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On Steering Committees their method



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On Steering Committees their method
of operation
The fact that one of the two main purposes for establishing steering committees was to bring about power sharing means that their method of operation is important. This is a significant issue that has been virtually ignored in the academic literature since Drury [4] observed whether the committee provides guidance or makes decisions is an important functional difference. Drury [4] referred to structural alternatives, which were more functional than structural. These comprised the level of the chair, representation, meeting frequency, source of agenda items and whether decisions were imposed (by either the IT department or the chair) or reached by agreement.


McGrath SK, Whitty SJ. (2013) Do steering committees and boards constitute good project governance In Proceedings of the
Annual Project Management Australia Conference Incorporating the PMI Australia National Conference (PMOz), Melbourne, Australia, 17‐18 September This issue was not raised again in the academic literature for nearly twenty years until Reimers
[25] found that majority-based decision-making in the steering committee enables other managers to block decisions, and consensus based decision making was associated with an increased likelihood of service level declines after cut-over. He argued this form of decision making gives every department a veto-right which they might use egotistically risking severe problems after cut- over Reimers [25] also mentions that
 centralised decision making in the steering committee causes delays resulting in schedule and budget overruns,
 seniority based decision making enables senior management to make decisions without being aware of the consequences and
 the extent of delegation of authority to the project team has an influence upon project success. This is, in effect, a succinct evaluation of the authoritarian versus democratic control debate that highlights the difficulties of alternate means of introducing democracy. Voting is a significant factor in how the committee functions. If a committee votes, then it presumably has some decision power, implying it is not an advisory committee that simply provides guidance. It is worthwhile to revisit what the other key academic references that analysed steering committee methods of operations had to say on this subject. Drury [4] considered various structural alternatives, one of which was the balance of representation, implying that he also considered the committee would vote. Lechler and Cohen [23] also explicitly consider that the steering committee would vote. Nolan [2] offered suggestions on method of operation but made no comment on whether the committee would vote. The voting question leads to a further definitional issue. Calling the committee by the name steering, which Drury [4] indicated was widely advocated in the systems literature at the time for groups concerned with MIS issues, means that steering was supposed to be inclusive of both recommending and deciding. This is logically inconsistent. These two options of harnessing available power are mutually exclusive. Steering a direction means making decisions, not making recommendations or providing guidance. Souse of the phrase steering committee as a generic term has been and still is a misnomer and the importance of deciding versus advising, first raised in Drury
[4], remains unacknowledged and untested in the subsequent literature. We attempt to redress this by proposing a model that takes this into account.

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