Committee players are not so much a type of player as they are a collection of players sharing traits and behavior. Within the group, there are subgroups that have their unique methods and techniques. It is a committee kind of thing. In the illustration, you can see the various types of committee players. It is hard to put these players into a situation that highlights their play and also draws attention to their dysfunctional behavior. To be sure you can see how these players drive you and everyone else up the wall, I created a silly situation that is almost as outrageous as the play. Not doing this runs the risk of representing committee play as a normal and reasonable part of day-to-day organizational life. It is normal but somewhat less than reasonable. The illustration is thus a cartoon-like event that emphasizes the play or the lack of play, depending on your perspective. You can mentally move the exaggerated behavior into your organization and compare it to your experience. I think some of the players will be familiar to you.
The Frustration Factor Society International (FFSI) advances the art and science of driving people up the wall throughout the world. The committee on methods is meeting in Chicago a week late. They were to meet in San Francisco, but the location subcommittee neglected to reserve a hotel. Only a few of the sixty-three members are present because of a little snag with the meeting notices. Even with this glitch, the committee is now meeting.
Mark Brown, a charter member, is trying to make a motion to raise “Not Me” to a recognized method. “It may be that we might want possibly to consider Not Me as a method.”
Another member asks, “Are you making that as a motion?”
Mark says, “Well, not exactly. Maybe we can talk about it and see what everyone thinks.”
Steve clears his throat and starts the discussion. “It’s the kind of thing where it is easy to see both sides.” Steve squirms a little in his chair. Seeing that no one else wants to talk, he says, “I could come down on either side of this one. If Mark is solid with this one, I am not saying I could not be persuaded.”
Sharon Lewis, from Texas, hesitatingly joins into the discussion. She says, “I thought, well, I have been at a few meetings where the person who brings up an idea makes the motion. I would like to suggest Mark puts his idea in the form of a motion.”
Mark nervously jumps in. “Oh, no. I don’t think I should be the one to head this up. It should be someone with more experience or specific interest. James, from Kentucky, always knows the right words for things like this.”
The committee silently fumbles for a few minutes, waiting on James to take the lead until Mark notices that James is not there. In response to his discovery, Mark says, “James does not seem to be here. We could put this off until he is able to attend a committee meeting.”
Sharon says, “I’m not sure we should do that. Maybe we should but we don’t want to be too quick to box ourselves in. Waiting on James is only one of our choices.”
Brad, from Philadelphia, thoughtfully enters the debate. “Sharon may have a good point. I want to hear some ideas from the rest of you before coming to closure on this one. Whenever we decide to break, it might be well to chew on this one a little over lunch.”
Sharon is quick to agree. “I’m going to hang with Brad on this one, unless someone has a better idea.”
Tim, from Maine, feels like it is a moment tailor-made for an apple polisher like him to say a few words. “I believe in consensus and think we can all agree on one thing. The members who are here today have struggled with this important decision. We have to tread lightly in sensitive areas like this. It’s people we are talking about here. The extent to which any decision might offend someone has to be considered each time. Sure, there is the other school of thought that encourages quick decisions and an ability to give varying priorities to the elements of the process. Nonetheless, getting members unnecessarily upset is not the way to go either. I think we have come to the right decision based on what we know right now.”
Wanda, from Washington, is observing the discussion intensely and chooses this point to join in. “I think this might be a good time to bring up the consideration of another method for recognition by our committee. I’m talking about the apple polishers. I don’t think it’s appropriate to mention names, but just maybe there is one among us who has mastered the method well enough to talk about it.” She then looks at Tim from Maine.
“Who, me? No, not me. I’m not the one to speak on this one. You should go ahead, Wanda. You are so much better than I am at that sort of thing.”
Smiling her perpetual smile, Wanda says, “Let’s not get into a hassle about this. It is not important enough. Working cooperatively together is the key to success. Who speaks is not worth the stress. I will withdraw my suggestion in the interest of harmony.”
It takes a half hour or so of small talk to clear the air and give everyone a chance to mellow out. Jami from Oklahoma tentatively brings the group’s attention back to the task at hand. “I have been thinking about the issues we have before us. I wonder if it might be a good idea to call a few of the members who are not here to get their thoughts on things.”
Jami’s idea stimulates instant, positive expressions and the project is under way. Because no one has a committee membership list, Jami makes a list of the members the committee can remember. The committee manages to divide the list; and as Jami gives Ted, from Ohio, his names to call, Ted says, “Not me. I would like to help but I have some stuff here I had to bring along to work on. I can’t step away from it. Either I’m going to whip it, or it’s going to kill me first. The pressure is too much sometimes. You know how it goes.”
It is a little after 12:30 when the members start getting hungry enough to say anything. To this point, no one wanted to break the flow of the meeting or be the one to bring up lunch. It might be seen as a lack of interest. The need for food and the call of nature finally gets the best of Wanda, though.
“I am going to excuse myself. I must have had too much coffee.”
Rather quickly for the committee, the members support Wanda’s decision. Let it suffice to say that looking in on the afternoon session that starts an hour and a half late is redundant.