AskDefine | Define committee

Dictionary Definition



1 a special group delegated to consider some matter; "a committee is a group that keeps minutes and loses hours" - Milton Berle [syn: commission]
2 a self-constituted organization to promote something [syn: citizens committee]

User Contributed Dictionary



comité, past participle of commettre, to commit


  • (group of persons):
    • , /kəˈmɪti/, /k@"mIti/
    • Rhymes: -ɪti
  • (person in charge of another):
    • (UK): /kɒmɪˈtiː/, /kQmIt"i:/
    • (US): , /kɑmɪˈtiː/, /kAmIt"i:/
    • Rhymes: -iː


  1. a group of persons convened for the accomplishment of some specific purpose, typically with formal protocols
  2. a guardian; someone in charge of another person deemed to be unable to look after himself or herself.


group of persons convened for the accomplishment of some specific purpose
archaic: someone in charge of another

Extensive Definition

A committee is a type of small deliberative assembly that is usually intended to remain subordinate to another, larger deliberative assembly. Committees often serve several different functions:
  • Governance: in organizations considered too large for all the members to participate in decisions affecting the organization as a whole, a committee (such as a Board of Directors) is given the power to make decisions.
  • Coordination: individuals from different parts of an organization (for example, all senior vice presidents) might meet regularly to discuss developments in their areas, review projects that cut across organizational boundaries, talk about future options, etc. Where there is a large committee, it's common to have smaller committees with more specialized functions - for example, Boards of Directors of large corporations typically have an (ongoing) audit committee, finance committee, compensation committee, etc. Large academic conferences are usually organized by a co-ordinating committee drawn from the relevant professional body.
  • Research and recommendations: committees are often formed to do research and make recommendations on a potential or planned project or change. For example, an organization considering a major capital investment might create a committee of several people to review options and make recommendations to upper management or the Board of Directors. Such committees are typically dissolved after issuing recommendations (often in the form of a final report).
  • Project management: while it is generally considered poor management to give operational responsibility to a committee to actually manage a project, this is not unknown. The problem is that no single person can be held accountable for poor performance of the committee, particularly if the chairperson of the committee is seen as a facilitator.
It is common for a chairperson to organize a committee meeting through an agenda, which is usually distributed in advance. The chairperson is responsible for running meetings: keeping the discussion on the appropriate subject, recognizing members (calling on them to speak) [often omitted in smaller committees], and calling for votes after a debate has taken place [formal voting is normally only done in committees involved in governance]. Governance committees often have formal processes (for example, they might follow Roberts Rules of Order); other types of committees typically operate informally, with the chairperson being responsible for deciding how formal the committee processes will be.
Minutes, a record of the discussion and decisions of the meeting, are often taken by a person designated as the secretary of the committee; they may be legally obligatory (again, typically for governance committees). For committees that meet regularly, the minutes of the most recent meeting are often circulated to committee members before the next meeting.
Committees may meet on a regular basis, often weekly or yearly, or meetings may be called irregularly as the need arises. During an emergency, a committee may meet more than once per day, or sit in permanent session, as, for example, ExComm (the President's Executive Committee) did during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
A committee that is a subset of a larger committee is called a subcommittee. [Where the larger group has a name other than "committee" - for example, "Board" or "Commission", the smaller group(s) would be called committee(s), not subcommittee(s)] For organizations where the Board of Directors is large - say 20 people or more - it's common to have an Executive Committee, of Board members, which is authorized to make some decisions on behalf of the entire Board.
Committees, both permanent and ad hoc (unofficial), appear both in representative democracies and in non-democratic structures. They may bear titles such as Commission, Board, Council, Presidium, or Politburo. Unofficial committees often get unflattering labels such as junta, camarilla or cabal.
Committees are a necessary aspect of organizations of any significant size (say, more than 15 or 20 people). They keep the number of participants manageable; with larger groups, either many people do not get to speak (and feel left out), or discussions are quite lengthy (and many participants find them duplicative and often boring).
Committees are a way to formally draw together people of relevant expertise from different parts of an organization who otherwise would not have a good way to share information and coordinate actions. They may have the advantage of widening viewpoints and sharing out responsibilities.
Their disadvantages appear in the possibilities for procrastination, undesirable compromises in order to build consensus, and groupthink, where (valid) objections or disconfirming evidence is either not voiced or is ignored. Moreover, the need to schedule a meeting, get enough committee members together to have a quorum, and debate until a majority agrees on a course of action, can result in undesirable delays in taking action. (A common joke, in organizations, is that when someone doesn't want to make an unpopular decision, he/she creates a committee to study the question.)

Parliamentary committees

In the parliamentary procedure take part:

See also

committee in Czech: Komise
committee in Danish: Komite
committee in German: Gremium
committee in Spanish: Comité
committee in Esperanto: Komitato
committee in Icelandic: Nefnd
committee in Hebrew: ועדה
committee in Dutch: Gremium
committee in Japanese: 委員会
committee in Norwegian: Nemnd
committee in Portuguese: Comitê
committee in Finnish: Komitea

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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