The Project Steering Process
Much of the focus today seems to be on training project managers and teams to employ a standard project management methodology.
Don't get me wrong. Implementing a standard methodology is one of the seven keys to successful projects across an organization. But there are six other keys which require management attention too, one of which is establishing an effective project steering process.
Why you need an effective project steering process
What happens when you don't establish as effective steering process?
- Project priorities tend to get set by the bottleneck resource since there is no overall prioritization of projects.
- Projects get initiated on a whim.
- Projects are not clearly tied to the strategic plan.
- Resources are over-committed which means cycle times for projects (time to market) are long.
- Functional managers are not aligned with project goals.
4 phases of an effective project steering process
A project steering process should be managed by one or more project steering councils, composed of members of the management team. After the steering councils are formed, a project steering process must be implemented. A generic project steering process has four phases:
Phase 1 - selection
Project proposals are reviewed based on preliminary selection criteria. Resources may be allocated for further study of the costs or benefits of a project. If a project is selected, the project is initiated and then planned.
Phase 2 - funding
After the planning data are available, the projects in the portfolio are prioritized using prioritization criteria. Resources are then allocated to projects, starting with priority number 1 and working down the list until no more resources are available for projects. Those projects that are funded proceed with the execution phase of their project management process.
Phase 3 - oversight
The status of ongoing projects is reviewed to ensure the projects are on track. Change requests are approved or denied. A portfolio status report is issued.
Phase 4 - improvement
Final project results are reviewed and recommendations for improving the project system are submitted to the project system owner.
Create a workable project steering process
A critical component of the project steering process is phase two - funding. All too often there is no overall prioritization process in which all cross-functional and functional projects are prioritized against each other. Another common deficiency is not having a resource allocation process in which only available capacity is allocated to projects Over-committing resources to projects results in:
- Longer project cycle times
- More rework
- Staff turnover from increased stress
- If we managed human capacity with just half the effort we put into managing machine capacity, time to market would be significantly reduced in most organization.
Successful projects result from commitment and action on the part of the management team. The project system should be designed to ensure success, not neglected so that only heroes can bring in projects on time and within budget. A cornerstone of a successful project portfolio is creating a workable project steering process.
Want to learn more?
Our workshops for leaders and professionals in a matrix organization will help you move down that project success highway. You can also call us at 512-900-5511 to discuss your needs.
Paula Martin is a Master Level Certified Matrix Management Consultant™ (CMMC™—MOL), and the CEO and Chief Creative Officer of the Matrix Management Institute. She is the developer of the MM 2.0™ Operating System, and the author of the Matrix Management 2.0™ Body of Knowledge, the Matrix Management Reinvented book series, and more than 10 other books on topics related to Matrix Management and Managing Projects in a Matrix.