Steering Group and Working Group are the two most important forums on projects and play a key part in enabling the project to achieve its objectives. The structure and objectives of each should be clearly stated upfront and agreed to ensure they provide the expected benefits. (Read our top tips on Steering Group here)
When initiating the project, it is crucial the right level of consideration is given to the governance structure and the forums set up to support it (Read our top tips on project governance and controls here)
What is Working Group?
A working group, (sometimes referred to as working party) is a group of key project stakeholders and subject matter experts (SMEs), who work together to achieve specified common goals and deliverables. Ultimately, they enable a project to progress and succeed.
What do they do?
Generally, the purpose of Working Group is to input and produce content, complete the tasks in the plan, raise risks and issues and escalate where necessary. It supports day to day management of the project to ensure it remains on schedule and any issues or blockers can be resolved quickly to enable the project to move forwards.
How do they work?
The Working Group feeds into the Steering Group, to whom it can escalate any blockers and issues but also requests for decisions, change and approvals. It also provides the Working Group with a steer and direction.
To ensure your Working Group is fit for purpose and helps you achieve your project objectives, you need to engage the right people and set clear objectives upfront.
Working Group usually consists of the key project resources: Project Manager, Business Analyst, Developer, Architect and Business Subject Matter Experts (SMEs). SMEs act as advocates for their business areas, provide SME input into the project and ultimately help the project to achieve its objectives.
Terms of Reference is a document that identifies individuals responsible for the input, sets ways of working for the forum and defines roles and responsibilities of the key stakeholders. It sets the terms under which the forum will operate.
Some SMEs may be working on the project for the first time, so it is important they understand their role and how things fit together.
We’ve summarised some of our top tips on organising the Working Group, to help you towards achieving a more successful delivery.
- Goal – Be clear what the working group purpose is and structure the forum accordingly so that it meets your project needs.
- Terms of Reference – Document the members of your Working Group, what is the purpose, identify standing agenda items and the frequency of the meeting. Clearly define roles and responsibilities of the key stakeholders so that everyone understands their role and expectations of them. As a project manager you are likely to draft the document, ensure it is reviewed and agreed with the group and the sponsor as ultimately, they remain accountable for the project.
- Members – Ensure the people involved have the right level of knowledge in their field but also are empowered to make decisions (or can reach the decisions in a timely manner) in respect to their business area / area of expertise. This will help the project move smoothly and stay on track.
- Structure – It may vary depending on the type of project. Some projects will have representatives from many areas across the business and will meet on less frequent basis as deliverables don’t rely on frequent reviews and decisions for example. On the other hand, for other projects, frequent discussions including relevant parties and timely decisions will be critical to stay on plan. This may also vary throughout the project lifecycle. Tailor the structure to meet project needs. Ensure it adds value.
- Communication – keep the group up to date on the overall progress of the project – how it tracks against the plan, what is being done about any risks, issues, and blockers. Whilst individuals may be heavily involved in work on specific deliverables, they may not fully appreciate the plan and dependencies between each part. It will help to keep everyone engaged.
- Collaboration – tailor the working group to fit the project. There may be a need for numerous more detailed meetings where the specifics are being discussed and progressed i.e. daily stand ups. Ensure the update and level of details are suitable for your group.
- Plan – set the Working Group meetings in advance. A regular schedule (weekly or fortnightly meetings are common to start with) and planning ensures you get maximum value from the meeting. It supports the attendance and the input and output from the session.
- Actions and Decisions – record and review actions and decisions from each meeting. This can be done by taking minutes or by keeping an actions and decisions log. Use it to record and track the progress of actions outside of the meetings. Ensure you update it after each meeting and clearly communicate the owners and expectation for completion. The log or summary of the items recorded can then be used in each meeting to review the progress of open actions and agree next steps.
- Risks and Issues – record and review risks and issues regularly. Project RAID log will help you to manage them at project level. Ensure that any material risks raised in the Working Group are fed back to the Steering Group and any issues that cannot be resolved by the Working Group are also escalated to the Steering Group so that they can be addressed in a timely manner.
The importance of Working Groups on project should not be underestimated. It forms an essential part of a project governance structure and along with the Steering Group, contributes to the overall project’s success.
Your Working Group will enable the work on your project to progress. If the members are appropriately selected and engaged, they will ultimately enable the project to succeed.
If you’d like to know more about how we can help guide you through setting up and running your projects with the right level of governance, controls in place and implementing best practice please get in touch with us via email@example.com