What is Steering Committee for?

Sunday, 27 August 2017

What is the Project Steering Committee and what does it do? Project Steering Committee (Steering Committee) is the main collective body of decision-making on the project (not to be confused with the Project Committee, which decides on the entire portfolio of projects, rather than one at a time). Sometimes it is called the Governing Council or the Operational Board. This is the body that authorizes the start of the project, confirms the transition to the next stage based on information provided by the project manager. Also, the Steering Committee shall decide on the termination or closing of the project, and, importantly, helps to overcome the problems of the project, the solution of which is beyond the project manager's authority. The project manager manages the project, solving problems and making decisions at a level that does not radically affect the planned outcome of the project. It does not make sense to involve the Steering Committee, if the project goes according to plan, ie: deviations in timing, cost and content are within acceptable limits. But there are many situations in which competences or project manager authority is not enough to make a decision. In such cases, the project manager escalates this decision to a higher level - the Steering Committee. For example, imagine a situation in which the project will be completed with a serious delay or with overruns or trimmed content. In this case, the manager can analyze all the options and give his vision of the situation, but the final decision will be for the Steering Committee.

Who are the Project Steering Committee? The Steering Committee of the project is a body making key project decisions. Therefore, it consists of people who have the most extensive powers. Often there is a desire to attract too many people to the work of the committee. There are two reasons for this. The first is then it is not necessary to inform the leaders of the committee. Second is to include someone in the Committee easier than to justify the reason for not including. However, the involvement of too many people slow down decision-making and the whole project. Included should be the only people who have the relevant authority in their departments or directions. The recommended number of members - five, but everything depends on the size of the project and the company. Chairman of the Committee is the customer of the project. Usually, it was he who chooses the members of the Steering Committee, in consultation with the project manager. In other words, the task of the members of the Steering Committee is Customer support and help him making correct decisions. The project can be a lot of stakeholders, whose members will not be included in the Steering Committee. And that's fine. They should be promptly informed of the progress of the project and the decisions taken.

What is the role of the project manager? The project manager is not a member of the Project Steering Committee. However, he is present at the meetings. His task - to prepare the information and be ready to provide it to the Committee. Also a part of the Steering Committee tasks are often transferred to the project manager. For example: to make the agenda of the meeting, ensure that the meetings were held on a regular basis, conduct a meeting, or to draw up reports. But even if all these responsibilities transferred to the project manager, he still approves the content of the agenda and presentations of the project with the Customer before the meeting. If none of the above is the responsibility of the project manager, to provide full and objective information on the project status remains of his main objective.

How to prepare for the meeting of the Steering Committee of the project? Speech at the meeting of the Steering Committee is one of the possibilities for project managers to influence his fate after the escalation of the problem. Properly constructed with performance based recommendations can completely change the look of the Steering Committee members of the project, and therefore the presentation should be simple, clear, and preferably bright. Before the project manager creates a presentation he must understand what he wants to get from Steering Committee. Does he want to convince the members of the committee that all is well, or on the contrary, they create the impression that without the adoption of the proposed project will fail decisions? This is a very important point, because committee members have serious powers, up to the project manager change or close the project. The second important point in the preparation for the meeting is that committee consists of the heads of a very high level, who have power and authority, and such people are usually have very limited time resources. That is why you must make sure that the presentation of the required information is presented only that it is transmitted clearly and without distortion. It is also important that there is enough information to create the most objective understanding of the status of the project. Committee members rely on the information from the project manager and his own experience and knowledge. They might have not got enough time for a deep and detailed independent study of the situation. It is not necessarily to put all the information on the slides. Members of the committee want to know the cause if there is a problem. They want to know what has been done to solve it, what are the options for further action and what the consequences of each, including inactivity. It is enough to give the required minimum on slides, and other information to provide on demand.

What should be in a presentation to the Steering Committee? Talking about the minimum information that must be made during the presentation of the project manager to the Steering Committee, it is worth to mention:

  • Minutes of the previous meeting and the actions taken after it
  • The results and the progress made with the previous meeting (should promote the team at every opportunity)
  • Project Metrics (effort, cost, schedule)
  • Financial project state (real costs to the date of the meeting and the forecast future costs in comparison with the budget)
  • The most important risks and challenges of the project
  • Changes in the content of the project, with an emphasis on the impact of each change on it
  • The road map of the project
  • Actions and decisions to be taken by Committee
  • Other issues requiring attention Committee

It is important to speak directly and clearly about the real problems of the project. Otherwise, you may lose the trust of the members of the committee, which greatly complicate the course of the project and will lead to failure with high probability. It is important to remember that the Management Committee can work effectively only when presented with relevant and reliable information about the status of the project.

Not later than 24 hours after the meeting of the Committee members shall be sent minutes of the meeting with the main decisions and actions.

Basic mistakes in dealing with the Steering Committee

There are many serious mistakes that can be made on the way to the effective work of the Steering Committee. Below we will describe some of them:

  • The absence of the Steering Committee. Some projects do not have a dedicated Steering Committee. Of course, they have a high-level decision-makers about the fate of the project (at least the Customer). The problem is that without a clear and formalized process of escalation and escalation of the decision will be inefficient and impede the work of the project
  • The lack of distribution of roles between the members of the Steering Committee. Without a clear understanding of who played what role in the work of the Committee, the decision-making process will be ineffective. Interests of each committee member and each stakeholder must be defined, and each member of the Committee needs to know what to expect from him the rest of the process
  • Too many members of the committee. The committee should include only people who can directly influence the fate of the project, and they should not be too many. Otherwise the decision-making process will be delayed
  • Irregularity Committee meetings. The Committee shall meet regularly, such as once a month. Even if the project still well short of the meeting need to keep the members of the Steering Committee in the know
  • Frequent cancellations or adjournments. Sometimes, the meeting has to be delayed or canceled if any of the members can not come to the meeting. However, frequent cancellation leads to the loss of working rhythm. Best of all, to the meetings were held on a regular basis and at one and the same time
  • Providing false information about the status of the project. The project manager should be sure that the information that is provided to members of the Steering Committee, corresponds to reality. In other case, members of the committee will not be able to help in project management because decisions will be wrong. It is important to provide information in sufficient volume, including the risks of the project changes and problems
  • Preparing too detailed presentation. Many leaders believe that they must put all the information on the slides, but in fact it is not. The leader must be ready to respond to questions from the Committee, if he had there, but too much data takes away attention from the most important information and is spending valuable time meeting participants

Conclusion Steering Committee - an important component of well-functioning project. It is designed to help the Customer in the direction of the project in the right way. It is also the escalation point for the project manager. Just make sure that every participant knows his role, the meetings are held regularly, and the project manager clearly conveys information on the status of the project and the decisions to be taken for the successful progress of the project.


Thursday, 25 August 2016
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