Executive Committees; Saviour or Scrooge?


It’s March 2015 and I’m doing my income tax return and I ask myself; do I value the Canada Revenue Agency or not? Well, that depends on whether I’m getting a refund or not. In other words, what’s in it for me?

I think the same holds true for executive committees; are they a good thing or bad thing and what are they doing for me?

Let’s think about the two extremes. There are some association experts that believe there should be no executive committee and that all members of the board of directors should be involved in every decision.

On the other end of the spectrum, some believe that proper governance and nimble decision-making encourages you to have an executive committee to make those short-term, urgent decisions, that move the association forward while still operating within the strategic plan of the association.

It turns out both sides are right…depending on what’s in it for you.

Let me break it down to one word; trust. Because if the executive committee has a very specific mandate plus a range of authority and sticks to it, then the board of directors will trust them. If the executive committee starts to make decisions outside their range of authority, then they will lose that trust.

Then there are other external conditions that affect the acceptability of an executive committee. Take a recession. When the market falters and membership drops and finances are tight, directors tend to circle the wagon and shoot inside – and then suspicions develop towards the executive committee. Under these dire circumstances, it may be better to eliminate the executive committee and have all decisions made by the board of directors. All for one and one for all?

In a perfect world, we wouldn’t need so many options. But in a perfect world, I would get a tax refund every year.

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