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Why do we decide things ‘by committiee’?

Adriana Lukas (via Hugh) cites an interesting post from the Shotgun Marketing blog about committees:

“Even if your committee is full of intelligent, creative people, the great ideas are lost. Committees, by nature, are full of compromises so solutions from a committee are usually watered down versions of the original.”

This question should extend beyond marketing to, well, all aspects of business really. During my time at the BBC we designed and built a lot of things by committees – it’s kind of in the BBC’s nature.

But it always felt ‘funny’, ‘odd’ and ‘uncomfortable’. This post helped me put my finger on perhaps the obvious. By choosing to bring a load of people into the decision making process the BBC (or it’s management at least) were implying that individually we were not up the task of deciding for ourselves. On some stuff, which perhaps I’ll keep to myself for now, I can think of committees where 10% of the room knew 90% of the pertinent information – yet everyone had an equal ‘vote’/’say’/etc.

As the Shotgun Marketing blog lambastes:

“Why don’t you also have … a human resources committee to help decide who is hired and fired?”

One of the reasons why many people find working with start-ups so rewarding is (generally) the lack of committees. Sure it depends on the exact circumstances, but in general you are dealing with maybe one or two people – people who have the power to agree and to execute.

To be honest, I do get a bit peeved when champions of start-up culture raise such points without any thought of how the enterprise can be changed to benefit from some of this experience. Hey, we gotta help the old guard out sometimes – they’re the ones that make us look smart and cool and agile.

And I guess it goes back to the original blog post says – hire good people and put them in charge. If you have good marketing people, let them make the marketing decision. If you have good software engineers let them make the software engineering decisions.

It may be stating the obvious, but think about it. Not only will such an agile solution remove so much of the analysis paralysis and group-think, but it will also expose those in corporate culture who end up doing very little other than making up the numbers on committees where their presence is otherwise unnecessary.

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One Comment

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