As the name suggests, a steering or coordination committee helps guide and coordinate a project from beginning to end.
Sometimes, the committee is formed entirely by the team that is directly involved in developing and implementing the project.
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More often, however, the steering or coordination committee is composed of representatives of key organizations who are partners in the project and / or who have particular experience in the project sector or whose clients are the final users of the project output.
In general, it is very important and useful to include at least one client or potential user of the output of the project. Their feedback, in fact, can be useful for the success of the project.
What is the role of a steering committee?
The role of the steering committee is to provide advice and ensure the achievement and delivery of project results.
This can include activities such as:
- Provide input to the development of the project, including the evaluation strategy;
- Provide advice on the project budget;
- Define and help achieve project results;
- Identify the priorities in the project, ie the activities where most of the energy must be directed;
- Identify and monitor the potential risks of the project;
- Monitor the quality of the project as it progresses;
- Give advice, and if necessary make decisions, on project changes
In short, the steering committee provides support, guidance and supervision of progress.
As a rule, the project manager will attend the meetings of the steering committee in order to report and inform on the development of the project and to answer any questions raised by the committee members.
What role do individual members of the steering committee play?
The members of the Steering Committee are not directly responsible for project management and activities, but provide support and guidance for those who directly work on the project, ie the project team.
Committee members should:
- Understand the goal, strategy, and expected results of the project;
- Appreciate the importance of the project for the organization and its customers;
- Be sincerely interested in the project and the desired results;
- Be a supporter of the project by doing everything possible to promote the results;
- Have a broad understanding of project management problems.
In practice, it means that the members of the steering committee should:
- Ensure that the planned strategy matches the purpose of the project;
- Review the progress of the project with respect to milestones;
- Consider ideas and problems;
- Provide guidance to the project team;
- Help balancing priorities and conflicting resources;
- Promote positive communication outside the committee;
- Actively promote project outputs;
- Contribute to project evaluation.
Often, a President of the Steering Committee is also elected. It will be a member of the committee that will moderate and ensure that the meetings run smoothly.
It should therefore be emphasized that the first responsibility of the members is to achieve the success of the project and only in the second place, there is the interests of the organization as a whole.
For this reason, members who have experience in a particular area should avoid focusing only on that part. They have to remember that they work on the general project support.
Sometimes, it is useful for the project manager to prepare a simple description of the roles of the members of the steering committee, in which the expectations and the commitment required are defined.
How often should a steering committee meet?
The frequency of the Committee’s meetings is determined by the size and scale of the project.
Usually, for smaller projects it is sufficient to schedule a meeting during the planning phase, another around half of the project in order to monitor progress and a final meeting to evaluate the project results and contribute to its evaluation.
For larger projects, the committee should instead plan meetings that coincide with the milestones of the project.
Steering Committee: meetings
At least one week before the meeting, the Project Manager should distribute the necessary documents for the meeting to all the members of the committee.
These should include:
- An agenda, including the time scheduled for the meeting, so that members can organize their times accordingly.
- A report from the last meeting, including an updated action list.
- A report on the status of the project.
- Any other documents to be considered in the meeting
The chairman of the committee will conduct the meeting according to the agenda, making sure that all members are encouraged to provide input during the meeting.
It is important to check the list of the actions agreed in the previous meeting (if any), confirm the actions taken and the problems solved and find an agreement on how to proceed with actions that have not yet been completed.
As soon as possible, after the meeting, and no later than one week, a report of the meeting should be sent to the members.
This is important to ensure that members move in the same direction and follow the procedures.
The report should, in fact, include the list of actions agreed during the meeting, marked with the name of the „owner“ and the expected timing for its implementation.
Copies of any additional documentation discussed or produced during the meeting should also be included.
Moreover, the details of the next meeting should also be indicated.
In conclusion, a consideration is here quite clear.
A steering committee is not in charge of running the project in place of the project manager; if, however, the members of the committee have been selected and adequately informed, their involvement and their experience will have a very positive impact on the achievement of the project goal. If we have this in mind, we can understand how this organ can become fundamental in the economy of the project.