As the name suggests, executive committees are committees with membership at the senior-most level of an organization, such as presidents, vice-presidents and chief officers. Although they are senior leaders, these committee members typically report upward to a board of directors. Executive committee duties are based on providing organizational direction on behalf of the board and advising the board on decisions and business matters ranging from strategy planning, policy, investment and risk.
An executive committee advises an organization’s board of directors to support its decision-making processes. The committee meets more frequently than the board, and moves more nimbly. Appointed by the board, the committee has the authority to act on its behalf, although such authority does have limitations based on the committee’s defined purpose. With regard to investment and strategic planning decisions, the committee might not take action itself, but instead report on the results of research and make recommendations.
Ad-Hoc Committee Oversight
Executive committee members can be appointed to support special projects and oversee other, ad-hoc committees, often comprised of lower-tier members of management or even nonmanagement personnel. The member appointed in this role provides leadership to these other committees, making sure objectives are met. This leader receives and reviews status reports and then provides updates to the executive committee, serving as a conduit between the ad-hoc committees and the board of directors.
An executive committee can be called upon to oversee policy development pertaining to ethics, security guidelines, quality management, human resources, environmental and regulatory requirements. Policy development can involve several committee members providing oversight to various ad-hoc committees, the members of which do the legwork in gathering legal and other requirements and drafting policy documentation. It will be the committee’s responsibility to ensure that all tasks are completed to first establish the policies and then roll them out effectively across the organization.
In addition to serving the needs of the board, executive committee members serve the needs of the workplace. Workplace issues or concerns that require executive oversight will reach the executive committee level. Committee members must then decide which issues can stop there, and which must be moved further upward for board-level direction. Examples can include the identification of financial or regulatory risks that are first encountered or recognized at the employee-level and subsequently elevated through the levels of management.