Thursday, 22 December 2011

13: Committees, Teams and Group Decision Making

A committee is a group of persons to whom, as a group, some matter is committed. Definition of team is similar, “ a small number of people with complementary skills who are committed to a common purpose, set of performance goals and approach for which they hold themselves mutually accountable.”

The Nature of Committee and Groups

Group Process in Committees
Groups go through four stages: Forming (the members of the group get to know each other), storming (the members of the group determine the objective of the meeting; conflicts arise), norming (the group agrees on norms and some behavior rules) and performing (the group gets down to the task). People play certain role in committees e.g. information giver, information seekers, coordinator etc. To be effective in a group, one must not only listen to what is said but also observe the nonverbal behavior. The seating arrangement may have an impact on the group interaction.

Functions and Formality of Committees and Groups
Some committees undertake managerial functions, and others do not. Some make decisions, while others merely deliberate on problems without authority to decide. A committee may have either line or staff functions, depending on its authority. If its authority involves decision making affecting subordinates responsible to it, it is a plural executive—a line committee that also carries out managerial functions such as the board of directors; if its authority relationship to a superior is advisory, then it is a staff committee. Committee may also be formed or informal, if establish as a part of the organization structure, with specifically delegated duties and authority, they are formal. Most committees with any permanence fall into this class. Those that are informal are organized without specific delegation of authority. Committees may be relatively permanent or they may be temporary.

Reason for Using Committees and Groups

Although the committee is sometimes regarded as having democratic origins, committees are widely used even in authoritarian organizations.

Groups Deliberation and Judgment
The most important reason for the use of committees is the advantage of gaining group deliberation and judgment—“two heads are better than one.” Most problems require more knowledge, experience and judgment than any individual possesses. It should not be inferred that group judgment could be obtained only though the use of committees. the staff specialist who confers individually with many persons in committees. at time group judgment can thus be obtained more efficiently, in terms of time, than by using the deliberations of a committee.

Fear of Too Much Authority in a Single Person
Another reason for the widespread use of committees is the fear of delegating too much authority to a single person.

Representation of Interested Groups
Boards of directors are often selected on the basis of groups interested in company and perhaps more often, on the basis of groups in which the company has an interest.

Coordination of Departments, Plans and Policies
Committees are very useful for coordinating activities among various organizational units. They are also useful for coordinating plans and policies as well as their implementation.

Transmission and Sharing of Information
Committees are useful for transmitting and sharing information.

Consolidation of Authority
A manager in a department, branch or section often has only portion of the authority necessary to accomplish a program. This is known as a splintered authority. One way to handle problem in this situation is to refer it upward in the organizational hierarchy until it reaches a point at which the request authority exists. But his place is often in the office of the president, and the problem may not be of sufficient importance to be decided at that level.

Motivation through Participation
Committees permit wide participation in decision making.

Avoidance of Action
One of the surest ways to delay the handling of a problem and even to postpone a decision indefinitely is to appoint a committee and to study the matter. At times, committee members are chosen in a way aimed at delaying action.

Disadvantages and Misuse of Committees

Although there are good reasons for using committees, there are also disadvantages of doing so. They are costly; they may lead to indecision; they also can split responsibility; finally, they can lead to situation in which a few persons impose their will on the majority, not allowing participation of its members. In general, committees should not be used as replacement for manager for research study, for unimportant decisions and for decisions beyond the participants’ authority.

Successful Operation of Committees and Groups

The use of committee has growing emphasis on group management and group participation in organizations.

A committee’s authority should be spelled out so that the members know whether their responsibilities is to make decision, make recommendations or merely deliberate and give the chairperson some insights into the issue under discussion.

If the group is too large, there may not be enough opportunities for an adequate communication among its members. On the other hand, if the group consists of only three persons, there is the possibility that two may form a coalition against the third member. A committee should be large enough to promote deliberation and include the breadth of expertise required for the job but not so large as to waste time or foster indecision.

The members of a committee must be selected carefully. Members should have the capacity for communicating well and recharging the group.

Subject Matter
The subject must be carefully selected. Jurisdictional disputes and strategy formulation, for example, may be suitable for group deliberation, while certain isolated technical problems may be better solved by an expert in the specialized field.

The selection of the chairperson is crucial for an effective committee meeting. Such a person can avoid the wastes and drawbacks of committees.

Effective communication in committees usually requires circulating minutes and checking conclusions.

Cost Effectiveness
A committee must be worth its cost. But the committee can be justified only if the costs are offset by tangible and intangible benefits.

Additional Group Concepts

In addition to committees, there are teams, conferences, task forces, and negation sessions all involving group activities. A group may be defined as two or more people acting interdependently in a unified manner towards the achievement of common goals. The goals may pertain to specific tasks, but they may also mean that the people share some common concerns or values or an ideology.

Characteristics of Groups
1. Group members share one or more common goals.
2. They normally require interaction and communication among members.
3. Members within a group assume roles.
4. Groups usually are part of large group.
5. Groups interface with other groups.

Groups develop norms, which refer to the expected behavior of the group members. Ambitious, highly motivated employees may be pressed to produce in congruence with generally accepted norms rather than according to their abilities.

A Special Kind of Group: The Focus Group
Focus groups have been used for some time in market research. Focus groups may also be used for evaluating managerial aspects within an organization. By this way company may implement a more flexible benefits program, a program for job redesign and a new decision making process. Rather than imposing organizational changes, the company allowed the employees to become actively involved in the change process.

Functional Advantages of Groups
Groups have many functions. They are powerful in changing behaviors, attitudes and values and in disciplining members. In addition, groups are used for decision making, negotiating and bargaining. Group members with diverse backgrounds may bring different perspectives to the decision making process. Different group structures influence communication patterns. Thus, communication will differ when it is channeled through one key member or when it flows feely among all the group members. Effective group interactions may also affect motivation. Group member participating in setting objectives may become committed to the achievement of group goals. Finally, leadership must be seen in the context of group processes. In short, an understanding of groups is important for carrying out all managerial functions, particularly the function of leading. Groups do provide social satisfaction for their members, a feeling of belonging. Another benefit of groups is that they promote communication. Informal communication within group helps group members become aware of “what is really going in the firm.”


A team consists of a number of people who are empowered to achieve team goals. A team is “a small number of people with complementary skills who are committed to common purpose, set of performance goals, and approach for which they hold themselves mutually accountable.” Some teams are created to solve problems, such as quality circles, other engage in activities in cross-functional areas such as design, marketing, finance, manufacturing, personnel and so on.

Team Building
Team members must be convinced that the team’s purpose is worthwhile, meaningful and urgent. Team members should also be selected according to the skills needed to achieve the purpose. Team should have the right mix of skills such as functional or technical skills, problem-solving and decision making skills, and of course, human relations skills. The team needs to be guided by rules for group behavior, such as regular attendance, confidentiality, discussion based on facts, and everybody’s contributions. Goals and required tasks should be identified early in the team formulation. Members should encourage each other through recognition, positive feedback and reward.

Self Managing Team
Self managing teams usually consist of members who have a variety of skills needed to carry out relatively complete task.

Virtual Teams
Virtual teams have the ability to run a team whose members aren’t in the same location, don’t report to you and may not even work for your organization. Therefore, it is important to have a clear purpose, clearly define the tasks and assumptions and communicate effectively by such means as e-mail, faxes, website etc.

Conflicts in Committees, Groups and Teams

Despite of many advantages of committees, group and teams conflicts are sure to arise. Disadvantages of committees are also apply to groups and tasks. Conflicts may arise between and among individuals (interpersonal conflicts), among groups (inter-group conflicts) and the organization and its environment such as with other organization.

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