Funder by the Department of Human Services Auspiced by Our Community

Help Sheet

20 characteristics of a dysfunctional Committee of Management … and how to avoid them

In this help sheet, the term 'Committee of Management' (COM) is used but it is intended to apply to whatever governance structure your group has, such as a Board. The term "CEO" (Chief Executive Officer) is used but it is intended to apply to whatever name your group has for its head person (coordinator, general manager, chief executive, executive director etc.).

1. Committee of Management meetings are unspeakably boring and/or interminably long.

Probably the number one reason for a COM's ineffectiveness, this problem is usually caused by a poor meeting structure and lack of discipline.

Remedies:

2. Committee of Management members are unclear about their responsibilities.

It is frighteningly common for people to begin their role as a COM member without being clear of their roles and responsibilities. This is not only legally dangerous but is almost sure to impede the effectiveness of the COM.

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3. Committee of Management members don't take their role seriously.

This is a similar problem to Number 2 above, but a more difficult one to tackle as it involves dealing with attitudes, rather than a mere lack of information. There is an alarming tendency for some not-for-profit COM members to take their roles less seriously than they would a company board position - despite the fact that the legal requirements for each are identical.

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4. Committee of Management meetings are enjoyable but decisions are rarely made.

This problem can be caused by a number of factors, including structural and operational deficiencies.

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5. Decisions are made but they aren't followed through / implemented.

Again, there could be structural and operational problems at play here.

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6. The Committee of Management's decisions are inconsistent.

COMs are often accused of being inconsistent in their decision-making - approving one course of action one month and rejecting a similar proposal the next. This can lead to uncertainty and frustration among the community group's staff, members and other stakeholders.

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7. The Committee of Management has a terrible relationship with the community group's staff.

This problem has the ability to undermine the very foundations of a community group. While the COM can be considered the "mind" of the organisation, staff members are the body - and neither can survive without the other.

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8. The Committee of Management is constantly accused of being out of touch with the community group's members.

A good relationship between the COM and the community group's members is as important as a good relationship between the COM and the organisation's staff. If the members are not happy with the conduct and direction of the group, they will have little incentive to stay and work for the success of the group.

Remedies:

9. Committee of Management members do not get along; conflicts are common.

Some conflict within a COM is not only inevitable but is actually desirable - the most effective Committees are those that invite differences of opinion. However, too much conflict can become a destructive force in a COM.

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10. The Committee of Management is dominated by a clique.

While it is common for similar-minded individuals to join forces on particular issues, it can become quite damaging to the COM dynamics if the remaining members are consistently having their opinions overruled. Constantly defeated COM members are likely to lose interest in their role and conflicts could result.

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11. The group does not have enough money to function properly.

This is a potentially fatal problem for not only the COM but for the community group it is serving. While most community groups operate on a shoestring budget, they must have enough funds to pay the bills and carry out programs.

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12. There is a distinct lack of leadership in the Committee of Management.

The quality of leadership is hard to define - but you know it when you see it. And you are most likely to recognise its worth when it is absent. A competent, efficient and inspiring Chair is probably the greatest asset a COM can possess.

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13. The Committee of Management has become unstable because of a high turnover of members.

There is often a regular turnover in membership of community group COMs. This in itself should not be considered unhealthy as new members can bring new ideas and perspectives and can often reinvigorate a stale COM. However, too much transition all at once can be bad for a COM, particularly if replacements are hard to find.

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14. The Committee of Management is stale - things coast along but nothing new ever happens.

"The way things are always done" is not necessarily "the best way". COMs need to be constantly reviewing what they do and how it they do it. Staleness most often results from too little turnover in COM members, or failure to recruit enthusiastic or innovative COM members.

Remedies:

15. Committee of Management members are bored.

It is normal for a person's interest in their COM role to wax and wane a little depending on what projects are on the boil at any given time. However, long-term or widespread boredom is highly likely to create a treadmill straight out the door. Even if bored COM members stay on, they are unlikely to fulfill their responsibilities well if they feel disengaged.

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16. The Committee of Management ticks along nicely in calm times but can't cope with change or crises.

Every COM will at some point have to face the prospect of change or upheaval. Getting spooked by such challenges can have serious damaging effects on the long-term future of the organisation.

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17. The Committee of Management seems to lurch from crisis to crisis.

Poor management is usually at the root of this problem. Most COMs will face crises from time to time but constant turmoil is a sure sign that something needs to change.

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18. Committee of Management members seem out of their depth. No one seems to know what they are doing.

This is a common problem in new COMs or those with inexperienced members. No one is born with governance experience, everyone has to start somewhere and enthusiasm can go a long way to making up for lack of experience - however, if everyone on the COM is similarly inexperienced, progress is likely to be slow.

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19. The Committee of Management has a poor standing or low profile in the community.

Flying under the radar may make you feel safer but it will do your group no favours when it comes to advancing your mission, attracting new members and garnering support and funding. Even worse than an invisible public profile, a poor public profile will make carrying out your work almost impossible.

Remedies:

20. Communication is a problem. Committee of Management members don't know what their colleagues are doing, the staff don't know what the Committee of Management is doing, and the members don't seem to know what anyone is doing.

Clear and effective communication is very important to ensure that everyone is heading in the same direction.

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