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Chapter 6 - Steering Committee and Core Team

Part 2

Steering committee

What is a steering committee and who participates in it?

A steering committee should be installed for any projects that involve major reorganisation measures. Its members can be the customer, investors, representatives of official bodies and public agencies. Some organisations differentiate between two kinds of steering committee:

  • Project sponsor's internal committee
  • Committee that also has external partners as members


The number of steering committee members should be kept to the minimum.

For the project manager it serves as a body for

  • reporting,
  • decision-making and
  • escalation.

The committee disbands when the project objective has been attained. It has the following functions and powers:

  • Monitoring project progress
  • Deciding on the acceptance or rejection of milestone results
  • Clarifying authority disputes between the project manager and departmental managers

What are the tasks of a steering committee?

The steering committee only realises project strategy tasks. It is not involved in project operations and consults the project manager before making decisions. The steering committee nominates a spokesperson who reports to senior management. The project board must be kept up to date on the project's progress through regular reports.

The steering committee is responsible for following project-specific tasks:

  • Acceptance of project charters from senior management
  • Appointment of project managers
  • Decisions on project strategy
  • Checking and signing of project definitions
  • Involvement in the initiation of new projects (while the customer is responsible for the decision whether a project is initiated or not)
  • Setting priorities for project strategy implementation (includes plans for the subsequent year and mid-term planning)
  • Planning and monitoring of the number of staff involved in the project and the development of costs in the relevant company division
  • Decisions regarding the outsourcing of project tasks to external parties (at the project manager's suggestion)
  • Supervision of project deadlines, costs and progress (superordinated monitoring function)
  • Preparation of decisions for senior management
  • Solving project-related conflicts if the project manager is not able to do so

Project manager

Tasks and responsibilities of a project manager

A project manager is assigned to each project. He coordinates the project throughout its entire lifecycle as far as the pilot series and in all participating departments. He should be a member of the development team.

He needs to be aware of the significance of the start-up phase so especially in this phase the project manager's tasks are crucial:

  • To define the project objectives and project content (in collaboration with the customer)
  • To clarify and establish the overall availability of human, financial and other resources (e.g. operating resources)
  • To form the project team and establish rules governing cooperation among team members with line managers and with the customer
  • To set up the project management structures
  • To prepare the first project plan
  • To undertake an initial risk analysis

The project manager is responsible for reaching the project objectives as specified in the project definition according to the project organisation: deadlines, costs and (product) quality. He is responsible for coordinating project team members and their work packages in accordance with the project definition during the project.

Essentially, the project manager must

  1. prepare the work breakdown structure and the according work packages and approve the appropriation of project budget funds,
  2. enlist and manage the project team,
  3. report to the project steering committee and
  4. plan and monitor the project schedule.
    a. Monitor project progress (based on milestones and project review dates)
    b. Promptly identify deviations from schedule and implement counter measures
  5. Plan and track the development of project costs,
  6. verify and coordinate changes and incorporate them in project planning and implementation activities (product- and project-specific),
  7. use the project management tools that the organisation has at its disposal
  8. ensure the efficiency of project information channels
  9. establish appropriate structures for managing project development and processes and
  10. represent the project internally and externally.

Requirements on and personal skills of a project manager

To be successful in managing a project and in handling all those tasks mentioned above, a project manager should fulfil some professional requirements and he should have some personal skills.

Requirements on a project manager include professional experience and leaderhip skills but also knowledge and competences.

A project manager acts as a role model for his staff based on his personal conduct. Although the skills listed below apply basically to all project team members, they are considered important for a project manager in particular:

  • Ability to communicate
  • Initiative, engagement, enthusiasm, ability to motivate
  • Ability to come into contact, openness
  • Sensitivity, self-control, ability to value appreciation, readiness for responsibility, personal integrity
  • Conflict solving, argumentation culture, fairness
  • Ability to find solutions, holistic thinking
  • Loyalty, solidarity, readiness to help
  • Leadership abilities

How the story ends…

Dr. Rogers checks his watch and notices that time has passed faster than expected: "But now we must come to an end. I hope I've told you everything you need to know." "Yes, thank you. Now I finally realise which responsibility falls on the project manager. But I do have one final question." "Well, I guess a few minutes are left. What's on your mind?" "You've mentioned the project team. Is that the same as the project management team?" "I'm glad you asked that. This misconception is widespread. It's not the same. The project management team is the core team. This means that is the management staff. The project manager and the sub-project managers can be found here. The project team, on the other hand, is a team consisting of all employees working on the project."