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Making Committees Work

How to get things done--and enhance your career

5 min read

The committee meeting was supposed to start at 6 p.m. and last 2 hours. But the meeting didn't start until 6:15, and it reached the third hour before we'd gotten past the second item on the agenda. The conversation kept wandering off track, and side conversations broke out. As one colleague said to me after a similarly frustrating marathon meeting: "Well, that's three hours of my life that I won't have anymore."

Sound familiar? Clearly, this is not the way to run a committee, whether at work or when volunteering for activities in school, professional societies such as the IEEE, or the community. There must be a better way--and there is. Early in my career I was fortunate to read an article entitled "How to Run a Voluntary Committee Without Being Lynched," written by a traffic engineer named Paul Box, and since then it has framed the way I participate in and chair committees--to which I've added a few things I learned on my own. In properly run committees, you have the opportunity to learn management skills and make contacts that can boost your career, and get something done as well. Here are some ways of improving the effectiveness and satisfaction of working on a committee.

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Asad Madni and the Life-Saving Sensor

His pivot from defense helped a tiny tuning-fork prevent SUV rollovers and plane crashes

11 min read
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Asad Madni and the Life-Saving Sensor

In 1992, Asad M. Madni sat at the helm of BEI Sensors and Controls, overseeing a product line that included a variety of sensor and inertial-navigation devices, but its customers were less varied—mainly, the aerospace and defense electronics industries.

And he had a problem.

The Cold War had ended, crashing the U.S. defense industry. And business wasn’t going to come back anytime soon. BEI needed to identify and capture new customers—and quickly.

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