As we met with a labor-management committee this week, I was thinking about some of the factors that make committees effective over the long haul.
The committee was one we initially trained years ago. They approached us at that time because they felt their meetings were a waste of time. The members met, pointed fingers, accomplished little, and then adjourned until the next meeting. They were tired of this, and wanted to be productive.
We provided training and facilitation for that committee and saw a near immediate turn around. Members began working together to solve problems rather than try to affix blame. They were able to develop solutions that improved efficiency and saved money and jobs.
As membership on the committee changed and circumstances evolved, the team came back to us this year for additional training. We did an assessment of the team, conducted training based on its results, and are now providing facilitation. They now appear ready to continue the good work they have been doing.
What makes this, or any labor-management committee (LMC) effective and keeps them effective? A few factors come to mind.
The most significant factor in the success of an LMC is the commitment of its members. This goes far beyond spoken words, it requires the demonstrated commitment and support of all members of the team along with support of the management and union leadership of the organization.
One of the signs of commitment is regular attendance at meetings. If members are not there, their input and expertise are lost. We are all busy, but attendance at meeting must be a priority. Members also follow through on assigned tasks between meetings.
The approach of members is important. They must focus on how to identify and resolve problems. In doing so, they must concentrate on the problem without engaging in traditional behaviors like taking positions and acting in an adversarial manner. Solving problems is important and benefits everyone in the organization.
By being proactive rather than reactive, members can deal with issues before they erupt into conflict or grievances. Better solutions can result through the careful study and consideration of the root causes of problems, not just their symptoms.
Effective committees develop implementation and evaluation plans for the decisions they make. Have you ever been part of a committee that developed a solution for a problem, only to have it never be heard of again? They get lost in the difficulty of making change and succumb to organizational inertia.
An effective LMC will determine who is responsible for implementing its decisions, how and when it will happen, and how it will be evaluated for effectiveness. If the solution is effective, they will be certain it becomes part of the standard operating procedures of the organization so it is not lost.
Part of building teamwork in the LMC is the recognition that everyone in the room is an equal partner in the process. Not only are titles left at the door, so are attitudes. Members must feel free to voice their opinions and suggestions if the committee is to be effective.
The most effective LMC’s with which we have worked have a clear mission they want to accomplish, and set short and long term goals designed to help accomplish that mission. We will discuss that aspect of committee work in an upcoming blog.