto the employees, at best with opportunities for seeking clarification.

The Inter-Departmental Committees are known by various names such as Institution Coordination Committee. Committee of Heads of Departments, Superintendents’ Committees and so on . The chiefs of different departments of functional areas of Disciplines are members of the Committee with Chief Executive or some senior executive at the corporate level as the chair person.


In large organisations having over 500 executives, and having many departments, communication and co-ordination and centralized control for achieving the overall organisational goals are difficult. Sprawling corporations having plants several miles away from each other pose such problems of communication and co-ordination. Committees functioning in such cases, helps to achieve the desired results.


Joint committees help communication and co-ordination, as, it provide scope for joint discussion with employees at lower level with less formal (with less hierarchical orientation or more equalitarian) setting. With in the committee set up, the employees from different departments and different levels are able to meet, interact and exchange their views and ideas. Members are able to discover what is going on in other areas/departments which is of interest to them in discharging their duties effectively, in eschewing their commitment to the goals of the tam rather than as Heads of different functional groups vying with each other for power or indulging in factionalism and power play and to work the areas of planning, technology, investments, markets, human resources, public relations and legal matters and entrepreneurial orientation, which are necessary for occupying top management positions at the corporate level. Infact, these inter-departmental meetings should also be used to pick up potential candidates for directorial staff or for planning management succession at the corporate levels.

The communication that takes place in committees is much more than what takes place though lines of command provided the committee chairman who happens for one way (downward) communications. These committees are meant for two way communication. If the chairman uses these committees for one way communication, they become defunct. Hence, the chairman should know how to play his role as chairman to conduct deliberations in such committees.

Project Teams:

Project teams (also called Task force) are committees consisting of employees which cut across the organisational hierarchy and which are set up for a particular purpose. The life period of these committees may be shorter or longer depending upon their mission. But, these are not like other permanent organisational structures like departments, job position, joint consultative committees etc. They are dissolved once the missions for which they are set up are achieved.

These committees help pool together the expert knowledge and creative abilities widely distributed throughout the organisation and bring to bear upon thrust areas. Some of the examples of expert committees are business planning committees, cost control committees Research Advisory Councils, production improvements committees, etc. The committees on postal excellence set up by government of India recently to revamp postal systems and operations is an example of this type of committees. These committees may have knowledgeable people both from inside and outside the organisations as members of the committee. These committees are advisory in nature, in the sense they submit their recommendations to the top management for appropriate action. The working of the expert committees compensate some of the deficiencies associated with functions and formal authority structure. People with in the formal structure and busy in carrying our routine and programmed functions and they do not get chance to use their original ideas, and to be creative and innovative. The organisational control over them is also rigid and the employees particularly those who have capabilities remain frustrated for want of opportunities for self expression in their jobs. Expert committees help individual employees for their self-expression and for undertaking tasks which are challenging or those which call for the special knowledge and skills they possess. The organisation is also able to mobilize the creative energizes of people, individual goals with organisational goals, provided these committees are made to function properly.


These committees should be provided with a clear character of goals and adequate time frame for achieving their mission, while giving them the necessary operational freedom for the members and also top management support. Without a definite mission and time target, these committees move like a ship without radar, reaching nowhere.

The members of the management who are to execute the committee’s recommendations are not included in the committee, as they cannot see the different possibilities objectively before selecting the one best and feasible, which is in the very nature problem solving.

Joint Consultative, Participative and Action Committees

These committees consist of representatives of management and employees cutting across all the levels. They are the forums for employees participation set up for bringing about improvements in different areas like improvements in worker productivity, machinery and processes, plant layout and safety etc., The examples of such committees are productivity committees, work committees, canteen committees. For examples, some managements set up shop floor production committees only as an advisory or consultative committees, while others give authority to these committees not only to make suggestions but also implement jointly the suggestions and production programmes. The rationale behind setting up such committees is the firm belief on the part of Top management that the employee involvement is the best way to get best out of them for the company and it is the best which an employee can get from the organisation.

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