20 October 2009

Managing your Steering Committee

Tim van Gelder writes a post on how boards use information and make decisions.

Two key pieces of information that I took away from the post are that Boards will share better if they think they are solving some kind of factual issue as opposed to making a judgement requiring consensus.

Boards share information better if they use a structured discussion process, rather than just indulging in the usual kind of spontaneous conversation.

The idea here is that Boards need to be actively engaged in managing things. For me and you it is our project steering committees and governance groups. How do we get them more involved in the project?

By making board members participate in certain decisions they 'own' the solution more than if they just front up and rubber stamp a progress report.

Every report on project success or failure includes mention of close customer engagement as a key success factor. Frontline managers are not the customer. The sponsor and steering committees are much better embodiments of the customer, as they are the ones paying for the product your project is delivering. Getting your board members involved is a step in the right direction.

In order to help boards collaborate more, Tim endorses a McKinsey recommendation to augment proposals and recommendations with a 'red report' or the counter argument to the actual recommendation.

This is a common approach used in project management: the infamous 'three options' including or augmented with the "do nothing" option. Depending on the time and relationship you have with your board/sponsor, and the importance of your project what can you do to get them more involved in your next board (or steering committee) meeting?

Picture by mugley CC@ Flickr


  1. Hello there,

    I am Yousuf Siddiqui and I provide coaching to leaders and organizations.
    I refer to my work as Business Performance Coaching. I increase my clients' effectiveness by thinking through their most burning issues with them and creating plans to get tangible, measurable and specific results.

    I want to connect with you and follow you on your blog. I hope to learn from you and exchange thoughts with you.

    Yousuf Siddiqui,

  2. Hi Yousuf and thanks for dropping by.

    I took a look at your blog. Great stuff. I am really interested in some comments you have made about explaining projects to managers.

    There's a cliche in the project management industry that PMs and BAs 'bridge the gap' between IT and business.

    I don't quite subscribe to that philospoby, but I do think something needs to be done to help operatons managers work with professional project teams.

    It's not as easy as just turning up, and I am interested in learning more about the challenges they face when working with us project types.