What is a Committee?
Committee is not a separate organization as such. It is just an extended idea of line and staff system. Under this system, instead of a single officer acting in advisory capacity, there is a committee of experts for advice and guidance in business planning and execution. These committees play a wider role in the management of plant organization and are found at all levels of management hierarchy. But in medium sized undertakings, they are found only at top level.
A few authors like R.C. Davis considered committee as a distinct type of staff organization. But majority are of the opinion that committee can act in a staff function or with line authority. Sometimes, the committee is neither line nor staff.
Today, the trend of the use of committee seems to be increasing. In fact, there are more committees now than there were fifteen years ago.
Meaning and Definition of Committee
Committee means a body of persons entrusted with discharging some assigned functions as a group and in a corporate capacity. In the words of H. Koonts, “Committee is a group of individuals to whom some matters are assigned as a group. It is this characteristic of group action that sets the committee, apart from other organization devices”. This definition is not comprehensive and so we shall turn our attention to some-other definitions formulated by other authorities.
Definition of E. Dale: “Committee is a group of people (usually not more than four who can sit around a table) which makes decisions or present views points and whose conduct is governed by set of rules”.
Thus, committee is a group of persons pooling their thoughts and actions to facilitate the process of decision-making. Boards, task groups, work forces, commissions, councils and-teams are the alternative names, given to committees.
Advantages of Committee Organization
In all types of social institutions whether business or non-business, committees are found to exist in different areas and at different fields of the organization. The reasons for constituting such committees can be outlined as follows:
1. Group Deliberation and Judgement: It is the general rule that “two heads are better than one“. Since the committees comprise of various people with wide experience and diverse training, they can think the impact of the problems from various angles and can find out appropriate solutions. Such decisions are bound to be more appropriate than individual decisions.
2. Fear of Authority: If too much functional authority is delegated to a single person, there is always a fear that the authority may be misused. Committees avoid undue concentration of authority in the hands of an individual or a few.
3. Representation of interested Group: A policy decision may affect the interests of different sections. The committees provide an opportunity to represent their interest to the top management for consideration. This will facilitate the management to make a balanced decision.
4. Coordination of Functions: They are highly useful in bringing co-ordination between different managerial functions.
5. Transmission of Information: Committees serve as a best medium to transmit information since they generally comprise of the representatives of various sections. Misinterpretation is almost avoided.
6. Consolidation of Authority: Many special problems arising in individual departments cannot be solved by the departmental managers. The committees, on the other hand, permits the management to consolidate authority which is spread over several departments.
7. Motivation through Participation: Managerial decisions cannot be put into action without the co-operation of the operating personnel. Since the committees provide an opportunity for them to participate in the decision-making, the management can gain their confidence and co-operation.
8. Avoidance of Action: The committee system also helps the manager who wants to postpone or avoid action. By referring the complicated matters to the committees, the managers can delay the action.
9. Educational Value: Participation in committee meetings provides a beautiful ground for development of young executives. Through observation, exchange of information and cross examination, the young executives can broaden their knowledge and sharpen their understanding.
Disadvantages of Committees
The committees also have their own defects. Considering the dangers involved in the use of committees, a few authorities went to the extent of giving a sarcastic definition to the committee as “group of unfits engaged by unwilling to do unnecessary”. In particular, the committees suffer from the following demerits
1. High Cost in Time and Money: Committees take a lot of time to take a decision. The prolonged sessions of the committee results in a high expenditure. Generally speaking, committees are constituted only to avoid or postpone decisions. Hence, delay in decision has become an inherent feature of committees.
2. Indecisive Action: In many cases, committees are unable to take any constructive decision because of the differences of opinions among their members.
3. Compromising Attitude: In reality, many decisions taken by a committee are not the result of joint thinking and collective judgements. But they are only compromises reached between the various members Hence, the decisions of the committees are not real decisions in the strict sense.
4. Dominance of a Few: Collective thinking and group judgement are only in theory but not in practice. The decisions of the committees are generally the decisions of the chairman or any strong dominant members.
5. Suppression of Ideas: Many smart members who can contribute new ideas, deliberately keep their mouth shut in order to avoid hard feelings.
6. Splitting of Responsibilities: The greatest disadvantage of this system is the splitting of authority among the committee members. When authority is split up, no one in particular can be held responsible for the outcome of the committee.
7. Political Decisions: Since the committee decisions are influenced by the dominant members, the decisions of the committee cannot be taken as meritorious one with broader outlook