Bob's Gutsy Leadership Blog

Committees – Ugh!

In analyzing Cisco’s struggling business, the Wall Street Journal recently pointed to a chaotic management structure that includes 59 internal standing committees. Each executive sits on up to 5 of these committees and is expected to devote a third of their time to them. These committees split their focus across the existing product lines and more than 30 new product initiatives.

In contrast, consider the Procter & Gamble brand management model. Each brand is managed by a small brand group (5- 8 people) totally responsible for the planning and execution of that brand. The leader, called the brand manager, is totally accountable for finding bright ideas that will excite their consumers and getting them implemented fast. The brand group has access to resources in manufacturing, R&D, etc. but it is not a requirement that these organizations agree with what the brand group decides to pursue. The measures of success are market share, revenue, cost and profit.

What are the advantages of clear accountability versus committees/consensus?

1) Thoroughness – With committees you can always blame the result on the committee or certain members. Thus, the drive to thoroughly probe and understand is diffused.

2) Speed – Committees typically generate excessive meetings and e-mails. People try to act smart without taking responsibility; they adopt a consultant mentality and will endlessly debate.

3) Impact – Committees often lead to stripping out the unique and exciting features of an idea or an initiative in order to make it acceptable to everyone.

Have you experienced the ravages of committees?

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