Organizing for Steering Committee Success
Updated: October 25, 2013
What is a project Steering Committee?
The project steering committee is an organizational entity formed to provide executive oversight, advocacy, support and decision making for one or more designated projects.
As the name indicates, steering committees are formed to “steer”, not to “manage”. This is not a distinction without a difference, and when that distinction is lost, you are inviting trouble. Poorly organized steering committees tend to micro-manage, placing more emphasis on internal politics than project needs. These are the dangers, with potentially serious consequences.
Can these problems be avoided? Yes they can. And it all takes is an understanding and appreciation of the committee's mission and how it can be best achieved.
WHAT'S THE BEST WAY TO ACHIEVE THE BENEFITS & AVOID THE MISHAPS?
The quickest path to steering committee success is with an approved "charter" setting boundaries, and documenting committee purpose, scope, authority, organizational structure and operational guidelines. Charters should provide a member roster, listing the committee members by name and assigned roles, as well as expected committee deliverables and actionable procedures such as meeting scheduling, rules of conduct, voting requirements and related matters. But, the most important element of the committee is the "mission statement", which guides everything else.
[You can quickly prepare mission statement deliverables with our free "Mission Statement Template"].
A defined mission provides the boundaries, direction and guidelines under which the steering committee will operate and make decisions. To avoid the common pitfalls, this mission must be clearly stated, relevant to the project and approved by the key stakeholders (as per the define/align/approve standard.) The following statements provide examples for crafting actionable mission statements in a simple, straightforward fashion.
|"The primary objective for the [Steering Committee Name] is to provide consistent, timely and meaningful oversight for the [subject project(s)]."|
|"The [Steering Committee Name] will be responsible to maintain project focus and direction, ensuring that the project stays on track, according to defined goals, requirements and deliverables."|
|"The [Steering Committee Name] will strive to resolve conflicts and make informed decisions regarding changes to project scope and deliverables."|
|"The [Steering Committee Name] will provide management support, direction and advice to the project manager and the project team."|
|"The [Steering Committee Name] will monitor project progress and respond to problems as needed."|
|"The [Steering Committee Name] will take all authorized actions to ensure that each project remains aligned with changing business circumstances and objectives."|
Steering committee success is a two way street. The project manager, team and customers must recognize that steering committees have to "steer", and that obligation must be respected and accepted. The project manager and the team must keep the committee fully informed and engaged, and seek guidance whenever warranted and appropriate. The key to steering committee success is cooperation and collaboration, beginning with a fully defined mission, embraced by all.
For tangible success, project teams must be organized according to project needs and capabilities. Team structure can either impede or promote progress, and you want to ensure the latter.
In Need of a Project
Management support is the cornerstone of project success, providing authority, acceptance and direction. Sponsorship must be there from the start, to ensure proper support for every step.
Motivating the Team
It takes the right combination of strategies and tactics to motivate project teams and overcome the most common obstacles to collaboration and cooperation. Learn how its done.
Making Committees Work
What are the most important characteristics of committee success? Size? Composition? Organization? Communication? A documented charter? Learn all about the "top 5" ways to deliver committee success in this quick reference IT-Manage infographic.
Strike a Balance
Project fast tracking is the way to go when project demands and capabilities are out of balance. Fast tracking is a standardized approach to priority-based project management. Learn how it works with our "Fast Tracking Defined" IT-Manage infographic.
Steering committees spend a lot of time in meetings. That's how the work gets done and decisions get made. Make the most of every meeting, from planning to follow-up with all the easy to use forms found in the Meeting Agenda Toolkit.