Who’s steering your project?

SwervingIs your steering committee or project board providing active guidance to your project? It should be an effective team providing guidance and help for you deliver to great business solutions, but many steering committees or project boards operate at the wrong level with the wrong attendees.


The problems with steering committees or project boards usually stem from three areas:

1stPoor terms of reference

You need to clearly articulate what is expected of the committee/Board. The terms of reference must clearly state:


  • the role of the committee/board
  • its decision making powers – what is in its scope and what is outside
  • who the key members are – these should form part of the quorum
  • where it fits in the governance hierarchy for the project

2ndThe wrong attendees

Do the attendees have the skills, knowledge, experience and authority to fulfil the role described in the terms of reference? Often, the right people are invited but then attendance gets delegated to people without these capabilities. Debates and discussions then ensue to fill in the knowledge gaps and decisions get referred because the attendee doesn’t have the authority.

3rdThe wrong materials

If you present the wrong material to a steering committee or project board you won’t get the result you want. It’s there to steer or guide and make decisions. Steering committees or project boards should never delve into the knitty-gritty of a project problem unless there are problems or alternative solutions that only they can decide upon. Present detail and you’ll get in to that detail. Ask for decisions and you’ll get them (after suitable challenge).


An effective steering committee/project board is key to the success of the project. This is where the direction of the project is managed. It is responsible for:

  • Stage approvals
  • Approval of exceptions
  • Issue resolution
  • Risk review and acceptance
  • Monitoring the alignment of the project to business strategy
  • Commissioning external reviews

A good Project Steering Committee/Board

  • Protects the project from organisational politics
  • Understands the project’s priorities
  • Ensures the right resources are allocated to the project
  • Communicates regularly with the project team and ensures commitment is maintained
  • Promotes and champions the project to the wider business

Does your project steering committee/board understand their role? Would they benefit from our handy pocket sized ‘Reference guide for Project Boards’? Get in touch for sample copy.

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2 comments on “Who’s steering your project?
  1. Kathryn Bickle says:

    This is exactly what I needed to read today… Thank you for your brief, but informative article. It seems that documenting and USING a solid project charter is the right foundation for communicating the expectations of each role within the project. By clearly communicating, from project inception, the project roles, responsibilities, authorities, and expectations, we should have a universal understanding of the steering committee’s functionality. It is then our job as project managers to maintain and utilize that charter as a tool to ensure we’re not taking the steering committee astray, or vice versa.Thoughts?

  2. peter thumbi says:

    very informative. However, some unforseen circumstance at time arise which steers the project off the track. That is, a key project manager who is conversant with all related task resigns or move to a new organization and disregard the contract you have entered together. How do you Cushion the project from such a shock and ultimately heading to a wrong direction.

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