Sometimes projects don’t go through an organised sequence of planning and execution and before you know it team members and stakeholders have varying levels of understanding about the purpose and scope of the project.
To prevent this scenario, it is key to hold a kickoff meeting for a new project which will provide you the best opportunity to energise the group and establish a common purpose toward completing the work.
I’ve found that a great kickoff is the result of good planning as described in a recent blog – An Effective Project Kick-off Meeting Needs Preparation So take advantage of the opportunity an effective kickoff meeting gives you as it can make a big difference in the success of your next project.
As in any effective meeting, participants are better off when they have a clear understanding of how it will progress. To better help team members prepare, I use the following basic agenda for most of my project kickoff meetings:
The key to a successful project kick-off meeting is to maintain flow and avoid wasting time recognising that everyone is probably already really busy in their normal day job and you’re potentially giving them more work. Try to be personable and have fun; everyone will enjoy participating more if you take this approach.
The Kick-off Meeting
As you will have competed all the preparation it would be expected for you to take charge of the meeting and welcome all participants. Briefly explain that you’ll walk everyone through the agenda and material and that you’ll leave time for questions at the end.
Define the project, its purpose, and expected goals and deliverables. Introduce the project stakeholders and briefly discuss the role of each. The kickoff is intended to bring everyone up to speed, not to discuss every item in detail.
Now that you’ve set the tone, discuss the project assumptions that set the stage for how you developed the plan.
Go over the general approach and timeline of the project to give the team members a sense for how the project will progress.
Explain and reinforce to everyone that this is a “first cut” and that the important thing to do is verify that the tasks are comprehensive, assigned appropriately, and have reasonable time frames.
The time to modify the plan is before the next meeting. Explain that the project plan becomes the foundation for status meetings and is used as the primary communication vehicle for managing the project. As you step through each task, point out key dependencies or factors you noted in preparing for the meeting that impact the completion of the task.
By walking the team through the plan, you’ll be able to point out tasks that are potential bottlenecks in completing the project. Keep your discussion to the point. Don’t get bogged down, but take the opportunity to help staff members anticipate problems. Reinforce key success factors and explain why they are important.
Discuss the project management procedures since it is important for everyone to understand how you will manage schedule, issues, scope and risk since many people have a role to play in these procedures.
You will need to define a process to surface scope change requests, to determine their impact and bring them forward for approval. Establish a timeline and team member expectations or project status meetings. Reinforce the need for everyone to maintain up to date reporting on their task status.
Empower team members to own their responsibilities and to ask for help. Repeat that you expect everyone to attend project status meetings prepared and with all tasks completed, unless you know well ahead of time that there are obstacles. Part of your project management job is to help the team identify bottlenecks and to eliminate obstacles.
Explain the communication plan and how you will be communicating and maintaining status. Discuss your plan to share information and updates with the group and all project stakeholders
Emphasise the need to communicate anything that team members see that might affect the project. Ensure you leave ample time to open up the meeting for questions and answers.
Following the meeting ensure you summarise the meeting with a call for action and list outstanding items that require immediate follow-up.
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