Friday, November 2, 2012

Exhaustion by Committee


committee 11-1-12

                                                   Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at

 “A committee is a thing which takes a week to do what one good man can do in an hour.”   ~Elbert Hubbard

I don’t really have all that much to say tonight.  Mainly, that’s because my brain is fried.  I didn’t get much of anything done here at home today since I slept late and then went to school early for a meeting with the Phi Theta Kappa group.  (BTW, I try really hard not to refer to the group as “PTK” publicly, as it’s frowned upon, but it’s sort of a hassle to use the actual Greek letters, ΦΘΚ.  If anyone has a way of typing Greek without toggling between keyboards, I’m all ears!)  Anyway, things went okay there, but like most meetings, things are rarely as efficient as they could be.

But, then it was time for class.  And we’re currently in the middle of a group research project.  It’s not going particularly well.  Honestly, I’m not sure why we even need to work in groups.  I mean, I get that it’s new information for us, and there’s some comfort in having someone else be as lost as I am and being able to knock around a few ideas, but I’m not sure that’s worth the tradeoff of the frustration that comes with working together for a grade.  And it’s not like we’re in elementary school, or anything; we’ve all had experience working with others before, so—for the most part—the interpersonal aspect of it isn’t really the focus of the work.  Though I say “for the most part” because there is one group in the class that has sort of fallen apart because of some inabilities to understand each other, and that’s unfortunate.  At any rate, this seriously must be the single most inefficient way of getting things done.  Because we’re all new to the subject, it’s taking us longer than should technically be necessary.  And, it’s like a feeding frenzy sometimes in terms of distractions: when one person strays off topic, others are only too willing to follow, and it takes concerted effort to bring folks back on task.  It’s exhausting. 

And then, there is the very worst part of all, though this is pretty much my own failing:  I don’t really trust anyone else with my grade.  And especially not when they’re telling me about all the shortcuts they’re going to take to get their part done.  So, we split up five cases, with everyone responsible for briefing one and sharing with the rest of the group, but I will spend my weekend briefing all of them, because that’s the only way I’ll be comfortable that the paper turned in with my name on it will be done to my satisfaction.  Like I said, I’m sure that’s my failing, but danged if I know how to fix it.  (It would probably be easier to let some of that go if the professor wanted one report from the entire group, but no; she wants us to work together but then turn in papers separately, even though she understands they will be essentially identical in most parts.  Inefficient from the get-go.)

I will say that one of the up sides of being unemployed for many months now is that I haven’t been subjected to this sort of committee frustration for quite some time, but that just means I’m out of practice in the breathe-deep-it’ll-all-be-okay mantra business.  Maybe there is some small benefit to the project after all, if you figure anyone heading out into the workforce after graduation will need some practice with that sort of thing.  Still, it wouldn’t have bothered me at all if they’d let this little bit of practical experience wait until the capstone course. 

I’d turn that in as a suggestion, but undoubtedly some committee would be stuck reviewing it; why put anyone through that?

How do you feel about trying to accomplish things by committee?