Kill the committees

Last week, I attended an event that marked the end of an era. A professional women’s group I used to belong to was folding. It was the last-ever event for the group, as they wrapped up an almost 100-year history.

A few of the die-hard members and I discussed how many other organizations are also dying: church groups, civic organizations, service clubs, professional groups. All these legacy organizations with boards and officers and business meetings and all that; they’re all dying, it seems.

“Young people” just want to come together for a project and then move on. That was our assessment. I think it’s a good thing. What’s wrong with just getting together for a project, making it happen, and then moving on?

At breakfast the next morning, a big-city friend told me about a local organization wanting him to be their president, but they require a 5 year commitment, cycling through all the offices including secretary, treasurer, vice president, etc., just to be president of a group with under 100 members. FIVE YEARS. Think back to 2009. How much has changed in your life? Who can commit to 5 long years just to be president?

On the drive home, I heard a radio show about open collaboration: managing loosely-organized crowds to accomplish big goals. They interviewed the founder of Wikipedia, Jimmy Wales. He explained that they don’t really have an organization. Whenever people ask him who is in charge of a thing, he says, whoever wants to pitch in.

Whoever wants to pitch in. Getting together for a project, making it happen, then moving on. 

The moral of this story is kill your committees. I mean to say, don’t have committees. Don’t have officers. Think about it. What is the worst that would happen if you didn’t even have a president? Take a second and really think about that. What if you didn’t even have a president?

Don’t you dare ask people for a multi-year commitment to ANYTHING.

Let people organize themselves. Let it grow on its own.

Incidentally, the line dividing “young people” who prefer this style of doing things is somewhere north of 50 now. Your people under 50 (and some way over 50) will thank you for going committee-less.

Listen, if Wikipedia can do it, and TEDx, and a bunch of open source software projects can do it, why shouldn’t you?

Keep making your small town better,

PS – Three great items you might have missed this week from Small Biz Survival:

1. Another reader could use your help. Dena’s town council wants to put in parking meters, so she wants your “parking meters in small towns” experiences and stories. Join the parking meter discussion here.  

2. Here’s a simple social media trick for any group with members

3. I cornered author Michael Shuman for an interview about local economies, local investing, and what’s wrong with “attraction and retention” economic development. Listen to Shuman here