22.6.12

Set expectations from the Steering Committee

Handling Steering Committees requires managing up, which is why it is very important to communicate your expectations and obtain commitment from the senior executives that they would act as such. In order to make the Steering Committee an escalation mechanism that works, present these simple rules and obtain agreement on them:

1. Issues that are escalated to the Steering Committee are:
  • Discussed with the Project Management Team and a solution has been attempted;
  • Not within the Project Management Team power;
  • Resulted from private agreements and discussions that the Project Management Team has not attended; 
  • Important effort/time can be saved if escalated early.
2. What each member of the Steering Committee should do with regards to problems:
  • Brainstorm for solutions, contacts or resources;
  • Make decisions or take actions to solve problems ("make that phone call");
  • Assume responsibility and get involved.
3. What the SC is not:
  • a wall that bounce back problems to the project team: issues should result in a resolution;
  • a place to "shoot the messenger";
  • a place to make the Project Manager an "escape goat".
Since Steering Committees are about managing up, and practically all initiatives in corporations are projects, these rules can be used also to govern any escalation mechanism, board or committee. Find here the slides for such a presentation; you can use them for the kick-off meeting for instance.

A word on Steering Committees for project in crisis: If your project is in crisis (or you have assigned a red flag to it due to its many risks), proper and often function of the Steering Committee is vital. Make sure to establish the Governance Mechanism using this post I've wrote, but make the frequency to be at once a week (that's right, 1 time per week), and note that for project in crisis, it's critical to escalate issues early. So paragraph number 1 becomes:

1. Issues that are escalated to the Steering Committee are:
  • Important effort/time can be saved if escalated early. (nothing else matters)
It is also critical that a senior manager gets involved on a daily basis, and so paragraph number 2 becomes:

2. What each member of the Steering Committee should do with regards to problems:
  • Get involved, assign at least 1 senior member to get involve daily.