Committees and Group Decision Making
What is Committee?
Committee is a group of persons to whom, as a group, some matter is committed. Its right purpose can result in greater motivation, improved problem solving, and increased output. Committees are prevalent in business. A board of directors is a committee, as are its various constituent groups, such as the executive committee, the finance committee, the audit committee, and the bonus committee. Occasionally, one finds a business managed by a management committee instead of a president.
In a study of subscribers to the Harvard Business Review, only 8 percent of the respondents indicated that they would eliminate committees if it were within their power. The problem, then, is not the existence of committees, but rather the way they are conducted and where they are used.
THE NATURE OF COMMITTEES
Because of varying authority assigned to committees, much confusion has resulted as to their nature. Some committees undertake managerial functions, and others do not. Some make decisions; others merely deliberate on problems without authority to decide. Some have authority to make recommendations to a manager, who may or may not accept them, while others are formed purely to receive information, without making recommendations or decisions.
A committee may be either line or staff, depending upon its authority. If its authority involves decision making affecting subordinates responsible to it, it is a plural executive—a line committee; if its authority relationship to a superior is advisory, then it is a staff committee.
Committees may also be formal or informal. If established as part of the organization structure, with specifically delegated duties and authority, they are formal. Most committees with any permanence fall into this class. Or they may be informal, that is, organized without specific delegation of authority and usually by some person desiring group thinking or group decision on a particular problem. Moreover, committees may be relatively permanent, or they may be temporary.
REASONS FOR USING COMMITTEES
Group Deliberation and Judgment
Perhaps the most important reason for the use of committees is the advantage of gaining group deliberation and judgment—a variation of the adage that "two heads are better than one." A group of people can bring to bear on a problem a wider range of experience than a single person, a greater variety of opinion, a more thorough probing of the facts, and a more diverse training in specialized aspects. Very few important business problems fall entirely into a single area such as production, engineering, finance, or sales. Most, on the contrary, require more knowledge, experience, and judgment than any individual possesses.
Fear of Too Much Authority in a Single Person
Another reason for the widespread use of committees is the fear of delegating too much authority to a single person. Individual’s self motive has influenced the formation of many internal business committees. A committee may be established to make recommendations on a problem largely because the president or department head does not wish to take full responsibility for making a decision or to trust the decision to a subordinate. Bonus committees often result from such motivation, and major financial and capital investment policies are developed by committees, partly because of unwillingness to trust a single individual with complete authority to make such important decisions.
Representation of Interested Groups
Representation plays a part, too, in the establishment and staffing of committees in business. Boards of directors are often selected on the basis of groups interested in the company and, perhaps more often, on the basis of groups in which the company has an interest. When executives have a particularly difficult internal problem involving managers and specialists in various departments and activities, they may choose...
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