Innovation – ban the committees

Does your organisation create a plethora of steering committees? Even worse if you work in the public sector you might have been subjected to the dreaded ‘Task and Finish group’.

These groups, and others like them are one of the major reasons that organisations claim that Innovation fails. Here’s why.

Most group members do nothing at all, they are there for political reasons or in some cases to sabotage the process. Committees meet infrequently and are thus ineffective in getting things done. They do however have one significant output – frustration!

Committees tend to be:

Full of lazy control freaks. A bit harsh perhaps but these people don’t want to get their hands dirty. They just want to take the credit for success. Often too, they demand creativity but just want other employees (the project team) to carry out their bidding.

Isolated. If people have not been ‘at the coal face’ for a long while (or maybe not at all) then they may not have any insights to provide at all.

Slow and political. Project teams are expected to be flexible but those steering the process tend to be the opposite. The decision making process is bureaucratic and is governed by the frequency of meetings. Nothing can get signed off without the correct signatories present!

So what can you do to make things a little easier?

It is important to connect senior management and other relevant stakeholders to your project team.  Instead of a steering committee, make these people an extension to your project team. They need not be with you all of the time but could, for example, engage in the following way:

Spend time in the project instead of supervising it. Get them participating in workshops or other brainstorming events. This will demonstrate commitment and remove the appearance of remoteness (aloofness).

Learn to create rather than evaluate. Don’t judge but add insights, views and ideas to the mix.

Make decisions immediately instead of waiting for the next committee meeting, causing delays of many days (or more usually) weeks. Decisions can be made ‘on the spot’ because executives are more closely connected to the process and have all of the information necessary at their fingertips.

This can take a bit more effort to get going but it is often the case that senior managers do actually like to be involved.

So next time someone suggests a steering committee of any sort, say ‘no’ and invite them to spend some time getting their hands dirty.