A camel is a horse that was built by a committee.
I love that adage! Often in the committee experience there are allowances made to try to meet everyone’s needs and opinions. Sometimes it’s great because it turns out you really did need a camel, and sometimes it isn’t, because you really needed a Kentucky Derby champion. Consensus might mean the group has found a happy medium and reflect a great deal of compromise, but consensus might not lead to an ideal result.
There’s an episode of “Parks and Recreation” with Amy Poehler that demonstrates this perfectly. Each City department of Pawnee, Indiana was to develop an idea for a new mural to be painted in City Hall. The Parks Department, with Amy Poehler’s character Leslie Knope as the most enthusiastic cheerleader, ended up submitting a horrible hodgepodge collage of disparate viewpoints–as did every other department. Great teambuilding, but horrible mural ideas.
Granted, distilling the message, pleasing everyone, and developing something that ideally works is not easy. Possible, yes, but not easy, especially when it comes to something creative like a mural or a logo. I recently noticed an ad for a local news show that added eyes, arms and legs to its logo to create a mascot. It’s awful. Why does a news broadcast need a mascot anyway? It reminded me immediately of the 1996 Olympic mascot. Named “Whatizit” and shortened to Izzy, was the Atlanta Summer Olympics mascot. Big eyes circled by two Olympic rings, with the remaining rings surrounding the tail of a bright blue, comma-shaped body, lightning bolts for eyebrows, and some really ugly sneakers. Dreadful! Well, most Olympic mascots are exactly like that. They are built to meet the disparate viewpoints of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and aim to appeal to EVERYBODY, but most of all the least choosey population worldwide: CHILDREN.
I found a great article on the “creepy factor” that all Olympic mascots tend to possess. If you want to see more on that visit it here and have a good laugh.
Something to consider when assigning a committee is at what point is the input of everyone detrimental to moving forward? Who is going to keep the group from running off the road for the sake of group approval? What decisions are you willing to allow a committee to fully resolve? Do you have members who are experts on the topic at hand?
Here are a few tips:
- Keep the mission as the guide. We can create objectives that are inline with our mission but then take a huge right turn when strategies lead to tactics that have not been measured back to the mission.
MISSION: Build a modern home inside and out.
OBJECTIVE: By December of 2016, build and furnish a modern home with a $2 million budget.
STRATEGY: Spend more on the building than on the furniture that can be replaced later.
TACTIC: Buy furniture secondhand and on sale.
RESULT: You buy a houseful of Early American furniture dirt cheap from an estate sale, to meet your tactic, your strategy, and likely your objective. But go a step further up. Does Early American furniture meet the criteria of modern furnishings? No, it does not. FAIL!
- Create a veto power. It’s always a good idea to build-in checks and balances before the committee starts. If the committee making the decisions does not have anyone over them in the organization, then outside experts or a focus group should be brought in for some realistic feedback.
- Appoint the right committee. If the higher-ups want a change but a committee or task-force is comprised of people who don’t want a change, then no change will be made.
Like I mentioned, creative endeavors are harder to manage. The IOC is a collaborative body and the androgynous, all-inclusive mascots that have been developed indeed demonstrate collaboration, even if they are creepy.
Be mindful that reaching consensus means you agree and might be very emotionally satisfying for the team, but it doesn’t always make the final decision a good one.
McCormick L.A. has been helping businesses and organizations in and around Long Beach with their public relations and marketing needs for over 20 years.