Homelessness Has Never Been Ended in a Committee

On more than a few occasions lately I have been in meetings with Coordinated Entry Committees, Community Advisory Committees, Assessment Committees, Steering Committees, Executive Committees, Implementation Committees, Evaluation Committees, etc. that have a local responsibility for providing direction to ending homelessness. I am at the end of my patience with committees.

Let me say this again as clearly as I possibly can: homelessness has never been ended in a committee.

There is an awesome website called www.despair.com that creates de-motivational posters. If you understand my sarcasm and humor, you’ll appreciate why I love this website so much. Here is my favorite poster on the website:

(In fairness, they also say this about blogging.) The point? I am amazed how much energy goes into committees when the same energy does not go into implementation.

In my mind there is good process and dumb-ass process.

Good process is people rapidly figuring out how to do something, try it, make mistakes, learn, tweak, improve, evaluate, tweak some more, make more mistakes, learn, improve, etc. Good process is the art of doing.

Dumb-ass process is people trying to figure out how to keep everyone happy without making any decisions. When push comes to shove there is another committee to be formed. And every decision made in a committee (if there are any decisions made) have to come back to the Committee of the Whole where they can be rejected and sent back to committee again. Dumb-ass process is reinventing the wheel instead of using evidence and data already available. Dumb-ass process is thinking you need another study to prove what has already been proven time and time again. Dumb-ass process is confusing consultation with consensus. Dumb-ass process is seeking perfection on paper before ever doing anything.

Next time someone suggests another committee demand that you have an action-team instead of a committee. Be charged with the task of execution because that is the discipline of getting things done. Refuse to accept that sitting around a table will end homelessness.

If you do not focus more time on action than committees you might as well just announce that you have much work to do before you can announce your total failure to make any progress. And then form a committee to figure out why that happened.

Iain De Jong

About Iain De Jong

8 Responses to “Homelessness Has Never Been Ended in a Committee”

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  1. Cynthia Campbell says:

    Just wondering if Ian is any relation to Helki and Simon De Jong, both activists I met in the 1970s in Regina SK?

  2. Cheryl Giles says:

    This is so accurate. I am involved in small churches and have seen more churches die while having “mission” or “vision” committee meetings for years, and spending thousands of dollars on consultants to tell them the same thing. The church dies anyway because no one wants to change anything. The futility of It all is heartbreaking.

  3. Linda Kaufman says:

    I love this. Perhaps because I often act before planning. And I think 100 days is enough time for almost anything.

    • In the church we call the process “death by committee” and/or “paper tigers”. Process people, of whom there are many in the non-profit and religious world think that talking about a problem actually solves it. Unfortunately in government some also are under the same mistaken philosophy.

  4. David Parker says:

    Simply why I avoid meetings. Let the talkers talk.

  5. Tina Haffeman says:

    The powers that be in this community (including the United Way) are actually barriers to getting anything done. More than 2 years ago, I gathered together stakeholders in this community to visit a 25 year old organization that coordinates services for those in need so they are not running all around trying to obtain basic services. We traveled the 10 miles to this organization (in our same county) so they could give us an idea how they work. (They have been successful for years and years. As it turns out, they have volunteered to come to our city to mentor us in a satellite. We could have taken the satellite and made it our own two years ago. The offer has been made several times over the last 15 years. The powers wanted nothing to do with it. The two year process of reinventing the wheel has to be one of the premier get-nothing-done project ever. Eventually the powers decided to leave out all the community people originally working on this and meet just with funders. I hear that they are currently looking for CEOs to form a new committee. I have confronted the powers a few times. This has accomplished nothing but to frighten the board of the homeless shelter (which I founded and chair) into asking me to keep quiet as shelter funding may be threatened.
    But still people suffer while the powers dither. Yikes! There are days when I just want to give up.

    • David Parker says:

      Don’t give up! Try to work around and within – if people without housing can maintain hope, so can we! 🙂