Committee | Meaning & Definition | Features | Advantages & Disadvantages

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.

Principle features or characteristics of a committee

Important characteristics of Committees are that they are delegated definite responsibility and authority for doing a specific job, such as reviewing budgets, formulating plans for new products, making policy decisions on wages and salary and compensation plans. Others may only have the power to make recommendations and suggestions to a designated official. Whatever be the task, committees generally enjoy authority / power for carrying out the assigned tasks.

Principle features or Characteristics of committee
Image: Principle features or Characteristics of committee

Lets look at some of the principal features of a committee

1. A committee is a gathering of people representing different functions or spheres of knowledge, who come together to promote a common purpose or fulfill a common task or solve a problem, by interchanging of views.

2. The character and composition of a committee is often spelled out in the bylaws or administrative procedures of the company.

3. A committee usually has a fixed membership. In most cases, members are appointed, although sometimes, as with the board of directors, they may be elected.

4. In its deliberations, a committee usually follows certain definite written rules and procedures. Some committees can function if a quorum is complete; others only if all the members are present.

5. A committee may be granted authority to make or recommend decisions, or it may serve merely in an advisory capacity.

6. Committees maybe set up for different functions to be performed, such as

  • for acting only rather than for advice (i.e., Control Committee);
  • to help line executives in laying down plans, policies and objectives (such as Legislative Committee);
  • to gather facts relating to a problem (such as Fact Finding Committee);
  • to settle grievances or disputes and to determine the validity of the past and present courses of action (such as the Grievance or Judicial Committee);
  • to bring coordination among the activities of the organization members through interchange of views, opinions, and information (such as Coordination Committee);
  • to decide other personnel matters like wages, promotions, merit pay, compensation, leave etc. (such as Wage Committee).

In fact, there is a myriad of committees in government, educational, religious and business organizations. Although they are more frequent at the top of the pyramid, there is usually some type of formal committee at every level of organization.

A committee may also be set up on a standing basis (Standing Committee) which is of a permanent nature; or on an adhoc basis, which may be for a specific purpose only. It may be formal or informal.

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