5 Items for a Superior SteerCo Meeting Agenda

SteerCo Meeting Agenda

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In this guide, we will explain the SteerCo meeting agenda: what it is, what it contains, and how to draft one. As we will see, there is no “one right way” to create a SteerCo meeting agenda, but rather many different options to adapt to the situation. To give you this insight, I draw directly from my experience in participating and running enterprise-grade SteerCo as a consultant.

What is a SteerCo Meeting?

Before we dive into the SteerCo meeting agenda, we should ensure we are on the same page regarding what a SteerCo meeting is. “SteerCo” is a portmanteau, or – to say it in plain English – a fusion of two words: Steering and Committee. In fact, SteerCo is just the abbreviation for Steering Committee.

A Steering Committee is a group of people, generally high-ranking executives and directors, who have the ability to steer a project. We call it steering committee because these people steer the project in the same way a captain would steer a large ship.

Imagine for a second a large container ship, weighting thousands of tons. On board, you find complex systems – the navigation system, multiple engines, the rudder, the propellers and so on. The captain will do a simple movement: slightly turn the helm. This simple movement will ensure that all the other systems in the boat work together to let the boat turn in the desired direction.

Directors in a Steering Committee do the same, but they steer a project and not a ship. Rather than redirecting the machines’ efforts, they direct and channel – they steer – the efforts of the people working on the project in their preferred direction.

Having said that, a SteerCo meeting is simply a meeting of the Steering Committee members. Here, the project manager will present the project in its current status, and members will react to that information and maybe give a little turn to the helm.

The SteerCo Meeting Agenda

SteerCo meetings can make or break a project. In fact, the decision to kill a project is often taken at SteerCo level. Hence, there is some formality involved at this level to ensure the project is pursued in the correct way, and only as long as it is worth it to the company.

In this section, we will see the items that a SteerCo meeting agenda must absolutely include. With this information, you can create your presentation for a steering committee.

1. Background (Where we are & Where we are going)

In the mid-2000s “Lost” was a cult TV series, that also shaped subsequent productions. One thing that most other productions adopted was that every episode started with “Previously on Lost”, and a quick footage from the previous episode. The purpose of this was to refresh the visitor about the (complex) plot, so that he could follow the episode more easily.

In case you want to see “Previously on Lost” for all episodes of all easons, we got you covered. If you haven’t watch Lost just yet, this is basically the biggest spoiler you could ever watch. Beware!

You should do the very same for a SteerCo. Hence, the first point in your SteerCo meeting agenda should be a quick slide on the background of the project: what was completed so far, and what is the goal of the project or its completion criteria.

In this background, you should not focus about delays or early advancements in the project, nor on threats or opportunities. Your goal here is just to give everyone the tools to understand the rest of the presentation, and as such you should spend only the minimum time necessary on this part.

Unlike Lost, with an episode per week, SteerCo meetings tend to append quarterly (only four per year), and they definitely do not involve the average couch potato: directors are busy and have many different projects on their plate. This is why a refresher at the beginning is crucial.

Imagine a project where you want to replace the company logo in all company’s stores. An idea for a background could be “we are targeting to use the new logo in all the stores, in quarter 1 we covered 50 stores, in quarter 2 we covered 48 stores, now we plan to do 52 stores in Q3 and 50 in Q4 to complete the project by year end”.

2. Status & Attention Points

Leverage all the attention you have while you still have it. Directors are busy, they could jump off to the next call before the meeting ends, or they may simply start to think about something else. The attention they give you is precious if you want your project to be successful, so do not waste it.

Percent Complete is a common measure you want to report as status in the SteerCo Meeting Agenda
Often, all that people care about is Percent Complete (% Complete).

As soon as you covered the background, everyone is now in the position to understand the rest of the presentation. Here, the key is presentation. It is not a movie, or a best-seller book. Your job is not to get the “reader” hooked until the last page, but to get things done with support from directors where you need it. So, never “save the best for last”. Go straight to the point, with the current status and attention point.

Here people generally love percentage point. An enormously complex project and all its challenged can be summed into one simple number: the completion percentage. Prepare this number, and be ready to give a drill-down. For example, if your project is rolled out geographically, you want to know the completion percentage of each region (e.g., North America, China etc.), not only the global.

This is probably the part of the meeting when everyone will put most of the attention. So, this is where you want to insert your attention points.

3. Attention Points

This is the most crucial part, the part that can make or break your project. Every SteerCo meeting agenda should include some attention point, and the correct place in your presentation is together with the status. Even if attention points are together with the status in the presentation, in this guide they deserve their special chapter because they are just so crucial.

RAG - Red Amber Green - is a common status color coding to use in a SteerCo meeting agenda, it resembles a traffic light like the one in the picture
RAG – Red Amber Green – is a common color coding technique for attention points

Attention points are items where you specifically want the attention of the directors. Typically, you want the attention on these points to convey one of the following messages:

  1. Hey directors, be aware of this that could turn out to be a problem
  2. Hey directors, something needs to be done here because things are already going south / because if we do we are able to accelerate or capitalize on a new opportunity

You do not want to overload directors with attention points, you should be able to count them on just one hand. This does not mean you cannot have more: it just means that if you do, either you can group them, or you are not running the project so well after all.

Here, it is common to use color-coding, one of which is the RAG status – red, amber, green. Attention points are for things that are red (we already have an impact on the project), or amber (if things continue in this way, we will have an impact on the project). Of course, both red and amber indicate negative impacts on the project, like cost overruns or delays. The only green attention point you want to highlight is when you have a new opportunity you can try to seize.

The important rule: warn early and often. You do not want to keep a potential problem for yourself and then slap it in red the next time. Rather, start early and use the powerful tool that is amber to discuss potential problems. You can sense how much directors care about each and focus your efforts accordingly.

4. Actual vs Plan

Now that you addressed the attention points, you can drill-down in the “actual vs plan” section of your SteerCo meeting agenda. Here, you simply present how things are going compared to the original plan.

In a SteerCo Meeting Agenda, you want to include a comparison between how things are going and how they were planned to go
In this case, we have a little delay compared to the baseline.

In the SteerCo meeting agenda, you want to put it after your attention points to justify the status and attention points, providing more information where needed. Here, prepare a minimal presentation as people do not want to be bogged down into details, but be prepared to answer very specific questions about details. True, people do not want all the detail, but everyone will want to know one detail or two of their interest.

Of course, there is no golden rule on what to include in this section of the SteerCo meeting agenda. Yet, people tend to care about two key aspects of project management schedule and costs. So, you may want to present if we are on a timeline or not, and where are the delays, and if we are respecting the budget.

Let me it once more: what to include here depends. Sometimes, you run a project in your department, and you do not want to disclose detailed economics with other departments. Other times, and other organizational cultures, and you want to share costs up to the penny with everyone. In the former, it is probably safer to go with just the schedule. What to include depends on your organization, what SteerCo meeting wants to see, and most importantly company’s culture. If you were to do by the book anyway, you would include both schedule and costs.

5. Next Steps

This is the last part of the SteerCo meeting agenda. At this point, the meeting is wrapping up, but you don’t want it to end like a university party when everyone goes away somewhat drunk only to forget the right next day. You want to be crisp clear on what happens next.

Next steps unfold in two parts: what will happen next in the project, and what you expect other people would do. As you have directors and executives in your meeting, generally controlling a whole department or function, you want to be clear on what is expected from each department.

Be succinct – include next steps only when you need something to be done from a specific department.

Each next step should have a clear description on what needs to be done, by when it needs to be completed, and who will complete it. To use project management terms, who is responsible for that next step, the person who will do the job (or, most likely, direct her function to do it). These are the basics, project management 101. If you want to be bold, you can include something more: why. Add a quick note on why the task must be completed, why it is important, or why failing to do so can impact the project. With a why, engagement tends to improve.

ItemOwnerDue
Involve store managers. Why: top-down commitment will ensure store managers approach the project with the right mindset.JohnJan 15th
Provide concerns from logistics. Why: even if this project does not directly impact logistics, it is important to include their feedback to avoid having a negative impact.JaneMar 1st
Publish success story in the employee portal. Why: consolidate results of the project and ensure they will be maintained over time, cementing the benefits for the company.JudeFeb 15th
An example of next-steps that you can use.

Some Tips for your SteerCo Meeting Agenda

Now you know what the SteerCo meeting agenda should include. Yet, knowing the content of the agenda is not enough to create a killer presentation. There are some other tips that are crucial to make a successful presentation.

1. No Surprises

Who doesn’t like surprises? Directors in a SteerCo, particularly if surprises are bad or if they appear to cast blame on their department. Beware, you should never cast blame – not just in SteerCo meetings, but in general. Yet, there are times when things did not get done because support from a function was totally absent.

Problems like that should surface at the SteerCo meeting, but they should never surface for the first time at the SteerCo meeting. Instead, if you have problems start from where the problem is in the organization, and gently work your way up until you get the support you need. Most likely, you will never reach the director or executive in that way, because his reports will realize the problem and act.

Do this gentle escalation well before the SteerCo, and document it well. If this escalation fails, anticipate to the people subject of the escalation that this point will be raised in the SteerCo in amber (or red), and document also that in writing. Anticipate to them what is the action you will ask on their side at the SteerCo meeting, so that they know the SteerCo meeting agenda in advance. Even if they promise to get it done later, bring it to the SteerCo by noting their commitment.

As my director told me a few times:

You must be the one speaking, everyone else must just nod.

To pull this off, you will need to inform all stakeholders before the meeting, so that they have no surprise and they can just nod.

2. Share the SteerCo meeting agenda in advance

These are the basics of running proficient meetings, not just for SteerCo. So, start by fixing a slot for the meeting well in advance – generally between 1 month and 2 weeks in advance, so that you can find a slot when all directors (or most) are available.

When fixing the slot, put an explanatory meeting invitation reminding them about the project. Here, I see many fellow project managers copy-and-pasting a few bullet points as an agenda in the meeting. Since all SteerCo meetings follow the same structure, these points will always be the same: that type of invitation does not add anything for the invitee, so I prefer not doing so.

Rather, my suggestion is to state that the slides for the presentation will soon follow. You don’t want your send your slides one month before, because then during the meeting will be already too old. Yet, you do not want to send them just the day before. Instead, I’d rather set the meeting well in advance and share the slides reasonably in advance so that everyone can prepare.

What “reasonably in advance” means depends on the company’s culture. In my experience, 7 calendars days is reasonable. Do not be afraid to update the slides after you send them. As long as you keep the structure the same, you can do slight adjustments – particularly to the status. If the status changes in the 7 days between sharing and running the presentation, you can run the same presentation updating the percentage points. Just be transparent about it.

3. Write it down

This tip is not strictly related to the SteerCo meeting agenda, but more to the SteerCo meeting in general. After the meeting, follow up with the meeting minutes, or notes. Here, it is nice to highlight the next steps.

One remark I want to make here: minutes are useful only if someone reads them at some point. So, try to keep it simple and highlight the key points. Here, there are two schools of thought. According to one, the slides should help the presenter have a discussion, having little or no text in them. With this approach, you then must follow up with an extensive meeting minutes to detail everything that was said – or even record the call, in case of a virtual meeting.

With this approach, having someone to write down notes during the meeting always pays. Someone from KPMG, Deloitte, EY, or PwC will be happy to do so so.

The other approach states that slides should stand by themselves, so that they can easily circulate across the organization. With this mindset, the presenter is optional and just facilitates the delivery of the message. Hence, here the meeting notes are almost superfluous – you can just share the slides and maybe highlight the key next steps you want people to do.

Most likely, the real scenario you will face will be somewhere in the middle.

Conclusion

In this guide, we covered everything you need to know about a SteerCo meeting agenda, including the 5 must-have items to include. What you find in this guide is what I found helpful in my experience to speak with high-ranking corporate staff, and I hope it can help you as well in running proficient meetings.

To sum it up, enable the participants to the SteerCo to understand the presentation, be clear on what you want them to do, and then dive into a drill-down. Do your homework and put everyone in the place to do theirs before the meeting. If you follow these practices, I am confident your projects will succeed!

If you are interested in succeeding and making your points at a high level in the organization, I can recommend you to learn more about referent power. That is another powerful tool that can help your information to spread across the organization.

Picture of Alessandro Maggio

Alessandro Maggio

Project manager, critical-thinker, passionate about networking & coding. I believe that time is the most precious resource we have, and that technology can help us not to waste it. I founded ICTShore.com with the same principle: I share what I learn so that you get value from it faster than I did.
Picture of Alessandro Maggio

Alessandro Maggio

Project manager, critical-thinker, passionate about networking & coding. I believe that time is the most precious resource we have, and that technology can help us not to waste it. I founded ICTShore.com with the same principle: I share what I learn so that you get value from it faster than I did.

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Alessandro Maggio

2021-03-12T16:30:00+00:00

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