In order to do so, it is necessary to make a clear assessment of the work involved, and to break down the allocated time for different activities. While some activities can only be carried out sequentially, others can be done simultaneously.
The time of the committee members, it should be noted, is a scarce and valuable resource, and every effort should be made to get the best out of it.
1. Recognizing and Defining the Problem:
This is the first step to be taken by any committee. It concerns clarifying the problem or areas, which will receive the main attention of the committee. It relates to providing some kind of status report on the subject under study.
It relates to providing the backdrop against which the issue is being examined. It also involves defining the scope and objectives of the study. It clearly follows the terms of reference already stated. It involves putting the problem or issue on hand in its proper perspective.
It may involve scanning of available literature on the subject and deciding on areas that will have to be pursued further. These aspects set the direction for further deliberation and hence will have to be addressed in the initial meetings of the committee.
2. Selecting a Method of Solution:
Having identified and defined the problem, the next logical step would be to work towards finding a solution. It involves deliberating on the methodological issues. Taking into account the time frame and other relevant factors, the committee considers the availability of various methods or approaches and their relative merits and demerits.
If data collection is involved, what would be the sources—primary or secondary? If primary sources have to be tapped, it may be necessary to design samples and questionnaires and methods of interview. The following chart sums up the method of obtaining the data:
The methodology followed in finding a solution to the problem has a bearing on the reliability or depth of the study. If the methodology adopted is not the most appropriate one, or if there are deficiencies in sample design, the quality of information gathered, collation and tabulation of the data, the findings and recommendations which are based thereon would also be undermined.
3. Collecting and Organizing the Data:
When primary sources of data are involved, the first step would be to design the sample and draw up a questionnaire. Having done so, the next step would be to administer the questionnaire and collect the response.
Whether it will be mailed or administered in person is to be determined. Alternative sampling and statistical techniques will have to be evaluated. Similarly, wherever required, secondary data may also have to be collected with due concern for authenticity.
The time factor in data collection again needs careful attention and proper planning. The data so collected will have to be properly processed. The work would involve validation, tabulation, stratification and analysis so as to arrive at meaningful observations.
Sometimes it may become necessary to engage the services of external data collection and processing agencies. Such agencies will have to interact with the committee and the committee will have to give them proper briefings about the assignment.
4. Arrive at an Answer to the Problem:
This is obviously the final and the most important step in the work of the committee. Based on the research, findings and deliberations as outlined earlier, the committee will have to arrive at its conclusions.
In as much as the entire exercise has been a fact-finding mission or a problem-solving effort, the committee members should put their collective wisdom in throwing light on the facts and recommending further course of action.
Depending upon the nature of issue addressed by the committees, these recommendations are likely to be widely reported and considered at various levels. The report writer should make sure that the solutions or recommendations adequately cover the problems or issues listed under the terms of reference.
The committee should examine the pros and cons of alternative courses of action, if any, and make its recommendations.
5. Structuring the Report:
For any business communicator associated with report writing, structuring the report assumes great significance. It calls for superior skills in observing and absorbing the deliberations, making notes on an ongoing basis, getting doubts clarified and putting them all in an organized and light-bearing fashion while presenting the report.
Report writing is somewhat akin to writing a book. While in a book the author puts forth his own thoughts, in a committee report the author will have to remain objective and present the consensus of the deliberations.
All the same, the need for a thorough understanding of the subject, command over language, organization of chapters and elucidation of ideas are all equally relevant. In structuring the report, the following aspects need particular attention:
1. Outlining and report organization
2. Length of the report
3. Formal report
4. Sequence of presentations
6. Sub-committee report
7. Dissenting notes, if any
It is possible that the committee, in the course of its deliberations, may go beyond the terms of reference into unrelated areas. The report writer, while structuring the report, should clearly outline what the committee work consists of, and rule out any temptation to go beyond
What is necessary, useful and relevant?
The chapter designing of the report would vary from committee to committee. However, if one were to suggest a standard format, the following chapters/coverage would be appropriate:
1. Table of contents
2. Executive summaries
3. Background of the study
4. Scope and objectives of the study
5. Study methodology
6. Findings and observations
The report writer should be familiar with the essentials of report writing and make it a point to refer, wherever need be, to some well recommended reports on the subject. Apart from the broad approach indicated above, there are certain other aspects to be covered, such as:
2. Summary of recommendations
3. Composition of the committee
4. Meetings and visits
5. Covering letter for report submission
Report writing not only puts to test the skill of the report writer, but also provides an opportunity to an accomplished writer to bring out a document of real merit by adding value.
6. Note-taking and Summarizing Skills:
As we have noted earlier, that report writing is the last step in the committee’s work. A report is the end product of a committee. The report should contain the essence of all the deliberations, viewpoints, surveys and observations made by the experts who make presentations.
All this implies that the report writer must be associated with the committee meetings and take keen note of all the deliberations. All the important points which emerge during the course of deliberations should be meticulously noted down.
The points may or may not emerge in a readymade fashion. Not all members and participants would be articulate and cogent in expressing their viewpoints.
The member-secretary, the convenor or the person who will be writing the report will have to be attentive throughout, and develop the skill of identifying the points which may or may not be clearly spelt out, but yet they are made during the deliberations and give a meaningful shape to them.
While members may have their own areas of expertise, any committee would look to the report writer for drafting skills. At the end of every meeting, the report writer, in consultation with the chairman, should summarize and read out the main points which come out of the deliberations.
Summarizing skills thus assume significance. Such points would also help in avoiding repetition in the subsequent meetings and would ensure that the deliberations are carried forward in a progressive manner.
Another important point to be noted by the report writer is that findings and recommendations of the committee do not always arise in a sequential order. Deliberations at the committee meetings often tend to go back and forth.
It is incumbent on the report writer, therefore, to present the findings and conclusions in an appropriate sequence. The report writer should also develop good reference skills.
Quite often, the members of the committee would expect the report writer to scan and collect relevant material from other sources, and place it before the committee to enable them to view the subject in perspective.
A skilled report writer can add value to the committee’s work and the reporting function in many ways. The report writer should develop not only written communication skills of a high order, but should also be good at listening, comprehending, noting down, summarizing, structuring and making the end product a valuable effort.
7. The Writing Style:
Committee reports are written in a certain style to make them authoritative and appealing. In writing the committee report, the report writer should give particular attention to the following:
1. Impersonal style
2. Active sentences
3. Appropriate headings
4. Proper tense
5. Accurate nouns and pronouns
6. Definition of concepts
7. Tabulation of data
Similarly, the list of items to be avoided would include the following:
1. Excessive jargon
2 Verbosity and involved writing
3. Personal bias
4. Factual inaccuracies
5. Grammatical blunders
6. Pedestrian approach
7. Absence of reasoning
8. Absence of sequencing and references
In order to ensure all the above, the draft report may have to undergo several modifications and will have to be carefully vetted by the chairman and other members.