This guide was originally developed by the 2013 Emerging Leaders LITA project team, and is being repurposed for this toolkit.
We can take a lot of the skills we use in our daily work to facilitate the work of a committee and/or interest group. Some methods used in software development, such as waterfall and Agile, work very well in managing committee projects. There is a lot more to project management than we can cover here, so make sure to read up beyond these basics if you aren’t familiar with this topic.
Set goals and objectives
When working on a project, it is important to be organized.
- Set goals, objectives, and action items for the project.
- Communicate regularly to keep everyone up to date and on focus.
- Encourage virtual participation. This is helpful for those who are unable to attend conferences. Offer online meetings and collaboration in mediums that are easily accessible to all members (Google Docs and Hangout, Skype, etc). Make sure to document your virtual work on ALA Connect.
- Beware of mission creep: “uncontrolled changes or continuous growth in a project’s scope. This phenomenon can occur when the scope of a project is not properly defined, documented, or controlled. It is generally considered a negative occurrence, to be avoided.”
Work on a timeline
- Have clear deadlines for each task.
- Delegate tasks evenly among group members.
- Encourage continuing the conversation and completing work between conferences.
- During meetings or discussion, know when to table an issue.
- Be prepared for technical difficulties.
- Utilize lazy consensus: move forward even if you don’t have 100% response.
- Delegate work to members. Remember, they have volunteered because they want to participate in the group’s work.
- Also understand that it’s sometimes necessary to extend deadlines or redistribute the workload.
- Regular communication will help you spot potential issues in advance and advert crises.
- Trust your members. Expect great work from them and invite it.
Understand the concrete outcomes of the committee’s work
During the time you are chair of your committee you will be expected to achieve certain outcomes. To that end, you should expect to spend some time setting goals for your committee and planning its work in consultation with your committee members. Understand the concrete deliverables for your committee. These may vary in complexity, and you should work backward from those deliverables in understanding what is realistic.
For instance, if your deliverables are finite, such as a certain number of programs, a conference, or a scholarship recipient, you will want to manage your time to make sure that you meet the very real deadlines that exist inherently in these. If you fail to deliver the programs, conference, or scholarship recipient it will be very clear.
Not all committees have such concrete deliverables. Your committee may need to handle work as it comes up, without specific items to accomplish. In this case, you may want to establish a baseline of what has been accomplished in prior years and aim to meet that your first year, exceed it your second year, or whatever works best for you.
In either case, planning the work ahead of time in consultation with the members of your committee and with clearly communicated deliverables and timeline will keep everyone on track. Set specific goals, outcomes related to those goals, and delegate committee members to specifically “own” deliverables.
Example concrete deliverable planning:
Committee Members in Charge: John, Mary
Deadline: January 30, 2015
- Task 1 (due January 15, 2015)
- Task 2 (due December 15, 2014)
- Task 3 (due October 1, 2014)
Example non-concrete deliverable planning:
Last year: 3 conference calls, 2 in person meetings. Accomplished X, Y, Z.
Goal for this year: 4 conference calls, 1 in person meeting. Expect to accomplish W, X, Y, Z.
Owners for W and Y: Susan, Jane
Owners for X and Z: Mary, Tom, Sam
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