Committees Are Where Progress Goes to Die

"We've got some big decisions to make at our startup, and I'm thinking about forming a committee to get more voices into the decision. Is that likely to produce a better outcome or are there some problems I'm unintentionally creating?"

June 12th, 2024   |    By: Wil Schroter

The fastest way to kill progress is to form a committee.

I can't stand committees. They have become a catch-all way to defer hard decisions and accountability while simultaneously looking democratic and inclusive. I've spent 30 years on committees ranging from public company boards to popular non-profits, and I can tell you this—I have yet to see a single decision improved by a committee.

As a startup Founder, I never form committees, and I'd like to take this opportunity to warn you against doing it as well. Maybe your experience is different, and I totally respect that. But the seduction of groupthink and bureaucracy can quickly dilute even the smartest and most well-meaning startup, and that's a big problem.

Why Committees Make Sense on Paper

On paper, committees make all kinds of sense. How could we possibly go wrong with bringing in lots of different experiences and voices to help bring more perspective to a challenge? How could a group of intelligent people be more capable than a single individual?

Committees not only seem to amass talent, but they also help ensure that the company's broader interests are represented. Who wouldn't want a better-represented decision that more people can agree on?

On top of that, they do the most important thing, which is remove a sense of weight or responsibility from any one person and instead allow that burden to be spread collectively across many shoulders. Wins all around, no?

The Broken Wisdom of Collective Wisdom

The problem with all of those arguments in a startup company is that the theory of bringing in lots of voices rarely yields a better outcome. Instead of bringing "our best minds" to the table, it more likely dilutes our best minds with the loudest or most righteous voices.

Tell me if this sounds familiar: "We're working on a new mobile app — let's bring in Lenny from Legal so that he can weigh in on the legal considerations for what we're doing." OK, great, let's roll Lenny in. Nothing will enhance the vision of our product app more than the legal opinion of a guy who has never built an app in his life.

On that note, let's be sure that Sally from our Social Media team weighs in on the contractual legal agreements that Lenny writes. I'm sure her hashtag game will improve our legal accountability by orders of magnitude. Adding more people only adds value if the people being added have more value than the people who are already in the room.

Removing Accountability is Dangerous

Not only do committees have the power to dilute wisdom, they also have the power to dilute accountability. Any CEO or politician knows that if you want to duck any kind of accountability, the first thing you do is create a committee around it. Committees aren't truly accountable individually, which makes them almost invincible to consequences.

The last thing we want is decisions made by anyone who cannot be held accountable. (When was the last time you saw a "committee" go to jail? Never.) When we send decisions to a committee, we may as well be saying, "I'd like this decision to be made by no one who will stand behind it if it's made poorly." Imagine your second in command saying, "I'd like to take on that role, but I don't want to be responsible for the outcome." You’d likely fire that person. That's our "committee's commitment".

It's not that working together and getting various opinions can't have positive outcomes. Let's call committees what they typically are — a poor selection of dilutive resources without any true accountability. Is that really where we want to send our most important decisions?

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About the Author

Wil Schroter

Wil Schroter is the Founder + CEO @, a startup platform that includes BizplanClarity, Fundable, Launchrock, and Zirtual. He started his first company at age 19 which grew to over $700 million in billings within 5 years (despite his involvement). After that he launched 8 more companies, the last 3 venture backed, to refine his learning of what not to do. He's a seasoned expert at starting companies and a total amateur at everything else.

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