Role of committees : LUSENET : Kentlands : One Thread

Some of the discussion at the last board meeting and in this month's Town Crier has raised a few procedural issues:

(1) Do our various committees' recommendations have to be automatically adopted by our Board of Trustees, or is the board free to decide whether or not, and to what extent, it will act on any given committee recommendation?

(2) Is someone who is not a committee member free to make recommendations (suggestions) on any matter (including those being considered by a committee) to our board, and is the board free to take such recommendations into consideration?

(3) Are there any steps that could be taken ensure that persons who serve on committees do not wind up investing too significant an amount of time in a project before it has been approved by the board?

Considering these issues in the abstract, i.e., simply as matters of procedure, does anyone have any ideas?

-- Mary N. Macdonald (, April 12, 2000


It seems to me that the proper way to use committees is as advisors to the board. So. If a committee has an idea, it should go to the board for approval. If a citizen has an idea and gives it to the board, the board should refer it to a committee for a recommendation.

if money is involved, the board MUST have the final say-so. Unless the board has delegated the responsibility for action and the authority to spend money to the committee.

If we wish to see chaos, then let the committees have free rein to govern in each of their particular areas. This should not be allowed. That's why we have a board.

Jim Hubbard

-- Jim Hubbard (, April 20, 2000.

In essence, I agree with Jim Hubbard's comments. As usual, I have a few comments of my own.

I have worked for the past 11 years as a part of a large, highly successful consulting firm that is 100% employee owned. The employee ownership aspect significantly raises the stakes for individual decisions and actions. Therefore, employee participation has to be actively and effectively channeled. This situation is now unlike theownership stakes surrounding participation with the KCA and its mechanisms.

My company uses a small network of committees, each with proscribed roles. Although each committee has effectively no power to implement, they do have relatively free rein to investigate, formulate, study, and recommend to the various line organizations and up to and through top management on topics within the committees' charters. I participate on a committee that regularly briefs members of the board of directors, the CEO, the Chairman of the Board, and senior managers on a wide variety of issues affecting the 38,000 owners. Our accomplishments are too numerous to describe here.

Within ithe committee, we work on projects called "issues." The issues take anywhere from two weeks to two years to bring to fruition.

"Fruition" can mean a number of things. In some cases, it means that the issue has been disposed of by getting an answer back to an employee, manager, or board member with a question. In other cases, we develop significant research efforts, design changes to policies and benefits, and communicate results throughout the company or to subsets of the company via our webpage, mailings, or in-person briefings. In still other cases, we investigate topics presented to us by top managers of the firm for research, collaboration, and opinion.

The results are then placed in the hands of line or staff managers to act on. Sometimes we win, sometimes we lose. But my company's Board of Directors considers our results to be worthy enough to fund at the $500,000 level every year for the past 16. In this case, money talks. Loud and clear.

The committee members are all volunteers. Aside from some funding for time and travel to attend our quarterly meetings, our time is donated. But the company knows how to say thanks in other ways.

I have long believed that a model like the one I described could serve the Kentlands well. Some of the structure is already there. A few other committees might be necessary. I haven't really thought about what specific committees would best work here. However, it is clear to me that an effectively designed network of committees is a way to marshall energies and intellect and to actively involve the people who want to freely give their time in return for respectful consideration of their thoughts, ethics, and work products.

The psychological contract, or "deal" between the participants (committee workers) and managers (managing board) is simple. The committee workers give their time to work cooperatively, performing the "staff work" that is necessary to move the organization forward. The managers give committee members their support and respect, considering the proposals and hard work of the committees, acting on the committees' recommendations if at all possible, and requesting modifications to the proposals back from the committees when necessary.

Committees could either be the workhorses of this community or hotbeds of frustration, resentment, and discontent. It's one possible solution to our continuing management challenge.

-- David Fetzer (, April 24, 2000.

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