Steering Committees: How They Can Improve Project Management
Blog: Monday Project Management Blog
When you hear the term “steering committee,” you might think of men on horseback guiding cattle through the prairie. Or perhaps your vision is of a sports car, navigating the twists and turns of the road at high speeds. Either way, you’re not far off. A steering committee can help keep your project on track and traveling it the right direction.
Keep reading to learn what a steering committee is, what it does, and how it can help your team stay organized and on-task.
What is a steering committee?
Simply stated, a steering committee is an advisory group of high-level members who have a stake in the company. Most often in business, you’ll find project steering committees that oversee and provide guidance for a certain project. These groups typically include C-level executives and managers of departments involved in the project.
How steering committees help managers direct projects
Project managers oversee the daily operations and goals of a given project. They’re in charge of what happens and who gets it done. However, sometimes things hit the fan and project managers need some support of their own. That’s where a project steering committee comes in. Members of this committee are available to support the project manager with anything they need, resolving issues that can’t be easily handled within the working group. They can make higher-level decisions that may have impact beyond just the current project. In addition to this assistance, the committee has several other goals.
The goal of steering committees in project management
If there were a single goal of the steering committee, it would be for the project to succeed. However, the purposes of a steering committee are much more varied. Some of the most common goals include:
- Providing Support: The project manager is in charge of the various project teams. When additional guidance or support is needed, the committee is there to turn to. It helps ensure that projects align to the overall brand and company policies.
- Maintaining the Timeline: Each project has a timeline to follow. The committee helps the teams stay on schedule and avoid or handle obstacles that could delay things.
- Approve Budgets: A budget is set at the beginning of every project. When the spending needs for the project increase, the steering committee has the authority to approve budget changes in a timely fashion.
- Making Connections: Various project teams, executives, customers, end users, and others may have a stake in the project. The project steering committee acts a liaison between them all, ensuring everyone knows their part in making the project successful. It also communicates to all parties any progress, delays, changes, and anything else it deems relevant.
Committees in different industries, or even in different companies, may have differing responsibilities and goals. Above all, though, they do what they must to ensure project success.
When you should use a steering committee in project management
Opinions on the usefulness of steering committees varies widely. In some industries, such as IT, a project steering committee is part of almost every project to ensure everyone is on the same page. Some industries use a project steering committee only on the most vital or expensive of their projects. In fact, case studies have shown that steering committees have a direct impact on the success of supported projects and that they are vital to attaining value from investments in project management systems.
Examples of steering committees and what they mean for your team
Steering committees come in many versions and have multiple purposes throughout the business world. Here we have focused on project steering committees that oversee projects in a company and support project managers straight through to completion. Other types of steering committees perform vital functions within specific industries.
IT steering committees
These committees, often comprised of high-level executives and department heads in the company, are in constant use. They make informed decisions regarding which proposed projects should be given the green light and which ones take priority. They also facilitate communication and company policy across the board. In fact, a 2012 study showed that the use of steering committees in the IT sector was the number-one best management practice.
Portfolio steering committee
This permanent committee oversees several projects. Its focus is not on each single project so much as it is the entire portfolio of projects. This committee has the authority to approve new projects and set the priority for each. It often delegates tasks down to a project steering committee, which oversees individual projects. There should be some member overlap on these committees to ensure effective communication between the groups.
Steering committees and monday.com
If you want to use steering committees within your own business, monday.com has tools that can help. The monday.com Work OS platform places all the information the steering committee needs in one place. And monday Projects offers help with project management.
This management software gives steering committees access to real-time data for simpler decision-making, while automation settings help streamline repetitive elements of the workflow, allowing project teams to save time and stay on task. Additionally, several Project Management Templates exist to make the job of the steering committee even easier.
The monday.com Work OS platform places all the information the steering committee needs in one place.
Frequently asked questions
How to set up a steering committee
Setting up a steering committee can be very basic or incredibly involved, depending on its specific purpose and the size of the company. Follow the steps below to create a project steering committee that can manage a single project or a whole portfolio.
- Choose committee members: Choosing the right people allows your committee to run smoothly. A representative for each relevant department should on the committee, but keep the number of members as few as possible so the group remains efficient. Also consider the personalities of the members you choose to be on the steering committee and determine whether they will be able to work successfully as a team.
- Establish a Charter: The members of the steering committee should have a clear picture of what their responsibilities are. A mission for the group includes the scope of its authority, what results you expect it to provide, and how it will handle conflict. The more specifically you can lay out procedures, organization, and expectations in the beginning, the more effective the group will be in the long run.
- Organize the Committee: A strong project steering committee requires a strong leader, dedicated to the group charter. Each person in the group will have their own specialties and responsibilities. Again, the more precise you are in organizing your committee right out of the gate, the more smoothly things will run.
- Meet: An initial meeting should provide the answers to as many questions as possible. Will the committee approve additional funds as needed? What is each absolute deadline, and is it flexible? Will the committee consider fundamental changes in the scope of the project? Knowing the project plans and the limits of acceptable change in advance makes later decision-making simpler.
What do steering committees do?
The primary purpose of a steering committee is to keep projects on track and successful. Many types of steering committees exist throughout different industries. Those with a stake in the project, including end users, C-level executives, and the project manager, have a place on the committee. The use of project management software, like monday.com’s Work OS, provides data and real-time information to make the committee’s decision-making process easier.
Steering committees are valuable assets in project management
If your business handles projects and deliverables, a steering committee can significantly increase the success of your projects. Project managers love having the support of a dedicated committee to aid in enterprise-level decision-making. monday Projects and our Work OS provide the information all stakeholders need to keep up, and they make communication and management a breeze. If you’ve never leveraged a steering committee to enhance your projects, check out the many advantages they offer.
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