Advantages & Disadvantages of Committees

A committee is usually used for bringing about organizational effectiveness as a device for helping the line executive in the performance of his managerial functions. According to Allen, a committee is created and used for the following purposes.

Advantages of Committees

1. To carry out responsibilities that may otherwise be delegated to a simple individual. Committees are used properly when individuals in regular established positions cannot adequately carry out a specific responsibility.

2. To make use of the collective knowledge and judgement of a number of people on complex problems, which may result in a solution better than the one that is generally available from an individual. Committees perform several functions. These may act in a service, advisory, coordinating information or final decision-making capacity.

As the old proverb says, ‘two heads are better than one‘, a group of people offer a wider range of experience, knowledge, ability and personality characteristics, a more through survey of facts, and a more diverse and specialized background than one person can possibly bring to bear on a problem. The situation resulting from oral exchange of views can clarify problems and help develop new ideas and solutions. When problems are diverse and complex, the combined judgement of the group is superior to that obtained from individual judgement.

3. The committee deliberations tend to ensure participation of all to suggest, criticize and make recommendations — on policies and projects, which are binding on all the parts of the organization, and hence, it can work more smoothly. In other words, a committee boosts  up inspiration and responsibility.

4. A committee is extremely useful in coordinating plans and in integrating and unifying varying points of view as well as in facilitating their execution.

5. A committee not only permits organization personnel to obtain an overall picture of plans and their place in the plans, but also allows its members to contribute valuable suggestions on the spot for improving the plans and other related managerial problems.

6. A committee may exercise a staff role by providing advice to a specific individual of the organization at large. They may be used to advise and counsel a top executive in policy formulation.

7. A committee sometimes serves as a decision-making body in the field of finance, personnel, etc.

Disadvantages of Committees

Committees suffer from many disadvantages too. Attacks have been on the usefulness of the committee, as the following statements show:

  • “A camel is a horse designed by a committee.”
  • “The best committee is a five-person committee, with four members absent.”
  • “In a committee, minutes are taken but hours are wasted.”
  • “It is like a corporation with neither a soul to be damned nor a body to be kicked.”
  • “There is a group or corporation, but no individual responsibility or accountability. It is used as a shield to avoid personal responsibility for bad decisions or mistakes using justification as why would I bother with this problem.”

Other disadvantages of Committees

Committees also suffer from other disadvantages as given below:

1. Committees encourage managers to shirk or evade decision making responsibilities: If a manager/chairman is an accountable person, he may fall back upon the committee as a scapegoat, or escape the consequences of an unpopular decision. If the committee as a whole is held accountable, accountability is so diffused as to be impossible of assignment. Some managers utilize the committee as a means of avoiding the difficult process of logical thinking that leads to a sound decision.

2. Slow decision-making: Committee action is always invariably slow and unwieldy compared to individual decision-making as much of the time is wasted through irrelevant discussion on trivial topics that do little to further the organization’s good. This seriously handicaps management of the enterprise, because the very technique of calling people together and providing for discussion is very much time consuming. Absenteeism, lack of preparation before meetings and substitutions in membership slow down decision-making.

3. May serve to mesh inefficient management: Committees are mostly popular with managers who are inadequate in their own right. The committee serves as a crutch for concealing the weaknesses of the managers.

4. Committees are dominated by a few individuals who force their opinion on other members: Committee decisions, therefore, often represent the views of these influential personalities. In most cases, these decisions are not in conformity with the wishes of the members as a whole. The committee decisions, therefore, do not find favor at the implementation stage.

5. The committee develops, what is known as ‘Groupthink’: Groupthink is a process of deriving negative results from group decision making efforts — a result of pressures. People do tend to be influenced by their peers. Since no one wants to break up the cohesiveness of the group, the members become the victims of ‘group-think’. Group-think type of atmosphere is encouraged before the meeting even begins. The other members are there merely to rubber-stamp per-determined decisions. Group leaders may also assume that silence on the part of the participants means consent or agreement to decisions actually made unilaterally by the leader.

6. Group decision-making often results in costly delays: Other tasks are neglected while committee members are in session, and there tends to be more indecisiveness rather than any candid and creative thought among members as they try to arrive at reasonable decisions and conclusions.