Why have a Project Kick-Off meeting? It's just another unnecessary meeting...or is it?


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What can you get from this essential activity?

I have posted previously that starting a project can be overwhelming and set out my tips for overcoming this concern (See https://bit.ly/3hHNeUW).

The Kick-Off meeting is your chance, as project lead, to start to form the project team and set out and improve, the vision and method to successfully deliver the project.

Using the facts you have gathered in your draft Project Management Plan, communicate what the project is and its background, what the aims and measurements of success are and what the project’s scope is. Provide a high-level Plan on a Page timeline with milestones but at this stage do not expect to have a detailed task list. You will have identified key roles and responsibilities, and again these may be added to at the Kick-Off meeting and as the project develops.

Tip 1: This is the opportunity to test you understanding of the project and start to develop how it will be delivered. Expect there to be feedback, ideas, challenges, and possibly some friction during this session. You are outlining and seeking a commitment from people, and there will be some differences of opinion.

I love this session entirely for this environment. Respect others’ views and recognise that you won’t always have the right answer. Be prepared to accommodate. Use it to see who is truly engaged. Identify your lieutenants and see who you need to coach along the journey. Most of all make sure you acknowledge all input and do not dismiss contributions; however unimportant they may seem at the time.

Often you will read that the Kick-Off meeting should include a well-developed plan. I would argue that in my experience this assumes the team can not add value to the development of the project, are merely employed hands and do not need to be consulted.

Tip 2: I firmly believe you need to involve the team to get the best plan and “buy in” to it. Kick off is the chance to start that two-way discussion. The risk here is to your leadership if it becomes a talking shop, so, as stated above, listen, and take action on suggestions and be prepared to say “No” and give good reason if you do not go with a suggestion. I have found delegating an issue to a team member, to lead an issue resolution, is a great way to get teams forming quickly.

Allow enough time for the Kick-Off but do not let it drag on for hours. Be concise, allow time to present the facts and allow comment. Present, listen, learn, summarise, and act.

Tip 3: I tend to avoid deep discussion on points of contention and seek to address these in smaller, interested groups outside the Kick-Off. This way it helps me to build the project plan, add to the project management plan and get all the help I need to build a concerted team effort.

Tip 4: And this one is the hardest to deliver but remember, your preparatory plans may fail at first encounter. Do not be disheartened as this is a positive step in a project and your leadership will benefit from being able to learn, adapt and change to meet the challenge while supporting your team. You took the first and most important move by putting something in writing for others to improve and build on.

Finally, remember to arrange coffee, biscuits, cake, sandwiches to sustain the meeting.

Tip 5: If your meetings are more appealing you may just be selected in preference to others!

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