Companies and employees use a lot of jargon, and often they shorten these phrases using acronyms. This can mean you and your colleagues end up speaking a language unknown to the outside world, and you only realize it when you have a new and confused team member.
Companies also have structures that have been there so long, you forget why they exist. From time to time, it can be healthy to question their existence and be sure these structures meet their purpose. These structures often help organize a lot of complexity.
As organizations grow, it becomes increasingly difficult to ensure that resources and goals are aligned, strategic plans are developed and executed, and decisions are made with the input of key stakeholders. Steering committees are a key tool for achieving these objectives. It is a forum for leaders to come together to provide strategic guidance, align resources and goals, and facilitate decision-making.
Given the importance of these activities, it can be helpful to understand how to structure them to best support the needs of the organization.
Table of contents
- What is a steering committee?
- Steering committee charter
- Best practices for working with a steering committee
- How to create your own steering committee
What is a steering committee?
A steering committee is a group of senior leaders who are responsible for providing oversight and guidance on strategic initiatives.
The committee is typically composed of representatives from key functional areas of the organization, such as finance, marketing, operations, human resources, and external stakeholders, such as customers or vendors.
What is the purpose of a steering committee?
The purpose of a steering committee is to provide strategic guidance, align resources and goals, and facilitate decision-making.
By bringing together key stakeholders from across the organization, the committee can ensure that strategic plans are developed and executed effectively, resources are allocated appropriately, and decisions are made with input from all relevant parties.
Steering committee responsibilities
The responsibilities of the steering committee typically include overseeing and approving strategic plans and budgets, monitoring progress, and providing guidance and support.
The committee may also be responsible for reviewing and approving major decisions, such as mergers and acquisitions, and ensuring that the organization is in compliance with relevant laws and regulations.
Steering committee examples
Steering committees can be found in a variety of industries, including healthcare, finance, and technology.
In healthcare, for example, a steering committee may be responsible for overseeing the implementation of a new electronic health record system.
In finance, a steering committee may be responsible for overseeing the development of a new investment strategy.
In technology, a steering committee may be responsible for guiding the development of a new software product.
Steering committee charter
A steering committee charter is a document that outlines the purpose, scope, and responsibilities of the committee.
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.
Why do you need a steering committee charter?
How often do you make assumptions that everyone has the same understanding as you? It is a common cognitive bias we face as humans.
Think back to the confused new employee we discussed at the start of this blog. In that hypothetical scenario, you assumed everyone knew the company’s jargon and acronyms. It can also be easy to assume everyone has the same ideas as you about ways of working.
A steering committee charter is important because it helps to ensure that the committee functions effectively. By clearly outlining the purpose, scope, and responsibilities of the committee, the charter can help to prevent misunderstandings and ensure that everyone is on the same page. It can also serve as a reference document for future decision-making, helping to maintain consistency and continuity over time.
Sound familiar? Maybe you’ve got a team charter. These are often used by agile teams. Both documents outline the purpose, scope, and responsibilities of the group and can serve as a reference document for decision-making. Both charters are important tools for ensuring that everyone is on the same page and working toward a common goal.
By creating a charter, both steering committees and agile teams can facilitate effective collaboration and decision-making, maximizing the chances of success.
Steering committee charter template
To help organizations create effective steering committee charters, here’s a template that outlines the key elements of a charter.
The template includes fields for each element of a steering committee charter/agenda, such as objectives, members, meeting frequency, scope of authority, accountability, communication channels, and decision-making process. The template is easily shareable and can be customized to meet the specific needs of your organization.
Best practices for working with a steering committee
As a product manager, it is important to work effectively with the steering committee to ensure that you develop a supportive relationship between your team and the committee.
The PM must ensure that the committees support the development effort of your product, providing resources and strategic advice. They can do this by:
- Providing regular updates on development and progress toward strategic goals
- Soliciting input and feedback from committee members
- Aligning your product roadmap with the organization’s strategic plan
- Being open to feedback and willing to adjust your product strategy as needed
How to create your own steering committee
Personally, I have found it helpful to create my own steering committee, that I chair, in organizations I have worked in. Creating your own committee brings together the relevant people across the organization regularly.
This can help when the impact of a decision you need to make for your product crosses organizational boundaries. Having a steering committee in place can also help to facilitate decision-making by providing a forum for key stakeholders to come together and provide input.
The committee can also help to communicate key information about the product to stakeholders across the organization, ensuring that everyone is on the same page and attendees can be tasked with disseminating information back to their teams.
By creating a steering committee, product managers can ensure that their product is developed and executed in a way that is aligned with the organization’s overall strategy, maximizing its chances of success.
Conclusion and key takeaways
Steering committees are a powerful tool for organizations looking to ensure that resources and goals are aligned, strategic plans are developed and executed, and decisions are made with the input of key stakeholders.
By creating a steering committee charter, much like a team charter, organizations can ensure that the committee functions effectively. And by following best practices for working with the committee, product managers can ensure that their products are aligned with the organization’s goals and objectives.
Featured image source: IconScout
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