Why steering committees fail to engage (and 5 ways to hold them accountable)

There are some common reasons why a transformation steering committee may fail to engage—from a lack of motivation to a bias toward inaction, Here's how transformation leaders can overcome those blockers.

A group of business leaders / board members surrounded by question marks.
FangXiaNuo / Melpomenem / Getty Images

On a recent engagement, I was asked by the transformation executive to review a report he had provided to his steering committee.  My immediate reaction was, "Where is the ask?"  He looked at me a bit puzzled and asked, "What do you mean?"   From there we got into a great conversation regarding the purpose and intent of transformational steering teams.  After getting off the Zoom call I immediately jotted down my notes figuring the conversation may be valuable to a much larger group.  

In a recent CIO article, I wrote about what transformational leadership looks like. One of the innate characteristics of a great transformation leader is the ability to flex and leverage the power of their steering committees. However, most leaders fail to ability to hold steering committees to account.

Why steering teams fail to engage

Inherently, most transformation steering committees include the top C-level executives.  These are the leaders of the organization, and while they may be assigned to guide and sponsor the transformation leader, there are three reasons why they may fall short.   

Misaligned motivation. Steering committees are formed by individuals who came to power in a system that exists today, so what is their motivation to drive change?  This potential motivational blocker requires that the transformational leader take steps to ensure that each member of the steering team has a foundational understanding of the case for change and board-level visibility of the role they play.  No transformational program should move forward unless this foundation is in place.  

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