Steering Committee: Complete Guide with Examples & Templates

Part 1

What is a steering committee?

What is the purpose of a steering committee?

Steering committees are advisory bodies that are made up of experts and stakeholders that provide guidance on different issues that could face companies, such as new endeavors, budgets, company policy, marketing strategies, and project management concerns.
Stakeholders can include c-level executives and client representatives. Their purpose is to make sure projects align with business objectives, monitor progress, approve any changes related to scope or budgets, conflict resolution, project strategy, and the overall task of getting the team to produce deliverables eventually.

On an organizational level, a steering committee can be a central resource that facilitates communication and decision making between different departments in an organization.

On a departmental level, these groups can help with the selection, definition, and control of projects.

What are the functions of a steering committee?

The roles of a steering committee include:

  • – develop plans, goals, objectives, policies;
  • – identify and address risks;
  • – provide strategic oversight and guidance;
  • – make key decisions (decisions regarding changes to the scope, budget or timeline);
  • – assess progress;
  • – ensure resources are managed properly (and that the project or initiative stays within the designated budget).

By performing these functions, a steering committee can ensure that a project is on track and that goals are met.

What is a steering committee in project management?

Project steering committees are often a part of a larger project governance structure that has the duty of managing the team’s progress when it comes to meeting project goals and deadlines.

What is the value of a steering committee?

The goal of a steering committee is to ensure that the project or an initiative is moving forward in the right direction and achieving its objectives (providing feedback, making decisions, providing guidance on risk management, budgeting and other important areas).

What authority does a steering committee have?

Steering committees are typically appointed by an organization’s leadership, and have the authority to make decisions related to the initiative they are tasked with guiding. Depending on the type of organization, a steering committee may also have the authority to hire and manage personnel and resources, as well as make determinations about budgeting, timelines, and overall success of the project.

Why Is It Important to Have an Effective Steering Committee?

Every departmental project may not require the help or management of a steering committee. However, if the plan is for a considerable amount of cross-departmental interaction and the involvement of a lot of internal stakeholders, then help from a steering committee is necessary. One of their primary functions is to manage conflicts that could arise between departments and stakeholders. A steering committee that includes individuals from different sectors can make sure all relevant voices are heard. Steering committees can also help teams keep the right perspective when it comes to their projects, stay on budget, and carefully analyze the impact that any changes could cause to the original scope. Because their role can help create success or failure, leaders need to work to put together steering committees that are effective. Here are a few pieces of data that reveal why the guidance of an efficient and effective steering committee is needed for companies tackling larger projects:

  • Only 2.5 percent of companies successfully complete 100 percent of their projects.
  • On average, companies go over project budget by 27 percent.
  • The failure rate of projects with a budget of $1 million is 50 percent, a cost that is higher than projects with a $350,000 budget.

All of these issues could have likely been mitigated by a well-trained governing body like a project steering committee. However, before discussing ways to create an effective steering committee, leaders need to understand the challenges to accomplishing this.

Challenges to Establishing a Steering Committee

Steering committees are an important component of the project management process. When creating one, there are some challenges and potential pitfalls that leaders need to be aware of.

  1. Handling Differing Personalities and Interests

    It is crucial for leaders to have various levels of managers and executives on the steering committee. This creates a lot of positives as many voices and interests can be taken into account throughout the project lifecycle. Unfortunately, this can also create a challenge as personality conflicts can arise since those in senior leadership may take a more active decision-making role over those that are mid-level managers. This can create tense conflicts and competing interests.

  2. An Increase in Meetings

    Naturally, steering committees will want to meet to decide on project budgets, scopes, changes, and any other topic that could arise. The potential problem with this is that it could take time away from the actual work that needs to be done. Team members may have to wait longer than anticipated for decisions from the steering committee which could push the entire project past a deadline.

  3. The Threat of Bargaining

    Again, many of the members of the steering committee could only be concerned about their interest. Therefore, leaders have to be sure they set parameters about how long the project will be analyzed and how many requirements and specifications will be changed or added. This needs to be outlined through the steering committee creation process.

  4. Defined Roles

    This might not be everyone’s first time on a steering committee, so many will probably know the basics of how it works. However, everyone does not have experience on the current project. As a result, it is imperative that leaders clearly define what the role of each member of the steering committee is. This can be difficult if it is a large group of people.

  5. A Higher Probability of Group-Think

    Often, there is either one person or a small group of people who decide to take the lead in a group setting. They may either have strong opinions or act in their own self-interests, which makes it difficult for those who oppose them to voice their views concerning project scope or direction.


Part 2

Steering Committee Examples and Best Practices

How do you create an effective steering committee?

To be effective, the committee should include:

  • Members with diverse perspectives, who can provide a range of insights and solutions. A strong mix of areas of expertise, experience levels, and approaches will allow the committee to have a balance of different perspectives and gain a better understanding of any given issue.
  • Well established ground rules for meetings and decision making. It is important to ensure that all members of the committee can work together collaboratively and once members have been selected, discussing and agreeing on objectives, processes, and communication strategies are essential steps in forming a successful steering committee.
  • A strong leader who is able to set clear objectives and timelines for the committee and ensure that the committee remains focused and on track.

Who are the members of a steering committee?

Example 1: Steering Committee for Company Initiatives

  • Chief Executive Officer
  • Chief Operating Officer
  • Chief Financial Officer
  • Chief Technology Officer or Chief Information Officer
  • Human Resources Director
  • Marketing Director
  • Legal Counsel

Example 2: IT Steering Committee

Who should be on an IT steering committee?

  • Chief Operating Officer and/or Chief Executive Officer
  • Chief Technology Officer and/or Chief Security Officer and/or Chief Information Officer
  • IT Manager and/or Project Manager
  • Business Analyst
  • Members of other key departments, such as HR, Sales, Marketing, Finance (if applicable)
  • External experts (if applicable)

Example 3: Project Steering Committee

Who should be on a project steering committee?

  • Project Manager
  • Technical Lead
  • Customers Representative
  • Quality Assurance Representative
  • Risk Manager
  • Security Representative
  • Project Controller
  • Facilities Manager
  • Communications Manager

Example 4: Project Steering Committee

  • C-level Executive
  • Project Manager
  • Experienced Expert
  • Quality Control Director
  • Data Protection Officer
  • Risk Manager
  • Communications Coordinator
  • Legal Counsel

Example 5: Project Steering Committee

  • Project Manager
  • Technical Expert
  • Financial Analyst
  • 5: Quality Manager and/or Risk Manager
  • Legal Representative
  • Stakeholder Representative

Is the project manager part of the steering committee?

Depending on the specific project and organization, the project manager may be a member of the steering committee, or they may be in a supervisory role and report to the committee.

How big should a steering committee be?

Committees should be kept to a manageable size, typically 3-6 members and no more than 15 members. Larger groups can be difficult to manage but it is important to ensure that all stakeholders are represented in the steering committee. Usually the size of a steering committee depends on the resources available, the purpose of the committee, the complexity of the project, and the size of the organization. A steering committee should also have a chairperson who can facilitate communication and ensure that the committee meets its goals.

Who is the chairman of a steering committee?

The executive steering committee chairman is the leader of the steering committee and is responsible for setting the agenda and leading the discussion to ensure that objectives are met. They usually have a broad knowledge of the organization’s goals and objectives, as well as an understanding of the issues facing the organization. A successful chairman must be able to lead and motivate the team, while also being able to effectively communicate with key stakeholders.

Typically the head of a steering committee is a C-level executive or a highly experienced professional with a proven track record of successful collaborations and a wealth of experience and expertise.

What should you avoid in the steering committee?

  • Ensure that a variety of perspectives are represented, so that no one person’s viewpoint dominates the committee’s decision-making process.
  • Avoid power games and conflict. Focus on problem solving and strive for consensus-based decision making.
  • Avoid making decisions in a vacuum. All stakeholders should be consulted, and their interests and goals must be taken into consideration.

What is the most important for the steering committee to have?

The most important components for the steering committee are the following:
– strong leader;
– clear set of objectives (mission and goals);
– well defined set of policies and procedures.

If done correctly, steering committees can be a useful governing body. The priority of every leader should be to increase efficiency and create an environment where the steering committee can fulfill their duties efficiently: selecting the right people, outlining clear responsibilities, establishing times to meet, and setting parameters on decision-making.

Below are helpful tips leaders can use to create an effective and efficient steering committee that guide project teams to success.

  • Provide Training and Coaching

    There may be some members that are new to serving on a steering committee. Leaders can help ease them into their duties by providing training and coaching. Committee members are as productive as their experience will allow, so it is essential that leaders offer an adequate education for committee members new and experienced.

  • Keep a Manageable Size

    Leaders should make it a priority to not make steering committee teams too small or big. One change management framework suggested that leaders keep the size to around six, a size large enough to represent a lot of the organization’s department but not too big to encroach on efficiency.

  • Encourage Fast Decision-Making

    It makes sense for members to take time to make informed decisions, however, when a group is involved, a decision that should only take 24 hours could end up taking a week if there are not any established parameters for how long decision-making should take. Leaders should express that the purpose is not about rushing decisions, but facilitating efficiency so that teams are not left to push back deadlines.

  • Have a Liaison Between the Project Manager and Committee

    It is a great idea to have the project manager serve as a liaison between the project manager and steering committee. It will cut down confusion if all questions, concerns, and decisions are communicated to the project manager so they can disperse the information uniformly.

Part 3

How to Run an Effective Steering Committee? 5 Essential Steps

With challenges and disadvantages in mind, leaders can make informed decisions on taking steps to create an effective steering committee. Below are steps leaders can take to create well-functioning and efficient project steering committees.

  • Step 1: Pick the Right People

    Make sure to select people with the right mix of perspectives and skills. The committee should be composed of key personnel who have the necessary skills and experience to make informed decisions. In general, a steering committee should include upper-level management, stakeholders, and technical experts who represent different departments and disciplines.
    Here are some factors that leaders need to take into account when selecting individuals for a steering committee:

    A. The first is the individual’s personality and the likelihood that they are successful working in teams.

    B. The other major factor is organizational representation. For large projects, various departments should be represented in the organization by someone with appropriate decision-making authority.

  • Step 2: Inform Them of the Project and Set Expectations for Participation

    – Regardless of the experience that everyone may have serving on steering committees, each person needs to understand the plan, description, purpose, and current scope.

    Members should receive information before the initial meeting so they can craft any questions they have beforehand.

    – A successful steering committee should have clear expectations set for each of its members in order to ensure that the committee achieves its goals. These expectations should include a commitment to attending meetings, responding to emails in a timely manner, and actively participating in discussions.

  • Step 3: Set Clear Rules and Goals, Establish a Communications Plan

    – Identify the purpose of the steering committee and define its scope. Ideally the steering committee should have a formal charter that outlines its purpose, responsibilities, and decision making processes. Leaders need to give steering committee members the tools to perform their duties by setting standards and clear goals.
    Sample questions:

    A. Does the budget need to stay within a specific parameter?

    B. How many deadline or scope changes will be allowed?

    C. Is there a limit on ideas that can be implemented?

    – Establish a communication plan. Questions to consider:

    A. How members of the committee will communicate with each other;

    B. How decisions will be made;

    C. How team members can stay informed and engaged;

    D. How the committee will seek input from external stakeholders and handle feedback.

    Establishing an effective communication plan is key to fostering collaboration, ensuring that all voices are heard, and ensuring that the steering committee is able to effectively achieve its goals.

  • Step 4: Schedule Follow-Up Meetings as Necessary

    Regular meetings should be established to ensure that the project is progressing according to plan and any challenges are identified and addressed in a timely manner.
    However, frequent meetings can decrease efficiency and effectiveness. Therefore, leaders need to only schedule meetings when there is something appropriate to discuss such as a budget or scope change.

    If changes are not frequent, leaders may want to schedule benchmark meetings throughout the development of the project as needed.

    It is crucial that every session has a defined purpose with a clearly outlined agenda (topics such as budget allocations, project milestones, a review of current goals, discussing plans for future initiatives, etc.).

    Members of the committee are encouraged to come prepared with any relevant information or feedback that will help move the conversations forward. All members of the committee are expected to contribute their expertise and experience in order to ensure that the meeting is productive and successful.

  • Step 5: Make Communication and Debriefing a Priority

    Develop protocols that will provide clear communication between everyone involved in the project, including updates on tasks, deadlines, and key decisions to ensure that all parties are kept aware of progress and that any issues can be addressed quickly and efficiently.
    This can happen through developing a mechanism for committee members to communicate with each other and the project manager.

    Leaders can create a plan for teams to meet with the steering committee to answer questions and update them on progress, or even utilize a company intranet for progress updates.

    After the completion of the project, leaders should debrief with committee members to gain insight into the process and any problems that occurred.

Part 4

Steering Committee Meeting Agenda Template

What should be covered in a steering committee meeting?

Steering committee should have regular meetings with a leader facilitating discussions. By following these templates, steering committees can ensure that their meetings are productive and efficient.

Sample steering committee meeting agenda for the 1st meeting

A. Objectives of the meeting

The first step in any meeting is to establish objectives. This should be a guiding document for the meeting, and should be agreed upon by all members present. The objectives of the meeting can help to focus discussions and ensure that all participants are working towards a common goal.

B. Establish rules for effective collaboration as a new steering committee. Discuss:

– Members of the committee, their background and areas of expertise, their roles and responsibilities

– Objectives (for the steering committee, for the project)

– Processes (how often and when will the meetings take place?; how will decision making take place?)

– Communication (frequency, channels of communication; how to communicate changes in a transparent way?)

C. Discuss ideas for the project in general, and for the next milestone specifically.
What are possible risks of the project and how to mitigate them?
What are current needs and opportunities for those involved in this project?
What are the next steps for this project?

D. Open to general discussion.

What should be in a regular steering committee meeting?

Sample steering committee meeting agenda template for a regular meeting

A. Discussing progress

Discuss progress update from last meeting.

– Discuss what has been accomplished;

– Identify any potential obstacles or challenges that may have arisen since the last meeting;

– Determine if there are any changes or updates that need to be made.

B. Brainstorming Ideas

Once step A has been completed, it is time for brainstorming ideas. This is an essential part of the process, and allows members to generate new strategies that might be applicable.

C. Setting Next Steps

Once brainstorming has been completed, it is time to set next steps. This allows members to identify any actions that need to be taken and write them down.

D. Open to general discussion.

How do you prepare for a steering committee meeting?


  1. Make a list of all participants and their roles and responsibilities.
  2. Have a clear agenda and ensure that all members of the committee have the opportunity to participate.
  3. Always provide agenda information beforehand.
    Meetings will go a lot faster and operate at a higher level of efficiency if agendas are given to the steering committee members before they arrive. This will allow them to craft any initial questions they have before the meeting to save time.
    Having reference materials available for each member to review in advance of the meeting can help keep the conversation on track and ensure that everyone is well-informed.
  4. Have sufficient time allocated for each item on the agenda so that meaningful discussion can take place.


Part 5

What should be included in a steering committee presentation?

  • Overview of the project/initiative (project’s purpose, expected results, goals and objectives);
  • Timelines;
  • Cost analysis;
  • Risk mitigation strategies;
  • Members roles and responsibilities
  • Progress updates (current results or proposed solution). A conclusion outlining recommendations can also be included for further discussion by the steering committee members.

Here is a list of guidelines to follow when preparing and delivering a steering committee presentation:

  1. Develop an agenda that can be used to guide the meeting and maintain its focus.
  2. Prepare a list of all materials needed for the meeting, including handouts and visual aids.
  3. Greet participants and make them feel welcome.
  4. Begin by telling the audience why they are meeting, who they are meeting with, and what will be discussed. Indicate why the topic is important and relevant to them. If applicable, introduce any special speakers, such as guest speakers or outside consultants, and thank them for their participation.
  5. Outline the specific goals, objectives, and outcomes for the meeting. Highlight and explain the agenda, including time frames and major issues.
  6. The presentation should be comprehensive enough so that everyone attending can understand what is being proposed; this means that visuals such as charts and graphs are often helpful in conveying complex concepts or data more easily. Presentations should also include background information about the person or team presenting. Once the presentation is complete, attendees should be allowed to ask any questions they may have. This may include clarifying certain details or discussing other aspects of the project that were not originally presented.
  7. Prepare to handle various types of questions or responses from participants, such as objections or disagreements.
  8. Thank participants and express appreciation for their participation and ideas.
  9. End the presentation on time.
  10. Make sure to gather the outcomes of decisions made by the group.

How to present to a steering committee?

It’s important to ensure your presentation is well-prepared and organized. Start by researching the topics that will be of interest to the committee, as well as familiarizing yourself with the backgrounds and perspectives of each individual on the committee. Create a clear agenda for the meeting and plan for questions that may arise. Use visuals and storytelling to make your presentation engaging and memorable.

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