Supervising projects you don’t (fully) understand: lessons for effective project governance by steering committees
California Management Review
MetadataShow full item record
Loch, C., Mahring, M., & Sommer, S. (2017). Supervising projects you don’t (fully) understand: lessons for effective project governance by steering committees. California Management Review, 59 (2), 45-67. https://doi.org/10.1177/0008125617697944
Strategically important projects involve high stakes, uncertainty, and stakeholder complexity, with contingencies and risks typically surfacing repeatedly as the project evolves. This is challenging not only for the project team, but also in particular for the steering committee (SC), the top management oversight structure typically used to align a project with the organization’s strategic goals. Our paper explores how senior executives on steering committees can exercise leadership and effective oversight of strategic projects, although they have only limited time and often incomplete expertise. We identify five themes of oversight: steering committee composition, goal agreement, project team motivation and control, intelligence gathering, and managing surprises and change. We show that a SC can keep a project aligned, even with limited time, through focused understanding of the key logic and drivers of the project. The SC needs to manage the surprises and crises that inevitably arise in a difficult project through proactive analysis that goes to the bottom of the problem and by working with the project team to generate solutions. This article thus offers insights and actionable advice on a paradoxical challenge of executive work: providing meaningful guidance and governance in contexts where time is scarce, information is potentially unreliable, and you don’t fully understand the complexities and implications involved.
Embargo Lift Date
External DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/0008125617697944
This record's URL: https://www.repository.cam.ac.uk/handle/1810/256923