The successful execution of any project always begins with an excellent project kickoff meeting. This is not to say that kickoff meetings are an absolute determinant for the success of every project but it certainly does go a long way in anticipating and preparing for any hurdles that could come up along the way.
As a project manager, you will, therefore, want to ensure that you are well prepared for it because it will set the tempo for how the rest of the project would go.
What is a kickoff meeting?
A kickoff meeting is like a first date, where both parties get to know more about each other; their likes and dislikes, their dreams and life’s goals, etc. In this case, it simply means the initial coming together of all project stakeholders to discuss the project strategy.
This could mean a meeting amongst the top level management, the client and the project manager or it could mean a meeting between a project manager and members of the project team.
Who attends the meeting largely depends on the size of the project but whatever the case, it’s a classic project management tool that ensures that all parties involved in the execution of the projection, come together to discuss strategy, gain authorization for certain areas and generally get an in-depth feel for what the project would entail. This meeting formally indicates the start of the project.
Kick off meetings for project management are pertinent for several reasons:
- They set the tempo of the project.
- They determine how motivated and committed members of the project will be to the successful execution of the project.
- They help anticipate future hurdles.
- This is where members of the team fully understand their individual roles in the project.
- It ensures that there are no mis-communications amongst parties and all ambiguity is eliminated.
To successfully lead a kickoff meeting, a kickoff plan is necessary; this helps any project manager stay organized, it substantiates a project manager’s leadership and fosters integration of members into their individual roles. Below, are a few tips to help project managers design a solid kickoff plan that will subsequently ensure a great kickoff meeting.
1. Setting the Agenda
This part usually covers areas such as: general introductions, what the purpose or vision of the project is, goals and deliverables, the project plan, key success factors, collaborative tools that would be employed, role assignments and clarifications, frequency of status meetings and a session for questions and answers. This should come in a printed format and distributed to each participant before the start of the meeting to ensure everyone remains on the same page at all times.
2. Commencing the Meeting
At this point, the project manager should take charge of the meeting by welcoming all the participants. This should be followed by a round of self-introductions after which, the project manager would give a brief walk-through of the agenda. This will be followed by a definition of the project, highlighting the goals and deliverables, introduction of the individual project roles and explanation of why those roles came to be.
3. Visioning and Project Analysis
At this stage, you would want to discuss the premise of the project; this is important at a project kickoff meeting because it establishes the importance of the project. Here, the project manager would be expected to discuss goals and deliverables, examine the individual tasks and ascertain that they are indeed feasible, discuss project time lines, analyse constraints, discussion of project requirements. In all this, it is important to clarify to everyone that this is more or less, a first draft of the project plan and that subsequent modifications would be the responsibility of everyone involved in the project.
4. Establishment of project standards
In this section it is important to set standards as to what actually constitutes a finished task, reiterate the importance of teamwork, decide on guidelines for task reporting and agree on the frequency of report submissions and status update meetings. This section could also include policies and procedures for information protection as well.
5. Establishing communication standards
The importance of communication cannot be overlooked if a project is to be carried out successfully. The kickoff meeting should establish standards for all aspects of communication for the project. This should include procedures for horizontal and vertical communication channels, file locations and information distribution channels, minutes of meetings, documented list of contacts, and an issues list.
6. Question and answer session
Towards the tail-end of the kickoff meeting, you want to provide opportunities for questions and answers. Encourage people to do this because it helps clarify any issues that were not clear during your presentation, ultimately ensuring that everyone is on the same page.
7. The summary
Finally, you want to go through everything that’s been discussed by highlighting all the important issues that were brought up for discussion. Confirm that all the new items brought up, have clear defined action plans and then confirm that everyone is in agreement of time, date and venue for the next meeting.
Try to keep the entire kickoff meeting as brief but exciting as possible. A boring kickoff meeting may fail to elicit active participation and commitment from team members. Project managers therefore have the responsibility of ensuring that the project kickoff meeting is lively, brief but impactful.
You want to make sure that team members are sufficiently motivated to deliver excellently well on the roles assigned to them.
Have any advice or tips from past successful project kickoff meetings? Let us know; we’d love to hear your experience!