“Collaborative Management” and “Management by Committee” are terms that describe approaches to organizational decision-making and leadership. Despite seeming similar at a glance because both involve group participation, they have very different connotations and practices.

Comparing and Contrasting the Two Approaches:

On Structure:

Inclusive and Flat Structure: Collaborative management emphasizes a more inclusive approach where input is sought from a broader range of stakeholders, not just from designated committee members. This approach tends to flatten hierarchies, encouraging contributions from all levels of an organization.

Defined Structure: Management by committee usually involves a formal group or committee that has been given the authority to make decisions on behalf of the organization. This committee is typically made up of members selected based on their position within the organization.

On Decision-Making:

The collaborative process is often less formal and more dynamic than in committee management. It relies on continuous communication and sharing of ideas among team members, rather than scheduled meetings.

The committee typically operates under a structured process, with formal meetings, set agendas, and procedural rules.

On Speed and Adaptability:

Speed and Adaptability: Collaborative management can lead to faster decision-making as it encourages ongoing dialogue and quick consensus-building rather than waiting for the next committee meeting.

Potential for Bureaucracy: One common criticism of the management by committee approach is that it can lead to bureaucratic delays. Committees may take time to convene, discuss, and reach consensus, which can slow down decision-making.

On Responsibility and Accountability:

Shared Responsibility: While this can lead to greater buy-in and engagement from team members using the collaborative approach, it also means that accountability may be shared across the group, which can sometimes make it hard to pinpoint who is responsible for specific decisions. In this sense, it shares a similar risk with management by committee.

Responsibility and Accountability: With management by committee, since decisions are made by a committee rather than an individual, it can sometimes lead to issues with accountability, as responsibility is diffused among the group members.

On Culture:

Culture: The collaborative management approach requires a strong culture of trust and openness, where team members feel valued and empowered to share their insights and opinions.

Hierarchy: Management by committee can still reflect an organization’s hierarchy, with higher-level committees wielding more power and influence.

I have rarely seen management by committee succeed in achieving focused, time-driven objectives. While I have seen hybrid variations be affective, the lack of clear responsibility and accountability coupled with inherent potential for bureaucracy present significant barriers as an effect approach to management.