Although many associations may be best served with a small number of governance committees, associations are better served with a task force system than a standing (non-Board) committee system. Milton Berle raised one argument against committees when he said, “A committee is a group that keeps minutes and loses hours.” But, there are other reasons to convert to a task force system for accomplishing association work.
Using task forces creates an opportunity to engage more members. This is especially important considering lack of engagement is cited as the number one reason for member attrition. Further, engaging a larger number of members creates an opportunity to evaluate more members as potential future leaders; keeping in mind that a great task force member does not necessarily mean a great potential leader.
Task force usage affords the association the opportunity to have the best-suited people attack the issue at hand, resulting in higher quality output. Matching member skill sets and interests to the specific task will also lead to a more meaningful experience for the members.
The nature of a task force being engaged for a limited amount of time to solve a specific issue creates a more rewarding experience for the members. A sense of achievement is almost guaranteed.
The realistic pool of members the association has to call on increases when a task force system is used. The reality is that fewer and fewer members are willing to commit to serving a one or two-year term to serve on a committee. However, many individuals who are unwilling to commit to a committee term are willing to commit to a short, well-defined time frame to achieve a clearly stated objective.
The adoption of a task force system recognizes the realities of millennials and can be a tool to increase millennial engagement. Moving this direction now will also prepare your association for the wave of digital natives that will be in our ranks in the next few years. Unlike the baby boom generation, millennials are not going to wait around to get the seniority needed to serve on committees. Millennials want to be heard and contribute now, not later. More so than millennials, digital natives are accustomed to working in bursts; a task force system aligns with this practice much more than a committee system.
For those who enjoy committee / task force work, a task force system provides more networking opportunities. I would also argue that it aligns more with the way people stay in touch today through social media, with a greater number of people on a more superficial level.
Creative thinking is enhanced when task forces are used, as the group is not harnessed by quickly judging an idea as “something we’ve tried before.” Instead, task forces are more apt to consider a wider array of options before rejecting them.
Task force usage also reduces dysfunctional group think behavior, which occurs, in part, due to group loyalty and a desire to minimize conflict. There is a higher probability that individuals will engage in the critical evaluation of alternative viewpoints during task force deliberations.
Managing a task force system can be a bit more work, but the benefits outweigh the added administrative time.
What has your experience been with the usage of task forces as compared to committees?