10 Ways Committees Fail 4-7


4.  Lack of Goals

Lack of Goals do two things to a committee 1) make it aimless, which in turn kills any real progress.  2) Makes committee members lose interest in the committee and why they are there.  Not feeling a reason to be there will stop many people from coming to anything (even if you provide free food).

5.  Rehashing the same objectives

Committees have a knack for rehashing the same objectives for a few reasons.  1) people didn’t like the decision earlier made and want to change it (see #7), 2) Institutional memory is rather short in committees (Squirrel!) and the group doesn’t realize they already made this decision.  and 3) underlying fear of getting something done or taking action.  One reason committees are formed is to diffuse blame, when committees fear the same thing, they become paralyzed.

6.  Focusing on superfluous (nonsense)

Members of committees dread meetings because members often focus on trivial matters (which always seem vital to those talking about them).  Whether it is about a teacher getting reimbursed for a purchase of chalk or the color of a flyer that should have been done months ago, spending too much time on trivial matters drive people away from committees.

7.  Ambivalence and sabotage

Driven by Bowen’s Family Theory, Edwin Freeman’s “A Failure of Nerve” delves deep into the problem of Chronic Anxiety in organizations that drive ambivalence and sabotage in groups.  He names 5 reasons we have regressed emotionally and have become chronically anxious:

  1. Reactivity: Vicious cycle of anxious reactions
  2. Herding: Together, and adapting to the least mature member at all costs.
  3. Blame displacement: its always someone or something elses fault, we have no control and we are all victims
  4. Quick fix mentality: we fix symptoms.  We want pain killers, who cares if its cancer that needs to be fixed, as long as we have no pain, their’s no problem.
  5. Lack of well-differentiated leadership: a failure of nerve that stems from and contributes to the first four.

Realizing that committees get hung up on the trivial for a variety of reason, leaders need to know how to wade through this in the committee form.

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