Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Rethinking the Committee Charter

Modern healthcare needs people to work on it. Like a garden, it needs pruning, trimming, weeding, planting, and a lot of care to keep it alive and vibrant. You will probably need committees to help you do this.

Committees are the workhorses of an organization - They help you get things done, hopefully, by coordinating the actions of different parts of your organization, and so they are useful in coordinated change management. From Google :
According to Wikipedia, committees are :
  • "a necessary aspect of organizations of any significant size" and 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" and
  • "can also be empaneled with experts".
The exact parliamentary practices here seems to vary broadly, from Robert's Rules of Order to other blogs and books on parliament, but committees typically come in one of three flavors :
  • Executive Committee - A committee with well-defined executive powers usually spelled out in a charter or organizational by-laws
  • Standing/Permanent Committee - A subunit of a political or deliberative body established in a permanent fashion to aid the parent assembly in accomplishing its duties.
  • Working/Ad Hoc Committee - A group established to accomplish a particular task or to oversee an ongoing area
By the way, for more about committees, see :
Anyway, committees also have their challenges. The problem with committees, generally, is that operationally :
  • You need them to carry out a significant amount of work for your organization, but
  • ...they have to be staffed with several highly-trained people, and so ...
  • ... if they're not run efficiently, they can be a drain on resources.
So ideally, you want a committee to be well-run, efficent, and productive

How to get a committee to be well-run, efficient, and productive?

I find one of the most challenging things when creating a committee is defining the committee to achieve clarity. So I looked at some of the most common questions I hear about committees : 
  • Why does it exist?
  • Who created it? When?
  • Who's going to run it?
  • Who's going to participate in it?
  • What powers/authority does the committee have?
  • How often will they meet?
  • Who will it report to? Who will oversee it?
  • How will it vote? Who will vote?
  • What's the quorum?
And so to help achieve clarity on these issues, I rethought the "Committee Charter", and drafted the following sample one-page template :
This DRAFTED charter template, in one page, then facilitates operational clarity by encouraging both committee members and the overseeing body to define their terms, and agree to :
  • Committee mission (Why is the committee needed?)
  • Committee responsibilities (What is the expectation for this committee?)
  • Committee chairperson(s) (Who will run this committee, set the agendas, conduct meetings, ensure minutes are kept and approved, and report the activities/actions of the committee?)
  • Committee membership (both voting and non-voting members - Who can vote? Who can't?)
  • Meeting frequency (How often will this committee meet?)
  • Delegated authorities (e.g. "to send emails on behalf of another person/committee"?)
  • Voting Type (How will the members approve motions?)
  • Quorum (What's the minimum number of people that need to be in a room for an official meet?)
  • Charter Review (How often will this charter be re-examined? When will it be reapproved?)
  • Measures of success (How will we know if the committee is effective?)
  • Oversight body (Who will this committee report to?)
It's pretty short-and-sweet, but in one page I think it gets the job done quite well. As always, if my writing inspires you, remember to tailor it to your needs. Let me know if you have any other charter templates you like, and why you use them!

Remember, this is all just academic discussion, and your mileage may vary! Check with your local regulatory bodies before developing governance tools in your area. Feel free to send thoughts, comments, or questions - I always enjoy getting feedback from other people looking to improve healthcare!

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