Integrating Committees

By Bob Harris, CAE

Consider committees as business development units in the organization. They
supplement the work of the board by producing results that advance the strategic plan.
If a committee asks, “What should we do this year?” it may be a signal that they don’t
understand their relation to the plan.
When conducting committee orientation try these three 20-minute roundtable exercises.

Committee Mission – Every committee should have a purpose or mission statement to frame its work.
Ask the committee or its chair to review or write a mission statement of 1 to 3 sentences that will be clear to internal and external audiences.
Have committees read their mission statements and indicate how they improved it or
why they left it the same.

Ground Rules – Committee meetings should have ground rules. For example,
“meetings start and end on time; an agenda is distributed two weeks in advance; the
committee works to advance the organization’s mission; new ideas and people are
respected.” Ask each committee to develop 5 to 10 bulleted guidelines that will make
meetings more effective. Share with the whole group.

Ownership of the Strategic Plan – The third exercise increases understanding of the
plan and aligns committee projects with goals. Committees work to advance the
mission and plan. The board maintains a 50,000 foot perspective while committees
work at the 25,000 to 40,000 foot level. (Staff works below 25,000 to manage and
implement.) Have committees read the plan and align their efforts. Ask them to discuss
elements of the plan for which they accept responsibility. Share with the whole group
to understand where committees may overlap. (Overlap is all right since committees
should collaborate.)

Bob Harris, CAE provides free governance and management tools at