Behind every successful project is a smart steering committee

Sep 9, 2022

The steering committee is integral to a project’s success. In too many cases the steering committee’s role is often misunderstood to be all about control. Sure, control plays a small part, but it is a minor one. The key role of the steering committee’s (SC) is seen to steer a project team through deliberation, decision making and then supporting the team to a successful conclusion.

The SC is there to empower key project stakeholders and it is a great resource in guiding and steering the ship through the murky waters of the project’s quest. Think of the SC as a navigator suggesting the ship go east to find the treasure. However, it is up to the project delivery team to find a way to turn the ship east and maintain that course.

Having the right people on the SC is essential. So, who should you choose to be on your SC? 

First off, look for members with high emotional intelligence – they will understand how behaviours and interactions can affect the productivity of the project and work better in a team dynamic. 

A good mix of experienced leaders and subject matter experts is a must, but sometimes still not good enough. Be careful about loading your committee with homogenous stakeholders. You need a balanced and representative team as opposed to a team that is focused on their own agenda and not the benefit of the wider business. 

The SC must be clear on their purpose. The best way to ensure this is to articulate the roles, responsibilities and formal governance criteria and protocols of the SC at the very start of the project.  Having the SC sign-up to a ‘North Star’ for the project is vital. This includes the sponsor’s articulation of the problem that needs to be solved, the impact of that problem on the business and their vision of what constitutes success.  

After all, it’s the sponsor’s signature on the business case and ultimately they’re accountable for the success (or failure) of the project.  And because of this, it’s in their best interests to be judicious in nominating and appointing the steering committee.