late Anglo-Norman French committe, committee past participle, substituted for French commis, < commettre to commit v.: compare words like appellee, in which the suffix reproduces French é of the past participle of 1st conj.; also trustee.
- 1archaic : a person to whom a charge or trust is committed
- 2a : a body of persons delegated to consider, investigate, take action on, or report on some matter; especially : a group of fellow legislators chosen by a legislative body to give consideration to legislative matters.
A committee (or "commission") is a type of small deliberative assembly that is usually intended to remain subordinate to another, larger deliberative assembly—which when organized so that action on committee requires a vote by all its entitled members, is called the "Committee of the Whole". Committees often serve several different functions:
- Governance: in organizations considered too large for all the members to participate in decisions affecting the organization as a whole, a committee (such as a Board of Directors or "Executive Committee") is given the power to make decisions, spend money, or take actions. Some or all such powers may be limited or effectively unlimited. For example of the later case, the Board of directors can frequently enter into binding contracts and make decisions which once taken or made, can't be taken back or undone under the law.
- Coordination: individuals from different parts of an organization (for example, all senior vice presidents) might meet regularly to discuss developments in their areas, review projects that cut across organizational boundaries, talk about future options, etc. Where there is a large committee, it is common to have smaller committees with more specialized functions - for example, Boards of Directors of large corporations typically have an (ongoing) audit committee, finance committee, compensation committee, etc. Large academic conferences are usually organized by a co-ordinating committee drawn from the relevant professional body.
- Research and recommendations: committees are often formed to do research and make recommendations on a potential or planned project or change. For example, an organization considering a major capital investment might create a temporary working committee of several people to review options and make recommendations to upper management or the Board of Directors. Such committees are typically dissolved after issuing recommendations (often in the form of a final report).
- Project management: while it is generally considered poor management to give operational responsibility to a committee to actually manage a project, this is not unknown. The problem is that no single person can be held accountable for poor performance of the committee, particularly if the chairperson of the committee is seen as a facilitator.