58. Board Committees (definition)
NOTE: if you’re new to Ground-Up Governance, or are finding anything a bit strange or confusing, you might want to START HERE.
Even before an organization gets very big or complex, there are topics that benefit from special attention from board members. If a corporation did, in fact, have an important and highly technical tarantula handling operation, then the board might select a special group of board members to oversee and make recommendations about the corporation’s tarantula handling activities. If the board assigns that group a formalized set of responsibilities, then it is what’s typically called a “board committee,” in this case a Tarantula Handling Insights and Co-ordination Committee (THICC). Most board committees have a specific purpose and set of tasks, like reviewing tarantula handling performance reports, or helping the CTHO to think through some decision options before bringing them to the full board (e.g. considering introducing more colourful tarantulas to make our staff feel more engaged. Like some chromatopelma cyaneopubescens in addition to your company’s usual standby, brachypelma smithi. FYI Matt Fullbrook’s tarantula is a brachypelma verdezi named Lumpy.) The board delegates work to committees so that there is more time outside of board meetings for deep conversation about important topics – like tarantula handling – and to give the CTHO an opportunity to work through stuff that wouldn’t usually go to the full board.
Some types of corporations *have* to have certain types of committees – more on that soon – but for the most part every board has leeway to create whatever committees they want. So, while it can be really helpful to build a committee structure to support the senior executives, like the THICC supports the CTHO, you can basically choose your own adventure. Video dance party planning committee? Spell checking committee? Cookie committee? As long as your committee structure cultivates good conditions that support the board’s ability to make decisions, it’s probably working well.
Don’t forget that every committee needs to actually have meetings of some kind. So every committee you create means there’s more work for your directors, who need to prepare for and attend more meetings, and more work for your executives, who need to create pre-reads and presentations for committee meetings. So, you probably don’t want to have *too* many committees. Just the ones that will actually be useful, either because they focus on topics that are really technical or important, or because they will really help to save time in board meetings.
For example, it might be super useful for the Reallie Steilish board to have a committee that monitors trends in the Eyelash community to make sure they look as funky as possible (Mascara Committee, maybe?) but not so useful for it to have a Tarantula Handling Committee, even if there are plenty of tarantula lovers in the Reallie Steilish boardroom.
Ground-Up Governance is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.