Published on October 15, 2019
Read time 8 minutes
Kickoff Meeting: The Ultimate Guide to Starting Your Projects Right
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New and ongoing projects are the backbone of a business’s entire operation and a kickoff meeting constitutes a crucial element of such projects. They are the necessary progressions that cement the significance of a company in the market. So, when the stakes are this high, then you have to be vigilant when starting new projects and build a proper foundation.
You need to be vigilant because you can’t rummage through your old files and emails in the middle of the actual development phase. Everything has to be researched and planned through – long before the development process starts. This way, you can save yourself a lot of hassle and be on top of things from the very start.
Want to know about the best way to do all of the above? The answer is a project kickoff meeting and a precise agenda. Let’s take a look at what both of these are and what is their advantage.
What actually is a project kickoff meeting?
A typical kickoff meeting is an intersection of ideas. These ideas brew as a result of different meetings held between the stakeholder and a couple of people who are either directly or indirectly related to the project at hand.
The main purpose of this meeting is to target specific team members which will be perfect for the job, to be briefed on the project and all of its requirements. This helps everyone to be on the same page when development starts.
Why should you host a kickoff meeting?
The main agenda of this meeting is to lay a proper foundation for the project. This ensures that the team and the stakeholders are on the same page regarding all of the factors like
This concept of a simple meeting may seem simple because we can easily just send an email that will include all of the things that would be discussed in the meeting room, but you have to get past this urge to email everything.
Yes, we know that everyone doesn’t want to attend meetings every day and things are easily communicated by email. But some things need a personal touch and a real conversation, supported by the technology of course.
A kickoff meeting is an amazing opportunity to initialize a dialogue and envision a successful development route for a project. This eliminates the possibilities of any confusion or mismanaged expectations, that could hurt the development process down the line.
How should you prepare for your project kickoff meeting?
Well, there is no hard and fast rule for this, but there are some points that can be very beneficial if executed properly. Because well-executed project kickoff meetings help the teams to stay on track, be organized and always have a razor-sharp focus on the end goal.
Whether you are organizing a meeting with your team or stakeholders, here are four amazing ideas to consider that will help you get the most positive outcome out of your meeting.
1. Make time
Set a proper time that is feasible for everyone. With full attendance, you can thoroughly review all of the project details. You can choose your own duration, but the optimum duration of a meeting is one hour.
This is more than enough time to discuss everything on the agenda, but again, the allocated time depends on the company policy and the project complexity.
2. Invite the right people
The goal of this meeting is to not gather the whole company and discuss the policies. The goal is to have a target audience that is somehow connected to the project and has to play a role in the design and development, of the project.
If your team is of the remote type, then you can organize a meeting on Skype for the remote members but keep the physical team in a room so that the meeting should serve its definitive function.
3. Set a proper agenda
Before this meeting, you should have a proper agenda on paper. This agenda should also be shared with the team members before the meeting via email which will help you get all of the team members to write their feedback before even coming into the room. This will help you save time and unnecessary introductions.
You should also hold a Q&A session that will help the team to clear away all of the confusion in their minds about the project.
4. Assign a dedicator notetaker
A notetaker might appear to be a bit extreme. Do you think you don’t need one? Maybe that’s true. But the one thing that you absolutely don’t need is someone saying in the meeting “I don’t need to write this down”. Remember, every little thing from that meeting has importance.
Top priorities for any kickoff meeting agenda
Kickoff meetings are required for every project you will ever undergo in your career. You will likely host a few of them during a single week. So, having a proper agenda template for every single one is very important.
Why is the template necessary? Well, a template helps you organize properly coordinated efforts to cover the important and necessary topics, related to your project, with your team or stakeholders.
A templated agenda will let you get to the point quicker and you won’t have to recreate the wheel every single time you host a kickoff meeting.
A flexible agenda has these major sections:
When the agenda of a meeting is precise and effective, the team members and the stakeholders leave the room with full knowledge of all of the nitty-gritty details of the project. Let us take a closer look at all of the elements of the agenda template and their importance.
You should really start the meeting with a casual icebreaker that makes the atmosphere in the room a bit relaxed. Keep the tone relaxed but establish rapport very early on.
While this meeting is designed to give the project some alignment and a proper direction, the time you spend on building a lasting relationship with all of the team members and stakeholders will prove to be very beneficial in the long run.
The project background is something that is should be a high priority overview executed at the very start of the meeting. This history lesson should have two main parts. The first part should be the connection of the project to the past that will properly describe the historical context.
The second part should be the insight into the current pain points, where the contemporary elements of the project are compared to the historical ones and how the project should change for the better. Both of these parts help the project to be successful.
Whether your internal or external stakeholders are aware of the history or not, you should conduct this history lesson, so that all of the old and new project components can be discussed and will be understood, from the intern to the high-level management.
There is also a downside to this history lesson if you have not researched the main parts, which is that you will get stuck in rut and you’ll end up boring everyone. To make this history lesson appealing, you can make a visual representation like an infographic that will grasp the attention of the meeting attendees and convey your point effectively.
Project mission statement
The initial project documentation is generally a product feature containing all of the features and their detail, some reports about the scope of the project and its milestones or some other cringe-worthy data. A project mission statement is much simpler without any of this complexity.
The mission statement’s purpose is the company’s vision about the project and how it will shape up to be beneficial in the long run. It’s a sort of long-game scenario.
It would be a long game scenario, but your statement should be short, inspiring and articulate. If you have a stakeholder that has their own project statement, then reshape that statement and present it in the project kickoff meeting.
If you want your projects to be finished according to the pre-defined time and budget, you should rally for scope consensus. This consensus will help all of the team members to be on the same page about all of the factors and restrictions, regarding the project.
Your scope should basically have a short description with key features or functions outlined, assumptions and restraints connected to the project described, budget and timeline, and all the inclusions and exclusions in the project spread out in the open for everyone in the team to know.
When the project development commences and you manage your defined expectations or bottlenecks early on, you can easily get on top of things when you think that things are about to go south.
Always go with realistic expectations and requirements so that the team and the stakeholders don’t think that the project is too overwhelming and ultimately un-achievable.
Planning, in any project development technique, is a major part of the whole process. You don’t really need any technical drooltrain to understand what the project scope and the ultimate goal is.
Simply decide what your deliverables are and what the expected milestones can be so that your team can be prepared when there are any problems in the development phase.
Although the roles are preset while designing the project because obviously, a graphic designer won’t be writing code. But still, when the project is developing, you should handpick the employees for tasks that will be a part of the project. This will help you to maintain a proper connection with your team from the start and will help you establish clarity on “who is required to what”.
If you establish this clarity successfully, you can avoid all of the awkward and time-consuming questions from the team about who is responsible for what task.
You should decide and make the domain of all of the project activities and deliverables clear to the team. You can allocate them to a specific place in the office if you are a stickler for concentrated group efforts. Or you can have them stay connected at all times with one another by using a group messaging service like Slack or Skype.
If you are using a remote team, then you should definitely use these apps to have the team stay connected at all times and help each other during the development phase. You should also consider using a cloud-based server so that your team members can access the work done by their team members and vice versa. This drastically improves collaboration among the employees and boost morale.
It may seem pretty obvious and you might have a little Q&A session even at the start of the meeting, but you should really leave time for questions at the end of the meeting.
This helps everyone, who is present in the room, to leave with a crystal clear idea of how you are going forward with the project and what the milestones are.
You should encourage this Q&A time and ask repeatedly if your team members have any questions or not. Because some talented team members might be a bit shy to ask something very important to the project that could be immensely beneficial and that repeated push from you might be the key to get them to come out of their shell and share.
What is the next step?
Each person that is present in the room must leave with an understanding of the current situation of the project while also having the complete knowledge of everything that is about to come. You should really refine this information so that the entire team can easily understand and not waste your time with repeated or unnecessary questions.
This information should also be present on a particular shared platform that is accessible to everyone from anywhere. So that when a team member has forgotten something or they just want to recall all of the things that were discussed in the meeting, they will have ready access to it.
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