“I got approval for an important change in the way we do business, but now we’re stalled. The people on the project team don’t have the clout to break through the log jams and resolve cross-functional issues. What should I do? “
What is it?
Executive Steering Groups (ESG) are groups which are called together for purposes of overseeing a specific change. These groups should represent your major stakeholders, and have the decision making authority to drive the direction of your change project. They usually consist of individuals in leadership positions, and are people who are credible and influential enough to make things 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.
When do you use it?
When a change is considered ‘high risk’ or difficult to implement.
When your change project has several different stakeholder groups involved, i.e. divisions, geographies and will involve significant changes to your existing ways of working.
When your organization has a history of poor delivery on previous change initiatives.
When people on your project team will need ‘air cover’ to break through log jams and make cross-functional decisions.
How do you use it?
Identify the key stakeholders/stakeholder groups impacted by the proposed change.
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 which has never met before or will again.
Draft a purpose statement for the group’s existence. Include time commitments, roles and expected outcomes.
Invite each person individually to be part of your Executive Steering Group. Discuss the charter with them, and describe why you want each person to be on the Steering Group.
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.
Ensure that the ESG ‘signs off’ on the Business Case, Project Charter and Plan, and agrees who is on the Project Team.
The Sponsor (the ultimate owner of the Change Project) is the chairperson of ESG meetings. The Sponsor may want to have a facilitator and/or Project Manager to run the meeting so they can participate. The Sponsor should be in alignment with the Project Manager in advance of the meeting. The Sponsor should never go into an ESG meeting without knowing the agenda, being prepared, and in when required, having pre-positioned the ESG members in advance so the meeting can be a productive use of time.
Ensure that each meeting includes valuable information to 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 that each agenda item includes a ‘so what’. 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 team members.
When the change has been achieved, 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.
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 training, conflicting goals and measures, etc. it is the ESG’s responsibility to make the required changes to ensure the Business Case is met.