Committees to consider
The previous sections covered a few of the main committees that sports organisations may find useful. However, there are many more committees that you may consider, depending upon your needs and circumstances. Also known as ad hoc committees, these are often formed for a specific task, purpose or objective with clearly defined deliverables. Where they are related to a specific task or purpose, they are dissolved after the completion of the task, conclusion of the purpose or achievement of the objective. Membership may, or may not, include board members, depending on the purpose as well as the skills and experience required.
A board can constitute a committee for any purpose to act on their behalf, noting that the responsibility for delivery may be delegated, but the ownership remains with the board. The board is not there solely to coordinate or manage a group of committees and should identify and, wherever possible, retain core responsibilities themselves.
Clarity of purpose as documented by the terms of reference of the committee and scheme of delegation is an imperative that will ensure that committee members are clear on its purpose and focus on any defined deliverables. Where a committee is being set up for a specific purpose, it is even more important that this purpose is clearly documented and agreed. Without this, the committee may extend its remit beyond the expected purpose, may become less effective, and as a result, will frustrate both the board members who saw value in its creation and members who are lacking direction.
Purpose-specific committees are often, but not always, time-limited. These committees are implemented by the board to deliver on a specific project or purpose. In these instances, the terms of reference must be clear on the role and responsibilities, the authority of the committee to take decisions, the escalation points for referral to the board and the purpose of its creation. It should also detail any deliverable milestones and the timeline for the committee itself. Examples would include an HR organisational committee to lead a company re-organisation, an incident-driven committee to follow up on a data security breach, or a relocation committee if a company is moving to new premises or consolidating locations.
Committee versus project
It is important to differentiate a formal committee constituted by a board of directors and a project team set up for a specific purpose.
- Specifically, a committee of the board should have a board member taking responsibility for the committee, usually through being appointed the chair of the committee. By undertaking this role, they are the interface between the two forums and are able to ensure that the committee maintains its focus on the defined deliverables. This board representative may be an executive or an independent director or a combination of the two if more than one individual is involved.
In general, a committee is implemented to oversee or progress a delegated responsibility of the board working under clear, documented terms of reference. Meetings are formally documented with progress reported back to the board on a regular basis. Committees frequently bring in members from across functions, departments, and divisions of an organisation, as well as appointing external members. This ensures that the membership is broad in experience, knowledge and expertise.
- A project board or team has a similar narrow focus but is usually set up for a single, time-limited purpose. It will primarily be composed of members from a specific function, division or geography with the deliverables centred within that area. It will have a project definition and project plan and may report progress to a member of the board or board contributor who, in turn, will include it within their wider board reporting. In larger organisations, there may be a centralised project team providing support, frameworks, governance, reporting and project expertise. The focus will be on the delivery of the defined purpose with milestones tracked and regular project updates communicated to stakeholders. Unlike a committee, project meetings will focus on the delivery of the project rather than discussion of the purpose, the wider topic itself or the sharing of knowledge.
From a career perspective, the experience of working within a project-based environment is a positive grounding for future committee membership, given their similarities related to defined purpose and structure.
When setting up a committee the board should first consider whether a project team would be better placed to deliver on the requirements. Is the purpose narrow in focus and only related to one geography, function or division? Will it only be composed of in