Steering Committees - A Key Reason For Project Failure

Author -  Dan Skelsey

How PRINCE2 Solves the Steering Committee Issue

When a project fails it’s usually the Project Managersteering-committee.png who gets blamed – however, research suggests that the failure is more often down to an ineffective Steering Committee.

Such committees are usually set up in order to minimize the risk of project failure due to scope creep or any of the other problems inherent in project management.

Typically, they consist of representatives from each of the entities or departments involved in the project – this means that everybody gets to have a say on the big issues affecting the project.

Steering Committees usually offer advantages such as:

  • providing a method of communicating with all parties at the same time and in the same way
  • serving as a forum for stakeholders to share views
  • enabling the Project Manager to get buy in from the relevant people all at once

More trouble than it's worth

However, setting up and running a steering committee can bring its own set of problems and Project Managers could be forgiven for concluding that a steering committee is more trouble than it’s worth.

Personality conflicts can present challenges resulting in difficulties with regard to resolving issues, especially if the reporting lines within the committee are ambiguous. If the project itself has multiple sponsors, some of their representatives on the steering committee may not have an equal level of decision-making abilities which can lead to imbalance. 

Scheduling a committee meeting that is convenient for all stake-holders may cause problems, meaning that the Project Manager may struggle to get the go-ahead for important changes which could lead to delays. Lengthy decision making and excessive analysis (known as “paralysis by analysis”) can actually be the cause of scope-creep, the very thing that steering committees are supposed to avoid. If each stake-holder finds it necessary to concentrate on a different requirement it can lead to an unnecessarily complex project plan which slows things down.

Enter the experienced Project Manager

An experienced and competent Project Manager should be able to manage a project successfully without the need for a steering committee – leading to a successful outcome in the shortest time possible. According to Dr. Seuss:

“You can steer yourself in any direction you choose. You’re on your own, and you know what you know. And you are the guy who’ll decide where to go.”

Go it alone!

So, just how does a Project Manager make sure that they have the necessary tools to bring a project to a successful conclusion on time and within budget, but without the dubious “help” of a steering committee? PRINCE2 certification ensures that practitioners have the skills they need to feel confident in managing projects successfully. 

PRINCE2 provides a secure framework for all types of projects across multiple areas of business activity such as IT, R&D, construction and business change.

The great thing about PRINCE2 is that it:

  • involves senior management in the project at the right time
  • makes project progress clear and visible to management
  • facilitates control at all levels
  • ensures that work progresses in the correct sequence
  • provides an effective communication medium for all team members
  • ensures that the Project Manager focuses on the continuing viability of the project in relation to its Business Case

At Project Laneways we specialise in training business professionals in the skills they need to ensure success. Our PRINCE2 Courses will equip you with the skills and tools you need to work on or manage projects to ensure a successful outcome. 

If you’d like to become an internationally recognised PRINCE2 registered practitioner, check out our PRINCE2 course details here, or call us on Melbourne 03 9038 9236

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