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The Realities Of Committee Work in Standards Development

For Standards Development Organizations (SDOs), committee work is a key foundation to developing and maintaining the technical benchmarks that industries and governments rely on globally. Committees play an essential role in creating guidelines that ensure safety, interoperability, and quality across sectors. However, behind the scenes, these committees face a multitude of challenges—from managing diverse international viewpoints and reconciling conflicting interests to navigating intricate technical details and adhering to rigorous timelines. In our experience, these challenges are not unique to committee work within standards bodies.

Throughout our twenty years working with US state legislatures, parliaments, and standards bodies, we have noted that committee work shares several similarities between them. In this article, we will explore these similarities, discuss key challenges faced by these organizations when it comes to committee work, and share how your organization can maximize the efficiency of committee work through the use of technology. 

Parallels In Committee Work Between Legislative and Regulatory Bodies

Committee work is a fundamental aspect of both legislatures and standards bodies, serving as the backbone for decision-making and policy development in these institutions. Despite their differing goals, their committee processes share striking similarities. By examining these commonalities, we can gain a deeper understanding of the collaborative efforts, challenges, and methodologies that drive effective outcomes in both realms. 

Key parallels between committee work in legislatures and standards bodies are as follows: 

The Policy/Standards Development Processes​

Legislatures and standards organizations both rely on committees to develop policies and standards. Committees in both domains play a crucial role in researching, drafting, and proposing new legislation or standards. While the specific processes may vary, both legislatures and standards organizations follow established procedures for committee work, including the introduction of proposals, committee hearings, markups, and the consideration of amendments. 

Reviewing And Revising Documents

Committees in both settings are responsible for reviewing and revising documents before they are presented to the broader legislative body or standards community for consideration.

Committee work is a fundamental aspect of both legislatures and standards bodies, serving as the backbone for decision-making and policy development in these institutions.

Sub-Committee Structure

Legislatures and standards bodies may both employ a subcommittee structure to address specific issues or areas of expertise within their respective domains. Sub-committees allow for focused examination and discussion of specialized topics. They often consist of members with specialized knowledge and expertise relevant to the subject matter under consideration. These members contribute their insights and perspectives to inform decision-making.

Cross-Functional Collaboration And Consensus Building​

Committees in both contexts often collaborate with other committees, legislative bodies, or standards organizations to address interdisciplinary issues or coordinate across different jurisdictions and industries. They must also navigate diverse viewpoints and interests to achieve consensus on proposed measures. This often involves extensive deliberation, negotiation, and compromise among committee members. In addition, legislatures and standards organizations both typically provide opportunities for public input and stakeholder engagement in committee proceedings. This ensures transparency, accountability, and the incorporation of different perspectives into the decision-making process.  


Committees in both legislatures and standards organizations maintain records of their proceedings, including meeting agendas, minutes, reports, and recommendations, to document their activities and decisions and maintain transparency throughout the proceedings. 

Seven Challenges Faced By Committees Within Standards Organizations

While committees play a crucial role in shaping decisions and policies within organizations, their work is often fraught with challenges. From coordination issues to managing diverse perspectives, these obstacles can hinder progress and efficiency. In this section, we will explore seven key challenges faced by committees. 

1. Coordinating The Committee

Coordinating schedules and aligning priorities among committee members, who may have diverse backgrounds and commitments, can be challenging. This is in addition to the need for committee members to possess specialized knowledge and expertise on often highly technical subject matter. This means requiring part-time and/or volunteer Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) to sit on the committee. 

2. Resource Constraints

The efficiency and effectiveness of committee work is affected by factors such as: 

  • SMEs who work part-time, are there on a voluntary basis, or who can only dedicate a limited amount of time 
  • Limited funding 
  • Limited time to complete the work 

3. Building Consensus And Conflict Resolution

It can be both time-consuming and complex to achieve consensus among committee members with differing perspectives, interests, and priorities. Resolving conflicts or disagreements that arise during committee discussions can also be challenging.  

4. Stakeholder Engagement

Not only must standards organizations build consensus within their committees, but they also need to involve relevant stakeholders. Engaging relevant stakeholders, including industry representatives, government agencies, and consumer advocates, in the standards development process can present challenges when it comes to communication and building consensus.  

Additionally, you may need to address the needs and perspectives of stakeholders from diverse geographical regions and cultural backgrounds. This can present challenges in achieving international consensus and coordinating standards across borders. 

5. Meeting Agendas, Minutes, And Audit Trails

Structure and transparency are key to successful committee work. However, obstacles may include: 

  • The previously discussed challenge of resource constraints. Having limited resources available to assist with the documentation and maintenance of meeting records, including staff and technology, as well as limited time, can introduce delays and complexities. 
  • Accurately capturing all relevant points and decisions in meeting minutes is demanding due to the dynamic nature of the discussions, often covering complex and nuanced topics and involving a large volume of information.  
  • Ensuring that all diverse perspectives/viewpoints are adequately represented and documented. 
  • Ensuring they meet compliance requirements, as well as the accuracy and accountability of the minutes, is essential as the meeting minutes may serve as a record of committee proceedings and decisions. 
  • Confidentiality concerns regarding certain topics and points discussed within the context of the meeting. 

6. Compliance

Ensuring compliance with regulatory requirements and addressing legal considerations, such as intellectual property rights, can add additional complexity to committee work. 

7. Technology

Leveraging appropriate technology and tools for collaboration, document management, and communication can pose challenges, particularly for standards organizations with limited technological infrastructure or expertise. This is made even more challenging by rapid technological advancements and emerging trends in relevant industries, requiring continuous education, training, and adaptation. 

The Future Of Committee Work

Committee work within standards organizations is integral to the development and maintenance of technical benchmarks that are so critical for industries and governments worldwide. Despite the complexity often involved, the challenges faced by these committees are not insurmountable. By leveraging modern, purpose-built technology, committees can overcome these obstacles and maximize efficiency. Notably, solutions must be tailored to the needs of standards organizations, providing centralized resource management, streamlined collaboration, and robust compliance measures. By ensuring that committee work is underpinned by the right tools, standards organizations can ensure that their efforts result in impactful and high-quality outcomes for all.