Project Steering Committee
Good - I ensure that key business areas that will be affected by the project are represented on the project steering committee. The committee meets every 4 to 6 weeks. Meetings consist of a productive combination of project status reporting and issue resolution. For example, the project manager presents a regular report, is questioned in detail about issues in ways that is supportive of the project manager's efforts.
Bad - The committee doesn't exist as far as I, as project manager, can tell. The project team usurps management authority by making up the answers it wants on major issues that have organization-wide impacts. For example, the project team makes up answers on product pricing and shipping options for the web site because its choices simplify the required code.
Ugly - Committee membership is unclear to me or meetings are sporadic and/or offer little content. The role of the committee is not well understood by the members of the committee. There is conflict among committee members. For example, at occasional meetings of the project steering committee, the project manager's presentation is interrupted by a member of the committee laying blame for some problem on another member of the committee.
Create a project steering committee. Projects without steering committees to provide guidance and break through roadblocks tend not to produce successful outcomes. The mere existence of this committee forcefully tells the project team and other stakeholders that this project matters to the organization.
Ensure executives with sufficient authority are members of the project steering committee. Senior management sometimes tries to delegate membership too far down in the organization. This results in an ineffective committee.
Hold regular meetings. Regular meetings with real examination of project issues improve the productivity and quality of project team performance. Inexperienced project staff fears this approach because they think it makes them look ineffective. More experienced staff recognize that they need the senior help to push through needed change and that their efforts will be recognized as valuable leadership.
Successful project managers lead the project steering committee meetings.