For most project managers the project kick off is the first real experience in meeting and interacting with key project stakeholders. An effective kick off meeting at the beginning of the project can give you the needed momentum and push you need to cross several initial hurdles and put you firmly on the steering wheel. On the other hand a poorly conducted kick off can actually undermine your authority as project manager but also confuse people about the importance of the whole initiative.
I attended a project kick off meeting recently that announced a critical client organization initiative. The kick off apparently was scheduled in a jiffy and at the end of the event many felt as if the event was intended to confirm to some internal process as spirit lacked the action. Let’s understand what a kick off is all about and why you need to make it as impactful as possible;
- Announce the start of a project
The project kick off is the official start of the project and brings the initiative in public domain. Here are some basics that you may want to take note of;
- Attendees: The attendees should include the core team, sponsor of the initiative, members of steering committee and other stakeholder.
- Project Overview: Since the objective is to bring everyone on the same page, you don’t need to drill down to the specifics of the project but a concise and clear project overview is necessary.
- Project Org: If possible share the project organization chart and escalation chain as a chart/diagram is easier to comprehend than spoken words.
- Team introduction: Introduce the members to the group and their respective roles and skill sets they bring to the project.
- Implementation processes: you may want to briefly touch upon the implementation process to be followed per agreement.
- Scope and exclusions: It is pertinent to touch upon the scope and out of scope items from the project perspective.
- Set forth the objective and success criteria
- Client perspective: Emphasize on what the organization wishes to achieve & how the project outcome would benefit the sponsoring organization during the project overview.
- Outline benefits: This could be tangibles such as increased sales by 20% over next 3 years, a new product line or intangibles like better customer satisfaction ratings.
- Quantify: If you can quantify the objectives, it would have more impact and understanding. You must ensure that you are in control and everyone sees you that way!
- Set clear expectations from support teams
There aren’t many projects where core team is doing everything that needs to be done. Apparently the effort is team based where teams interact and depend on each other shape the project product. Hence it is imperative that you:
- Set the right expectations and accountabilities of these teams
- Deliverables where you expect them to play key role.
- Share at least the key project milestones & deliverables
You may want to document this in your meeting minutes to seal it. Kickoff is a perfect time to provide these teams much needed heads up.