An intemperate attack on committees (project teams)

A sacred cow for sizeable law departments is the committee/team. “We need to improve our system to archive old files: let’s appoint a group of six people that will meet every week and recommend improvements!” The amount of advice on how to unleash a productive team would stagger any of us, and I don’t propose to rehash it (See my post of Jan. 4, 2006 about virtual teams; Jan. 30, 2006 about Blue Cross teams.

I propose instead to attack the whole notion that group decision-making brings optimal results (See my post of April 27, 2005 with seven causes of team breakdown.). My experience is that an individual, one solitary person, inevitably has to make important calls. That person may benefit from input from others, but generally speaking large swathes of committee time drain away ineffectually.

Committees hobble because they exponentially raise scheduling difficulties; members do not know their roles and often don’t step up to responsibilities; expectations of consensus bog down even small decisions and cripple daring ones; hours of words go by without any conclusion, and then the unrecorded conclusions are dug up again and the horse beaten even more; laggard performers can draft in behind the more capable; and often the blind lead the blind. Vitriolic, perhaps, and not politically correct, but I have deep reservations about most law-department project teams.

We welcome comments

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *