You've probably served on a committee at some point in your life. Perhaps it was a homecoming committee, a homeowner’s association committee or a nominating committee. Whatever it was, do you recall it as being a fulfilling and engaging experience? How about our Congressional Committees and their many Sub-Committees; do they actually get anything accomplished? Or is it plenty of talk and very little action?
Committee structure features a Chairman supported by a group of people who have been signed up, or occasionally volunteered, to carry out what the leader has in mind. They are rarely democratic and even less often successful in producing extraordinary outcomes. Committees often involve a great deal of time spent listening to the organizer. There’s an old saying that “a donkey is a horse that was designed by committee!”
A Task Force, on the other hand, by name and intent is organized to accomplish a specific goal. The name itself suggests a Goal (the Task part) plus Action (Force) to achieve it. Task Forces are dynamic, but not typically long-standing organizations. As a result, its members appear for duty ready to dig in and get something done. The personality of a Task Force is entirely different than that of a committee.
An effective Task Force does have a leader, but her role is not to direct, command or control. Instead, her purpose is to frame the mission, assure team buy-in, and then guide and facilitate the proceedings. It's hard to know going in just how it's all going to turn out. There are other, critical characteristics of a Task Force:
- It should be a Team of Equals, comprised of complementary abilities with equal value. Positions or reporting structures aren't important here.
- Task Force members must respect each other and their different abilities. Every opinion or idea carries equal weight and deserves careful consideration.
- Every action taken as a team must reach consensus. While much of life doesn't work that way, a Task Force’s success depends upon it.