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How to Handle Your Project Steering Group | Video

How to Handle Your Project Steering Group | Video

Steering Groups have multiple functions. So, what do they need to do? And how can you, as a Project manager, get the best from them?

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Steering Groups and Governance

First, recognize that Steering Groups are creatures of governance. That is, their first responsibility is to the sponsoring organization. And it is to ensure the proper running of the project or program.

That said, of course, there are multiple ways that may express itself, in terms both of:

  • The precise responsibilities each steering group may have, and
  • The name it adopts. Other names include:
    • Steering Committee (or SteerCo)
    • Project (or Program) Board
    • Executive Board

The Role of a Project Steering Group

At One Extreme…

At one extreme, your Steering group may do exactly what its name suggests. It provides direction and guidance to the project, and makes some of the key decisions on – usually – technical matters. In this instance, it is not primarily responsible for the project as a whole. So…

At the Other Extreme…

Your steering group could also represent the oversight and accountability for the project. This may be more likely to be called a Project Board, and take the biggest strategic decisions. It may have a subsidiary, technically oriented, Steering committee beneath it.

This binary division allows a much wider representation of expertise, without over-burdening the primary governance body with too many members.

Getting the Best from Your Project Steering Group

With their Duties out of the way, how can you handle this group to get the best from them?

Setting Up a Steering Group

  • Roles first 
  • Faces second
  • Terms of Reference (ToR) or Charter – may include:
  • Purpose
  • Competences – what it can and cannot look at
  • Authority – what it can and cannot commit
  • Procedures and rules
  • Officers (named roles)
  • Meeting frequency
  • Conflicts of interest
  • Training – or at least an orientation

Ongoing Management of a Project Steering Group

  • Work with the chair
  • Prepare well
  • No surprises – Reporting
  • Unless you really need the impact – and be prepared to pay
  • Use them to get:
    • Advice
    • Access to resources
    • Decisions
    • Sign-off
  • Get decisions documented
  • Transparency is the route to confidence
  • Humility is the route to help
  • Introduce an alternate – they need to be comfortable with your deputy, because you may not always be able to be there

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About the Author Mike Clayton

Dr Mike Clayton is one of the most successful and in-demand project management trainers in the UK. He is author of 14 best-selling books, including four about project management. He is also a prolific blogger and contributor to and Project, the journal of the Association for Project Management. Between 1990 and 2002, Mike was a successful project manager, leading large project teams and delivering complex projects. In 2016, Mike launched OnlinePMCourses.

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