The initial project kick-off meeting is a key stage in helping to deliver a successful project outcome and provides an opportunity to share the plan with the team and stakeholders. However, as with the remainder of your project the meeting will only be a success if you dedicate sufficient time to actually planning to achieve a successful outcome from the meeting. Failure to prepare for this meeting will put the project at risk right from the start.
So, let’s look at the key steps in the preparation for the project kick-off meeting
Step 1: Develop the project objectives, goals and deliverables
Defining these elements will drive the decisions you must make for staffing the project and developing the project plan. Write them down and ensure there is clear alignment between your project objectives and goals and the project deliverables, if known. On occasions the deliverables will be confirmed over time as the project progresses and these should always be validated against the project goals and objectives as discussed in recent blog about Objectives and Deliverables
Step 2: Identify the project team members and their responsibilities
Team size is completely dependent on the size, complexity, and nature of the project. Ensure all your Project Stakeholders are identified so that you can agree with your team how you can develop a communication plan to manage them throughout the project.
Develop a project team contact list that includes the name, responsibility, department, physical location, phone number, fax number, and e-mail address for each member to help with the internal communication.
Step 3: Develop a project assumptions and risk list
It’s important for project team members to be aware of major assumptions that apply to the project. Clearly identify project risks and particularly highlight if the deadline is considered challenging.
Step 4: Develop the preliminary project plan
You can save a lot of time by going ahead and developing the tasks, responsibilities, and timeframes of the project plan. Going through this exercise will help you validate whether you have the right resources, identify risks, and determine the appropriate timelines for tasks and milestones.
Use whatever resources you need to help you create the initial project plan. The point here is that when you go into the kickoff meeting, you will already have a plan drafted with estimated effort, budget and a clear deadline.
Realise that the plan is not carved in stone at this point. Actually, it should never be. Up until the kickoff meeting, it is a knowledgeable draft. Once you have the team assembled and have assigned clear responsibilities, you should ask team members to validate their task responsibilities and timeframes for reasonability, completeness, and accuracy. The plan will become more established at the first project status meeting.
Step 5: Define key success factors
Every project team member needs to know what it takes to have a successful project. Take the time to define in specific terms each item that will be required for success. Validate your list with the project owner.
Step 6: Schedule the project kickoff meeting
It is important for all project team members to participate in the kickoff meeting. Send a communication to each participant with a preferred time and date and include options in case they are unavailable
Step 7: Send the kickoff meeting materials to all participants
On your designated date, send a package of meeting materials to each participant, including:
- Meeting time and date with call-in phone number
- Meeting agenda
- Project participants’ contact information
- Project plan draft
Ask each person to review the project plan carefully. Indicate that additional information will be discussed at the kickoff meeting and everyone should be familiar with his or her part of the plan. Explain that there will be a Q&A session at the meeting to answer any questions.
Step 8: Identify key issues and project dependencies
Review the project plan prior to the kickoff meeting and make notes on points that you want to make at the meeting. Pertinent items include potential bottlenecks, impact issues, risk areas, etc.
After all of your preparation, you are now ready to conduct the meeting which I will discuss in detail in my next blog.
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