The Project Steering Team
The Project Steering Team is typically responsible for
• “Owning” the project
• Reviewing the Project Plan and directing the project
• Selecting all participants for later phases of the project
• Reviewing and providing feedback for all project documents and outputs
• Establishing development/acquisition priorities
• Approving or redirecting the Implementation Plan
The project manager uses the Project Steering Team to test ideas and obtain sanctioning for all project activities via the gate review meetings. The members of the Project Steering Team review, debate, and challenge the Project Plan. Team members also assist in making available the human resources data and other data needed to conduct the project. In addition, they select all of the other PACT team members.
Project Steering Team roles and responsibilities are similar in Curriculum Architecture Design, Modular Curriculum Development, and Instructional Activity Development. In each case, the team is composed of members who have a stake in the outcomes and process for conducting the PACT Process project. And in each case, the most important role on the Project Steering Team is that of chairperson.
The Project Steering Team Chairperson
In general, the Project Steering Team chairperson is the logical owner of the project, the person with responsibility and accountability for making change happen. This person will possibly be evaluated by his or her management based on the success of the project. (Organizational etiquette suggests that the PACT project manager, the planner of the process leading to that success or failure, must understand how score is kept for the client.)
The Project Steering Team chairperson is the key customer/stakeholder interface and helps identify all other key stakeholders that should be involved in the project. Early in the project, this person provides key input for the development of the Project Plan.
The Project Steering Team chairperson also helps identify other individuals that he or she thinks may be necessary to involve in the conduct of the project. They, too, should be engaged up-front. Many of these key stakeholders may be the future members of the Project Steering Team.
Project Steering Team Members
Project Steering Team members nominally include key leaders of the organizations within the scope of the project. To accomplish its tasks, the Project Steering Team must be composed of the highest level individuals who may benefit from or be affected by the project.
The goal is not to get the company CEO on the project, but to get other people with the right authority levels and interest― those with authority to prioritize and then provide dollars and people for the follow-on T&D projects.
But in addition to authority, the project manager wants the participation of stakeholders. The project manager wants those with something at stake in the outcomes of the T&D project; those who will have to live with the consequences of doing nothing, doing the wrong thing, or doing the right thing. Those with something at stake could include customers of a process; suppliers; and support organizations such as information systems, field operations, human resources, etc.
In selecting candidates for the Project Steering Team, the general rule is to determine who might come forward sometime during the project and question or take exception to what is happening. Better to invite them on day one to have their say and attempt to influence the Project Steering Team. Having them join the fray two months into the project is never ideal.
If a project hits close to their home, candidates who are true stakeholders might be so intrigued by the thought and structure of the planned effort that they might be willing to participate―if they see a return for their investment. Maybe they’ll need to delegate participation. But the goal is to bring in representatives of all key groups!
How many members are on a Project Steering Team? The fewer members, the faster things may move. The more members, the less likelihood any one individual can negatively influence the project. It’s a balancing act.
Establishing a formal Project Steering Team ensures that key stakeholders “buy in” to the Project Plan politically, that it makes business sense, and that the outputs and planned tasks will be supported during and after the project. The Project Steering Team handpicks all other team members, and that goes a long way to ensuring that the outputs produced by those teams have credibility. That is extremely important because the volume of data in the outputs produced makes it problematic that the Project Steering Team will be able to do a thorough review. Besides, it’s better to build in quality early than to attempt to inspect it in later.
The First Project Steering Team Meeting
Project Steering Team members may be recruited by the project manager or, in the ideal case, by the Project Steering Team chairperson. The chairperson’s credibility and organizational responsibility can be a big advantage in recruiting.
If the project manager recruits potential members, he or she should make arrangements for the first meeting of the Project Steering Team before making recruiting calls. In contacting prospective members, the project manager should know the potential location of the first meeting (and have at least two alternative dates to propose) and know the meeting length (no more than two hours for this first meeting). The project manager should make detailed copies of the Project Plan available in advance.
At the first meeting, the project manager should be prepared to present the Project Plan in summary fashion and must sell Project Steering Team members on the project. The task is to demonstrate an understanding of
• The performance situation the project is to address
• The implications of the current situation
• The magnitude of the implications
• The payoff for resolving the situation
The most critical information here is the payoff, the returns on the investment for resolving the situation.
It’s up to the project manager to anticipate Project Steering Team member views, identify the pros and cons of alternative approaches, rank the alternatives, and be prepared to answer tough questions with logic, poise, and determination. Once the Project Steering Team is on board, gaining commitment and cooperation from other project participants is much easier.
At the first and subsequent Project Steering Team meeting, it’s good technique for the project manager to engage in constructive confrontation. By forewarning the team of his or her intentions, the project manager gets the attention of the team and receives its feedback on those intentions.
The PST is told at the beginning of their first Gate Review Meeting that the end-of-the meeting decisions include:
- Kill this project as it does not make business sense for what ever reasons (bigger fish to fry, etc.)
- Defer this project because it is not timely
- Adapt the Project Plan because it is not appropriate
- Approve the Project Plan…and continue planning for the next steps
The Project Steering Team and “Command and Control and Empowerment”
PACT projects are structured so that participants are empowered―within certain boundaries and limits. The Project Steering Team provides many of those boundaries and limits. By their actions, Project Steering Team members help to provide “command and control” for the PACT project.
Command and control is an old, and some would say outdated, paradigm. But even with empowerment and flat organizational structures, it’s necessary to have a way to provide clear direction, to gather strategic input from leaders and stakeholders, and to resolve conflicts among stakeholders. Without command and control, the project ship would drift aimlessly, never reaching its destination.
The Project Steering Team and its gate reviews embody command and control. They allow the voice of the customer from the upper levels of the organization to be taken into account. They allow for the discovery and resolution of conflict among T&D customers and between customers and supplier. They allow for the review of project goals, direction, and progress―and for redirection as required. They allow the project to move forward quickly and efficiently toward its goal of designing and developing high-quality T&D.
ISD Customers and ISD Suppliers Need to Accept Command and Control and Empowerment
Some ISD professionals don’t like the idea of a Project Steering Team telling them what to do. But the team helps to move things along and to obtain resources for the project. And don’t forget, while ISD owns the process, the content and the resulting T&D belong to the customer.
After all, we work for them. They represent the customer. They pay the freight.
It’s important to clarify for the Project Steering Team up front that its purpose is for customer command and control―that from the team we expect strategic input, timely reviews, and an open forum for the resolution of project issues.
For more see my book: lean-ISD which is available as a free 404-page PDF at http://www.eppic.biz/
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