Committee of the Whole or Hole?

Committee of the Whole – Wikipedia: a device in which a legislative body or other deliberative assembly is considered one large committee. This is usually done for the purposes of discussion and debate of the details of bills and other main motions.

Although not often labelled as such, Boards act in this way during regular meetings. Everyone’s present. They go through their regular agenda and deal with business. It’s not too formal.

At times, though, sub-committees are established to handle specific functions or projects rather than taking up everyone’s time. Especially for small, non-profit organizations, there are only so many hours in the evening before it’s surely time to go home. Please.

Committee of the Hole?

Committee of the Hole?

These might be ad hoc or standing. Large boards – but many small ones, too – have an executive committee.

For most people and organizations where knowledge and experience in strict parliamentary procedure is minimal – and where adherence would likely be overkill – there is nevertheless a place for thinking through when committees are an appropriate vehicle versus when the whole Board is called for.

Because there may be a number of things to be done and where a number of volunteers are involved on the Board, it might make sense to divvy things up into various subcommittees. This certainly has it obvious advantages (again, such as getting home to bed).

On the downside, it can become a hole where business get buried other than to the particular members on the committee. When a Board delegates authority to a committee, it potentially loses a lot of valuable discussion and understanding by the whole group of details important to the organization.

Also, in some cases, people can feel “left out” of important decision-making. I was reading recently – can’t remember where – that executive committees are being eliminated in many small organizations for just this reason.

In the end, it may be better to try to engage everyone in all critical matters by simply requesting tighter adherence to time-limits and constraining discussion within actual motions. Plus, sending out pre-reading material can deter laziness and keep the agenda ticking along.

Try to keep everyone in the loop on as many important matters as possible, but keep committees as a fall-back option when time-consuming and detailed projects require dedicated support.

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