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Boards of directors or advisory committees need to have a process to organize and manage working groups. A working group is a sub-set of people appointed by a board or advisory committee to address one specific topic, issue, or problem. The responsibility of the group is usually to do research and make recommendations to the larger body. This responsibility is often referred to as “the charge.” The “charge” is clear, specific and has a time limit. They are never long standing, but rather short term, with a specific assignment. Here are some tips to organize the working group.
Deciding to Create the Working Group
The reason to form a working group:
A variety of information on a specific topic or issue is needed to make a decision
Specialists on the topic or issue are not serving on the board or committee
Informed volunteers from the working group might assist in turning plans into action;
Information and recommendations are needed to guide the decision making process for the board or committee
There is sufficient time available for the working group to complete its work and the board or committee to make a decision in a timely manner.
A skilled group leader to chair the working group is available and willing to serve
Committee Charge and Size
“Charge” is a written statement describing the responsibilities of the working group.
The timeline sets out the beginning and ending time of the working group
There is a clear statement of outcomes that are expected at the conclusion of the work
Appoint a liaison person from the board or committee or paid staff to the working group.
Select a chair for the working group who is experienced in setting agendas, planning, and interpersonal relationships
To Prepare Working Group Members
A personal letter of thanks from the board president or committee chair
A complete list of working group members, with all appropriate contact information
A complete list of board or committee officers and paid staff.
A copy of the charge statement, timeline, and outcomes expectations
Any and all available background material on the issue, topic, or situation that has been assigned to the working group
A liaison person is assigned to conduct an orientation for members of the working group. This person is different than the chair.
Ask the working group to establish plans to carry out their assignment and share it with the liaison person.
The liaison thanks the members for accepting the assignment and gives basic reasons for their selection. Examples: special expertise, ability, leadership, analytical minds and so on may be mentioned as criteria used in making the choices
Have each member introduce themselves to the group to increase the feeling of cohesiveness
Review the “charge” of the working group and the timeline.
Introduce the chair of the working group and his/her background.
Review background material and answer questions
Provide each member with a file folder with the written material to be distributed.
Report and Evaluation
Following the work of the working group there is a written report to the board or committee
The liaison person and chair are responsible to organize and prepare the report
The working group evaluates the process used and forwards the results of the evaluation to the board or committee