Steering committees and project boards – understand, shape and use – marc widmann (2023)

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Why does the topic of committees move us as project managers? We need clear decisions for our projects in cases where our empowerment is not sufficient. Why is it often difficult to obtain these necessary decisions promptly, clearly and precisely?

For this we have to understand that there are countless terms for one and the same … and many terms are used several times in practice.

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I will come to the typical problems with the committees that result from this later.

Where can we find a solution? PMI braces role descriptions and organizational structure. So we cannot be helped here. Prince2 defines the mentioned committees in detail and harmoniously with IPMA or GPM.

DIN 69901-5 defines the project board as a “superordinate body to which the project manager reports and which is available to him as a decision-making and escalation body”.
This does not really help much.

Then let’s see how the PM3 of the GPM supports us.

What are steering committees? They can align the ship’s rudder in all directions on all seas.

These steering committees are … internal and … cross-project. Patzak/Rattay defines steering committee, steering group and project advisory boards as synonyms. The task of this committee is to analyse, observe and control the selection of projects and the interrelationships between projects.

The project board is also very well defined in the Duden … in my opinion ….. Namely as the “Committee for Economic Steering”. In contrast to the steering committee, this is not about defining the general meaning of a project, but about economic observation and influence. The project board is therefore represented at the steering wheel in the car on specified roads and can decide which direction to take at which intersections.

This committee, the steering committee, can also include external partners such as important suppliers or the end customer.

The PM3 states that there are no uniform rules in the organizations how control boards should work. It therefore differs from company to company. However, a typical responsibility can be worked out. The steering committee

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  • appoints the Project Manager
  • selects projects
  • stops projects
  • initiates projects and shapes the
  • sets high level targets.

The PM3 also describes typical areas of responsibility for the project board. These are

  • project progress tracking
  • to clarify conflicts and powers between line and projects
  • accept milestones and project results
  • escalation in corporate management or portfolio management and
  • possibly, if there is no separate change board, the decision of amendments.

What do we as project and program managers have to do to be successfully supported by committees? Based on my experience I will explain the most important points.

  • we need to shape these bodies by
  • integrate necessary external partners
  • attract members to the committees who are highly placed in the hierarchy
  • demand that a spokesperson for the panel be appointed
  • escalation instances and solution durations at the respective escalation stages and also to
  • agree change management process.

What prerequisites and knowledge are required in the steering committees? According to Patzak / Rattay, they must have transparency and knowledge about the corporate strategy and knowledge about the project portfolio. Otherwise, the steering committee or portfolio board cannot act sensibly.

In order to be able to use the committees properly, we must observe a few basic rules.

Children and managers have at least one thing in common. They can only remember 3 things.

In your remarks as project manager in the project board, I therefore recommend that you address

  • the most important status information
  • a decision request and
  • a wish to cooperate

to the management.

Always pay attention to formulate these core messages concisely and precisely, because since the year 2000 until today, the attention span with us humans has fallen from 12 to 8 seconds. Thanks to the new technology and the new lifestyle.

Now I come to the typical problems that have already been announced. Experiences from my projects.

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Berlin. Public project. In public projects, it is often very difficult to separate the project client and the shareholders. Especially the governance organization becomes complex. Defining the requirements in such a construct is particularly difficult, as is managing changes. A “reinstatement” – this verb sounds already governmental or public – is preprogrammed here.

South Africa. A project at an energy company with several divisions, which is to standardize central processes and IT systems. Due to the sheer size of the project, several external parties are required. In large-scale projects, the project offices are often staffed by external consulting companies to underline the challenging and neutral character.

Even as the largest contractor, it can be difficult to formulate uniform committee definitions and appointments. Agreeing on maximum solution times for escalated problems at the respective escalation levels is often an impossibility, but critical to success.

Israel. Again an energy company with several subsidiaries to harmonize their procurement organizations and processes. A further problem with the committee use is the decision fixation and above all the enforcement of decisions. In the run-up to committee meetings, pre-socialised decision alternatives and decisions are often questioned or not enforced again after the meeting has taken place. Here the cultural influence is formative and steering out. Decision making can take many times longer.

Bonn. Escalation levels are not mirrored for the client and contractor, i.e. there is a different number of hierarchy levels. Problems are inevitable.
A further problem unfortunately arises from frequent statements and implementation of “an internal project must also function without LA”. How is that supposed to work?

I would like to conclude with the typical problems here.

What 3 core messages should you take with you today?

  1. We must understand the differences between the Project Board and the Steering Committee and always recognize the two types of bodies, and
  2. actively design.
  3. Feel free to contact me for active exchange.

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What is project steering committee or project board? ›

A steering committee is a governing body of key stakeholders tasked with overseeing and supporting a project to ensure the attainment of its goals. Project steering committees are commonly known as stakeholder boards, senior leadership teams, project working groups, or project oversight committees.

What is the structure of a steering committee? ›

Steering committees are comprised of various people, including board officers, senior stakeholders, experts, executives, department employees and client representatives. Members of steering committees meet and collaborate to define, prioritize and control projects.

How do you present a project to a steering committee? ›

How to WOW your Steering Committee
  1. Be prepared. Always prepare thoroughly for steering committee meetings and produce a flawless presentation. ...
  2. Understand the emotional journey. ...
  3. Communicate at the right level. ...
  4. Promote achievements and successes. ...
  5. Know your numbers. ...
  6. Be on top or risks and issues. ...
  7. Record actions and decisions.
Feb 9, 2013

What is the purpose of project steering board? ›

The Steering Committee's role is to provide advice, ensure delivery of the project outputs and the achievement of project outcomes.

What is an example of a steering committee? ›

Another example of a steering committee is a group of people who collaborate on projects. In this situation, steering committees ensure that projects align with business objectives. They identify and monitor risks, ensure the quality of the project, and monitor progress and timelines.

What makes a good steering committee? ›

– A successful steering committee should have clear expectations set for each of its members in order to ensure that the committee achieves its goals. These expectations should include a commitment to attending meetings, responding to emails in a timely manner, and actively participating in discussions.

What is the mission statement of a project steering committee? ›

Key #1 You must clearly define the steering committee mission. Of all the various types of project committees, the steering committee "mission" is almost a given: "to steer a single project (or group of projects) to successful conclusion through governance related deliberation and decision making".

What are the 4 components of RACI? ›

The acronym RACI stands for responsible, accountable, consulted, and informed.

What is the basic structure of a committee? ›

The basic structure of an effective committee comprises a chairperson and a secretary, and 8 to 20 other members who carry out tasks such as: attending meetings. giving feedback on assessments. supporting planning and coordination.

What is the agenda of the project steering group? ›

Agenda for a steering group

Project progress and current status including financials. Action updates. Key decisions required. Key risks and issues they need to be aware of or act on.

What is the project steering committee responsible for quizlet? ›

The steering committee provides direction and control over projects to ensure that the company is making appropriate investments. Without approval, the project may or may not be working toward the company's goals.

What is most important for the steering committee to have? ›

Arguably most important, there should be a chairperson. The chairperson should be elected by the rest of the committee and should not own the project the committee is steering. This allows for more impartial chairing. In addition, the steering committee should be made up of diverse members.

Who runs a steering committee meeting? ›

A steering committee is a form of corporate governance made up of high-level executives, authorities, or stakeholders who provide strategic oversight and guidance to one or more projects within an organisation. When these people meet, it's called a steering committee meeting.

What is the difference between a working group and a steering committee? ›

Interaction between Steering Committee and working groups

The Steering Committee represents the whole-of-government view of each jurisdiction participating in the Review process. Working groups are advisory bodies and do not endorse report content.

Who should be on a project steering committee? ›

Committee members are selected based on their stake in the project. In other words: A steering committee should represent the main stakeholders. The customer, the contractor and the departments most affected by your project. Those who sit in the committee are usually not working in the project.

What do you mean by steering committee? ›

A steering committee is a group of high-level advisors who have been asked to govern an organization or organizational segment and provide it with direction. In information technology (IT), the job of a steering committee is to make sure every IT project supports business goals and objectives.

What is another name for steering committee? ›

On this page you'll find 6 synonyms, antonyms, and words related to steering committee, such as: panel, council, executive committee, interlocking directorate, quango, and select committee.

What is the difference between advisory board and steering committee? ›

Steering groups will meet at regular intervals so members make a commitment to attend scheduled meetings whenever possible. Advisory Panels consist of senior staff and patient/public members and they work together to provide strategic advice.

What are the elements of the steering committee charter? ›

The steering committee charter typically includes key elements, such as the objectives of the committee, the members who will participate, the frequency of meetings, the scope of authority, accountability, communication channels, and the decision-making process.

What is the agenda for steering committee meeting? ›

The Agenda of any meeting, lists the items that have been selected for discussion or that need to be raised in order to draw attention to what is happening on the project. It usually includes: The steering committee name. The date of the meeting.

What are the golden rules of RACI? ›

RACI Guidelines

Avoid multiple levels of oversight – one level is enough. Encourage teamwork. Maintain chart fluidity – make changes as needed and let people know when things change. Assign only one Accountable per task.

What is the RACI model summary? ›

The RACI matrix is a responsiblity assignment chart that maps out every task, milestone or key decision involved in completing a project and assigns which roles are Responsible for each action item, which personnel are Accountable, and, where appropriate, who needs to be Consulted or Informed.

What is the difference between accountable and responsible in RACI? ›

RACI chart definition guide

Responsible: This team member does the work to complete the task. Every task needs at least one Responsible party, but it's okay to assign more. Accountable: This person delegates work and is the last one to review the task or deliverable before it's deemed complete.

Is a steering committee the same as a board? ›

Steering Committee vs Board of Directors

Steering committee members are usually individuals who are industry experts and leaders in their field who are appointed to assist and guide a project team. While the board of directors consists of people who actively participated in starting and creating the business.

What is the difference between a board and a steering committee? ›

The steering committee and its members are often intimately involved in the activities of creating the business. However, the role of the board focuses mainly on setting policy and the activities of the business are delegated to the manager or Chief Executive Officer (CEO).

Is a steering committee the same as an advisory board? ›

Evaluation management often involves a steering group, which makes the decisions about the evaluation. It is important to distinguish between a steering group (which makes decisions) and an advisory group (which provides advice).

What is the difference between board of directors and steering committee? ›

If an initiative falls within the purview of a board of directors, the steering committee is the expert group that guides the project from beginning to end. Generally, steering committees are an amalgamation of board officers, senior stakeholders, subject experts, executives, client reps, and department employees.

What is the governance structure of a project board? ›

Governance structure refers to the framework of project management, especially regarding rules, procedures, roles and the division of responsibilities within the whole decision-making process. It keeps the project in check, allowing it to run flawlessly and in accordance with the plan.

What is the difference between a steering group and a project group? ›

Managing seeks to get the job done, but steering determines what the job is. The SC members help guide the business. The project team and the Project Manager do not. They can direct, control and manage the required changes in the business, the team can only define, plan and support them.

What are the four most common board committees? ›

Traditional committee structure

According to Leading with Intent, the most common standing board committees are finance; executive; fundraising/development; and governance/nominating, nominating, or governance and nominating.


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