5 Common Oversight Councils

Organizations use councils and committees to help oversee operations and to help get things done.

People sometimes confuse committees and councils.  The basic difference is a committee is chartered to solve a temporary problem where as a council has an ongoing oversight responsibility.  However, there are ongoing committees.

A council is defined as, “an assembly of persons summoned or convened for consultation, deliberation, or advice; a body of persons specially designated or selected to act in an advisory, administrative or legislative capacity..”

In one of my favorite books, “Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t”, Jim Collins talks about councils that help guide an organization.  These councils consist of people who discuss and debate issues that relate to the organization.  In his example, organizations should be guided by the “three circles” of:

1.  What are you passionate about?
2.  What can you be the best at?
3.  What drives your economic engine?

Organizations should identify areas that need constant focus and develop groups of people who can address issues and make recommendations for improvements of those areas.

Every council should have a charter and purpose statement which helps the group have a specific mission and focus.  Council meetings should be facilitated with an agenda and structured format to ensure time spent meets the purposes of the charter.

5 Common Oversight Councils

1. Budget Review

A budget review council meets either monthly or quarterly and has the responsibility of reviewing budget issues and unbudgeted requests.  This group also keeps a pulse on organizational spending, budget variances, makes recommendations for budget cuts and provides input into the annual budget process.

2. Facility Review

Whether you own your own building or rent office space, it is important to identify a group of people who are responsible for facility needs and managing the maintenance and enhancement of the facility.  Even though building maintenance is often outsourced, there should always be someone responsible for making sure the facility represents the organization well.  Marks on the walls, faded carpet, aging furniture and outdated restrooms are examples of areas that this Council can oversee.  This group also makes recommendations for campus improvements that would go to the budget review council for funding.

3. Human Resources

Whether an organization employs five people or five hundred people, there should be a group that meets on a regular basis to steer the human resource aspect of the organization.  Employee benefits, employee relations issues, training, development, recruitment and appreciation are all examples of issues that need guidance and attention.  For a small organization, this may be a few people but the point is to keep a focus on issues so the organization can stay legally compliant and competitive with their employment practices.

4. Information Technology

Every business is dependent on technology to support day-to-day operations.  Having a group that keeps a pulse on current technology needs, with the vision to identify future technology needs, can ensure that the organization is using technology to its advantage and can alleviate large unexpected and unbudgeted expenditures.

5. Marketing

Marketing and sales help get the word out about available products and services.  There should be a group that is constantly looking for ways to increase market share and brand exposure.  This group would also look at rapidly changing customer requirements and keeping current with changing marketing technology trends.

Finally, councils are meant to drive change and improvements in business practices as well as serve as oversight for day-to-day operations. Managed well, these councils can help organizations improve, develop and grow.  Managed poorly, they become a waste of valuable resources.

photo by:  El Brown

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