If you want a Horse…

camelMy mentor always told me that ‘a Camel was a Horse that was designed by committee’ and he also said ‘so if it’s a Horse that you want, then shoot the damned committee’.

I always thought this was an interesting statement, but as a young man starting out, given I wasn’t on many committees I never fully understood this.

However, over the years this is something that I have come to understand only too well 🙁

I am very supportive of taking a consensus approach, but often this can lead to compromises, and it’s these very compromises which give us the camel.

Interestingly enough, probably everyone on that committee wants a horse, and they probably also believes it’s the contribution of others that leads to the camel.
No one thinks it’s their fault that we end up with a camel.

I have often seen situations where we have three options, and options 1 & 2 are the best and option 3 is the worst. But as people start to argue in favour of option 1 or 2, we end up agreeing on option 3 as then neither party has won, or had to concede.

Option 3 is seen as a compromise, when in reality it’s not the preferred option of either party.

This is how we end up with the camel, and both parties will argue that it was because of the other that we didn’t end up with either option 1 or 2.

In these types of situations if I am responsible for setting up the committee I try to keep it as small as possible, but large enough to have some different opinions, 3 to 5 people maximum, and always ensure that the chairman has the final vote to ensure we end up with a good solution and not a poor compromise solution.

I have often left committees where I could see that there were too many people, and whilst I would like to be involved, it was clear my involvement could lead to compromise, and hence we would end up with a camel.

Clearly, if it’s a topic that  I am passionate about, or something that I feel is important then I will stay and look to help shape the solution. This is often not easy to do, but I often feel it’ better option than the camel.

What about you, have you been involved in a committee that ended up designing a camel?

How did you feel, what do you think that you could have done differently to ensure the best solution was chosen?

Gordon Tredgold

Leadership Principles