A committee is a rugby team designed by a committee. Here’s how a committee would go about selecting their team.
The props are an easy pick. Kent Gerber and Tim Smith were the fattest kids in their year in school. Kent was also the nastiest of the school bullies, so a natural choice for the rough and tumble world of the front row.
Nigel Gordon volunteers as hooker. He says he really enjoyed playing tunnel ball as a kid, and hooking is the same, only using your feet, not your hands.
Quentin McDougall is easily the tallest man in town and was dux of his school. Duncan Dennis is nearly as tall as Quentin. Duncan is built like a giraffe and gets nose bleeds almost daily, but as long as there is no rough stuff, he thinks he and Quentin would make excellent locks.
Nobody is better at catching feral pigs than Ryan Blackett. He’d make an excellent flanker. So would Nicola Bowen, who played hockey in her teens.
In the position of lock is Blocker Bennett, who has the firmest handshake in town.
At scrum half is Erica. Nobody can remember Erica’s surname. She has just moved to town, but she’s little and looks like she’d be quite nimble.
At fly half is John Endercott. John’s in the team because he was really good at passing the sandbags when the local river threatened to broach its banks in 2011.
The inside centre is Percy Harris. Percy reckons he’s still pretty quick, even at 73. Except when it rains. Or threatens to rain. Then his arthritic hips give him a bit of grief.
At outside centre is Dot Holden, Percy’s neighbour. Dot hates rugby, but keeps this to herself. She figures that once on the team, she can persuade her teammates to switch to volley ball.
On one wing is Nick Hadidas. Nick won the egg and spoon race at his Sunday school picnic when he was 7.
The other winger is Tina Owen. Tina’s there because she asked if she could be.
The fullback is Digger Dodds. Digger is a farmer and is used to being on his own, so fullback seems like a perfect position for him.
The role of coach is a difficult one. Should it be Margaret Brown? Margaret is president of the local branch of Red Cross, and enjoys giving people orders. Or should it be Nicky Carsten, whose family has been an important part of the community since 1870? In the end, Nicky gets the job – but she was always going to. The committee just has to make it look like a fair contest.
The job of designing the team’s logo and jerseys is given to Jill Endercott, John’s wife. Jill still has her 40-year-old set of Derwent colour pencils, all in unused condition in their original box.
So there’s the team. According to the local paper, they’re all really looking forward to their first game against the All Blacks.
Engineer Michael French writes, “It is an old joke that a camel is a horse designed by a committee, a joke which does grave injustice to a splendid creature and altogether too much honour to the creative power of committees.”
Committees are often dysfunctional. They don’t have to be. To work, they need to be created on a couple of basic principles.
Select on relevant expertise alone, not on availability or enthusiasm.
Having appointed a committee member for his or her proven skill in a specific area, give that person freedom and responsibility to deliver his or her assigned task.
Don’t ask for a show of hands to approve ideas or strategies or designs proposed by experts (either on the committee or external consultants). Dot Holden’s opinion of the team jersey is irrelevant. Adding Tina Owen’s and Nigel Gordon’s and Percy Harris’s and Blocker Bennett’s and Tim Smith’s conflicting opinions simply intensifies the crippling confusion – although Tim Smith’s opinion will probably win, because once a bully always a bully.