Organizational Development Consultant

Fifteen Techniques for Implementing Decisions: #11 Executive Steering Group (ESG)

January 18, 2015

“I got approval for an important change in the way we do business, but now we’re stalled. The people on our project team don’t have the clout to break through the logjams and resolve cross-functional issues. What should I do?

#11: Executive Steering Group (ESG)

What is an Executive Steering Group?

Executive Steering Groups (ESGs) are groups that are called together for purposes of overseeing a specific project or program. Your ESG should represent your major stakeholders, and have the decision making authority to drive the direction of your project. ESGs usually consist of individuals in leadership positions and are people credible and influential enough to make change happen. The ESG meets on a regular basis, i.e. monthly or quarterly, during the duration of the project. They are accountable for ensuring that the Business Case is achieved, and the project is implemented as planned.

The Sponsor (the ultimate owner of the project) is normally the chairperson of ESG meetings. The Sponsor may want to have a facilitator run the ESG meetings so they can participate fully. If you are not the Sponsor of the project or initiative, work closely with the Sponsor every step of the way, ensuring alignment on the content and process of each meeting.

When to use an Executive Steering Group

  • When a change is considered ‘high risk’ or difficult to implement
  • When your project has several different stakeholder groups involved, i.e. divisions and geographies, and will involve significant changes to your existing ways of working
  • When your organization has a history of poor delivery on previous projects and change initiatives
  • When people on your project team will need help to break through log jams and make cross-functional decisions

How to use an Executive Steering Group

  1. Identify the key stakeholders/stakeholder groups impacted by the proposed project’s results.
  2. Determine who would be appropriate Executive Steering Group members. These members could all be part of an existing leadership group, a subset of a leadership group, or a group that has never met before or will again.
  3. Draft a purpose statement for the group’s existence. Include time commitments, roles and expected outcomes.
  4. Invite each person individually to be part of your ESG. Discuss the project chart with them and describe why you want each person to be on the ESG.
  5. Launch the Executive Steering Group. Invite members well in advance. Start the meeting by reviewing the charter and explaining why each person is at the table. If members do not know each other, be sure to take the time to introduce each person and describe the contribution each will make to the team.
  6. Ensure that the ESG ‘signs off’ on the business case (if one exists), project charter and project plan, and agrees who is on the project team.
  7. Ensure that each meeting is a valuable use of time for each member and is a forum for decisions and direction setting. Meetings that only update members without giving them something to do are a waste of time. Plan your ESG meetings to coincide with project milestones. Be sure you can justify each agenda item. In other words, why is the item on the agenda? What relevance does it have to the Steering Group members? These questions will eliminate boring updates on activities that have no interest to the Steering Group members.

NOTE: The Sponsor should be in alignment with the Project Manager and the facilitator in advance of each meeting. The Sponsor should never go into an ESG meeting without knowing the agenda, being prepared, and when required, having pre-positioned the ESG members in advance so the meeting can be a productive use of time. You want to avoid any conflicts or nasty surprises in public.

  1. When the project has been fully and successfully implemented, be sure to have a closing meeting, dinner or celebration to thank the ESG members for their contributions. You want a strong ending as well as a strong beginning.
  2. If the project starts to crumble after implementation, resurrect the ESG to help get the changes back on track. If there are issues impacting sustainability, i.e. lack of resources or training, conflicting goals and measures, etc. it is the ESG’s responsibility to make the required changes to ensure the project charter’s objectives is met. Identify the key stakeholders/stakeholder groups impacted by the proposed project’s results.

In Summary

Executive Steering Groups (ESGs) are groups which are called together for purposes of overseeing a specific project or program. These groups should represent your major stakeholders, and have the decision making authority to drive the direction of your project.

  1. Identify the key stakeholders/stakeholder groups impacted by the proposed project’s results.
  2. Determine who would be appropriate Executive Steering Group members.
  3. Draft a purpose statement for the group’s existence.
  4. Invite each person individually to be part of your ESG.
  5. Launch the Executive Steering Group.
  6. Ensure that the ESG ‘signs off’ on the project charter and project plan.
  7. Ensure that each meeting is a valuable use of time.
  8. When the project has been implemented, have a closing meeting, dinner or celebration to thank the ESG members for their contributions.
  9. If the project starts to crumble after implementation, resurrect the ESG to help get the implementation back on track.

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