Appendix G

Committee and Task Force Meetings

Task Force

A temporary grouping of individuals and resources for the accomplishment of a specific objective.

Task forces are often used in private and public organizations. A task force actively pursues the achievement of its mission, after which it is disbanded. A task force is a temporary organization created to solve a particular problem. It is considered to be a more formal ad-hoc committee.

A task force is a temporary unit or formation established to work on a single defined task or activity. Originally introduced by the United States Navy, the term has now caught on for general usage and is a standard part of NATO terminology. Many non-military organizations now create task forces or task groups for temporary activities that might have once been performed by ad hoc committees.


A group of people officially delegated to perform a function, such as investigating, considering, reporting, or acting on a matter.

Committees are a necessary aspect of organizations of any significant size (say, more than 15 or 20 people). They keep the number of participants manageable; with larger groups, either many people do not get to speak (or feel left out), or discussions are quite lengthy (and many participants find them duplicative and often boring).

Committees are a way to formally draw together people of relevant expertise from different parts of an organization who otherwise would not have a good way to share information and coordinate actions. They may have the advantage of widening viewpoints and sharing out responsibilities.

Their disadvantages appear in the possibilities for procrastination, undesirable compromises in order to build consensus, and groupthink, where (valid) objections or disconfirming evidence is either not voiced or is ignored. Moreover, the need to schedule a meeting, get enough committee members together to have a quorum, and debate until a majority agrees on a course of action can result in undesirable delays in taking action. (A common joke, in organizations, is that when someone doesn't want to make an unpopular decision, he/she creates a committee to study the question.)

Ways to Make Committees Work Effectively

  1. Make sure that the committee has a real purpose for existence.

  2. Make sure that everyone on the committee knows what the purpose is, and agrees with it.

  3. Have only the right people on the committee: interested, capable, and willing to work.

  4. Remove committee members who are not right for the committee or who do not participate.

  5. Don't hold meetings without a clear reason. Call a full committee meeting only when it is the best way to accomplish the task.

  6. Give advance notice of meetings, complete with a distributed agenda and reading materials.

  7. Encourage everyone to participate during the meeting. Utilize seating arrangements that encourage equality of participation. Use name cards if attendees do not know one another. Discourage members who monopolize the discussion.

  8. Set norms for behavior at the first committee meeting, and stick to them.

  9. Start and end meetings on time. If work isn't done when time is up, negotiate a time for further discussion.

  10. Have an agenda for each meeting. Schedule important items first on the agenda.

  11. Allocate time for discussion according to the importance of each issue.

  12. Send members a summary of the meeting, keying on the decisions made and on the assignments given.

  13. Don't have more than eight people on a committee without breaking it into subcommittees.

  14. Be very specific about tasks and deadlines.

  15. Don't discuss, re-discuss, and continue to discuss items.

  16. Conclude each meeting with a summary of what is to be done by whom.

  17. Double-check for agreement on important issues. Seek opposing points of view.

  18. Don't allow unrelated discussions during meetings.

  19. Make sure everyone gets credit for the accomplishments of the committee.

  20. Allow some social time following each meeting.

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