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The project steering committee, project governance and trust: insights from a practical case study

Jan Terje Karlsen (Department of Leadership and Organizational Behaviour, BI Norwegian Business School, Oslo, Norway)

Management Research Review

ISSN: 2040-8269

Article publication date: 30 December 2020

Issue publication date: 21 June 2021




Trust in how projects are managed is important because leaders have the power to make decisions that impact project outcomes. Steering committees provide strategic direction and governance for projects and they support the project manager. The purpose of this paper is to study how steering committees contribute to governance and trust. More specifically, the aim is to explore, which steering committee features and governance mechanisms are important for building trust.


Empirical data were collected using in-depth interviews. The studied case concerns the Norwegian Navy’s experience with a steering committee in the project of building new frigates.


Findings show that the steering committee had a significant impact on governance and trust in the project. The identified governance mechanisms performed by the steering committee included: control and performance measurement, support, decision-making, relationship management, reporting, resource management, risk management and strategic focus.

Research limitations/implications

Despite the limitations of studying only a single case, the findings may provide general learning, as well as important practical information and experience to managers interested in the role of the project steering committee.

Practical implications

The paper provides key managerial implications that project owners should take into account when organizing a steering committee. The analysis identifies composition, competence, authority, responsibility, commitment and continuity as steering committee features that contribute to building trust. Findings particularly highlight the choice to include external steering committee members to be successful.


This research extends the current understanding of how through different features and governance mechanisms a steering committee can build trust in the management of projects.



Karlsen, J.T. (2021), "The project steering committee, project governance and trust: insights from a practical case study", Management Research Review, Vol. 44 No. 6, pp. 926-947.



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