The project life cycle involves several meetings with stakeholders and different parties. The main agendas revolve around issues related to the project, such as the project status, plans, deliverables, and possible changes.
All these meetings have their significance. However, one stands out-the kickoff meeting. In this article, we will look at what project kickoff meetings are, their purposes, when they take place, and any other information you may want to know.
What is a Project Kickoff Meeting?
The project kickoff meeting is the first meeting held by the project stakeholders when flagging a new project or unveiling a new phase. It is usually attended by high-level stakeholders such as the management, project sponsor, project manager, and a few team members.
The inclusion of the team members is to encourage the voicing of opinions. Project kickoff meetings can also occur within the project team and usually involves the project manager and the team members. When conducted between the project team, its primary essence is to allow the project managers to outline the common goals and encourage team building.
A kickoff meeting can act as a tool for motivating the team members to meet the project objectives. It prepares the team members and the client teams on expectations, communication, and project collaboration.
When Does a Project Kickoff Meeting Take Place?
The kickoff meeting takes place at different times in large and small projects. It usually occurs immediately after the initiation phase and is generally attended by all the project team members.
This is usually an opportunity for the team members to get to know each other since they will be meeting for the first time. Generally, smaller projects require only one kickoff meeting. Larger projects have a different approach.
Kickoff meetings for larger projects are normally conducted when the planning is complete and the project is on the verge of execution. Remember that most of these projects have several phases, which may call for kickoff meetings at the beginning of every stage.
Other situations also call for virtual kickoff meetings. If the project is spread across a large geographical area, it would be advisable for the team members to communicate over the internet to save time and money.
What is the Purpose of a Kickoff Meeting?
Every project kickoff meeting must have a purpose. This may differ from meeting to meeting depending on the unique needs of the given project and the project stakeholders. However, project meetings also have an overarching purpose: to set the pace for the project and lay down the framework.
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The kickoff meeting plays a vital role in the project management lifecycle and the project initiation process. It gets the project off the ground and officially opens up the project work. The kickoff meeting also acts as a jumping off point for the project team and client team.
Other purposes include:
- Introducing Team Members
Most project team members will be meeting for the first time during the project kickoff meeting. It serves as an opportunity for the stakeholders and team members to interact and know about one another.
- It allows agreeing to work together efficiently.
The best way of agreeing on how to work on a project is through a joint session. Project kickoff meetings bring together project team members and other stakeholders, allowing them to decide how they will work together to realize given project objectives.
Such agreements ensure that once the project kicks off, it will move on efficiently, and any other hiccup can be solved.
- Creating a mutual understanding
Project kickoff meetings help create a mutual understanding of what a successful project resembles, giving the project team members an idea of what to work for. Every project has its parameters of measuring success, which will be laid down during the meeting.
This meeting can also be used to create a shared understanding of the project background so that the stakeholders and team members deeply understand whatever they are working on. Knowing the project background can also act as a motivating factor.
It offers a chance to get the team, key stakeholders, and the project sponsors on the same page to efficiently execute the projects. It also serves as an opportunity for the agency tasked with delivering the project to get crucial information for the project’s success.
If there is a client involved, the project kickoff meeting can be a chance to instill confidence in the client and reassure them that they have made the best decision in choosing you and your project team. It works for different parties.
Closely related to the purpose of the project kickoff meeting are the objectives. Let’s take a look at these:
Project Kickoff Meeting Objectives
The objectives of the project kickoff meeting are dependent on the project. However, some cut across different projects. Here are some of the specific items that should be done in the project kickoff meeting:
- Agreeing on the project goals and purpose.
The project team members and stakeholders should have a sit-down and agree on the project’s goals and purposes. These should be clearly outlined to help all the parties involved understand what they are working towards.
- Setting groundwork for communication
During the meeting, the leader or project chairman should set the tone for clear communication and teamwork for the entire project duration. This will help in the efficient execution of the project objectives, allowing the team to meet the set timetable.
- Establishing roles and responsibilities
On normal occasions, the project kickoff meeting brings together the project team members for the first time. Therefore, no one should leave the conference without knowing the team’s roles and responsibilities. Everyone should know what is expected of him/ her during the onset of the project.
- Setting deadlines and deliverables
The meeting should be used to set the project timeline, deliverables, and the status update and frequency. Remember, these are things that must be decided on before the real work begins, and there is no better time to do that than during the project kickoff.
However, it is worth noting that all these may shift during the progression of the project. Therefore, the kickoff meeting should help come up with a baseline for forward propulsion. During the meeting, parties should also discuss the detailed aspects of the project.
Some of the issues to cover include the methodology and the scope of the project. A successful meeting should set the pace and tone for the rest of the project. Therefore, leaders and organizers should ensure that it is done right since it can determine a given project’s success.
How to Conduct a Successful Project Kickoff Meeting
Now that you know the importance of the project kickoff meeting, you should always strive to get it right if you are the project manager or the organizer. The proceedings can either ensure that a given project will be successful or not.
On many occasions, large projects have both internal and external kickoff meetings. The former involves the team members and the management, with its main aim being creating an understanding of the project. The team members are prepared for meeting the client and prevented from making unnecessary inquiries.
The external kickoff meeting takes place once the internal one is done. Here, one gets to understand what is expected in a given project, clear any doubts they may be holding on to, and understand the project’s process.
These are the steps you can follow to conduct a successful kickoff meeting:
- Set the agenda
This is the first thing to consider when organizing such a meeting. The issues to be discussed should be decided on beforehand. While setting the agenda, be sure to include an introductory session. You should introduce the project, its objectives, milestones, assumptions, challenges, and have a question-answer session at the end of the presentation.
Also, ensure that you use presentations to explain your reasoning. The agenda should be sent to the attendees before the meeting is conducted for preparation and active contribution.
- Conducting the meeting
When conducting the meeting, you need to introduce yourself and ask the other attendees to do the same. Once everyone has talked, tender the agenda, explain the meeting objectives, and discuss what needs to be addressed in the meeting.
After that, you can explain the project, its objectives, a brief of the project, and every team member’s roles and responsibilities. You should also discuss the communication and reporting system to be used for the entire project duration. This can cover how to communicate with the stakeholders. Also, set the agenda to be discussed with the client and have a Q& A session.
While conducting the meeting, ensure that you explain the project charter and what it contains. Make sure that you set the expectations such as the leave procedures, work assignments, and even rotation.
Remember to discuss the critical stakeholders, their needs, and roles in the execution of the project. While on this, explain the communication and reporting system. You can specify the communication frequency and the report formats.
The final topic to cover during the meeting is the project. Explain the project to the attendees, its business needs, and why the client and the company need it. It would help if you invited the client when covering this part to make it more personal. However, make sure that the client knows in advance to prevent awkward moments.
You can also discuss any critical risks and challenges that the project may face once it is on track and how to overcome them.
- Close the meeting
A successful meeting does not end at the presentation part. The final piece, which is closing the meeting, should be done in a particular way. End the court meeting with a question-and-answer session and encourage the attendees to clear any doubt.
Also, thank the participants for coming and encourage them to reach out if they need any clarification on the project. Remember that you should prepare the meeting minutes when the meeting ends and send them to the participants and other members who could not attend the meeting.
Project Kickoff Meeting Agenda
One of the main reasons why most project kickoff meetings do not yield any success is that the organizers fail to get the agenda right. To help you come up with good agendas for your session, we have included a few notes for you:
- Introductions– The agenda should give each member time to introduce themselves and outline their role in the project. Also, remember to include a quick icebreaker to get everyone talking.
- Project Background: The agenda should include time for discussing how the project sits with the client’s high-level business strategy. This can also include any other relevant project.
- Briefing: This should be the third thing on your agenda. It should cover the project details, purpose, goals, and the problem that the project aims to address.
- Project success: This agenda deals with what makes a successful project, success measurements, key metrics, and other business parameters.
- Project management: This agenda deals with project management topics such as the plan, timelines, tasks and deliverables, methodology, risks, dependencies, reporting, and other information.
- Any other business: The AOB in the agenda deals with any different relevant topic that can be discussed. It would be best to allow the client’s team to talk about anything that they need to cover in the meeting.
- Next steps: One of the agendas should be discussing the next steps and action items for the different teams and stakeholders.
The points to be discussed in the meeting should be clear enough and communicated before to save time and ensure project efficiency. The agenda should also be broken down to enhance easier understanding. Attendees should not ask for clarifications of the agenda.
Project Kickoff Meetings Best Practices
Here are some of the practices that will ensure that your project kickoff meeting is successful:
- Sticking to your agenda
An agenda is the most critical tool to keeping any meeting on track. It is more of a creative brief for creative projects. Therefore, to lead a successful discussion, ensure that you develop an agenda and stick to it.
The meeting serves as an opportunity to bring everyone together and on the same page about the project. It can be quite tempting to deviate and focus on trivial issues, which may eat into the meeting time, throwing everything off track.
Therefore, ensure that you stay high-level and ignore the trivial issues. The participants or project manager should stick to the meeting’s main goals, which are the what, why, how, and who. The ‘why’ is usually essential as it offers background information allowing everyone to understand why the project matters to the company at large.
- Define roles and responsibilities
One should explain how all the attendees fit into the project and what is expected from them to help everyone understand whatever they are working on. To ace, this, start by introducing everyone in the project and explain their contribution.
You can also tie the responsibilities to the project deliverables. Defining roles and responsibilities lets teams know who to approach whenever there is a problem, saving time for the project’s efficient execution.
- Ensure that you offer time for questions
The project kickoff meeting should be geared towards enhancing the understanding of the project. Attendees should, therefore, be allowed to seek clarifications on different aspects. The ultimate goal is to get everyone on the same page.
Therefore, project managers should take this time to clear any confusion or answer issues that need clarifications. However, the Q & A session must come at the end. Also, remember to encourage people not to ask questions that can be quickly addressed outside the group meeting to save time.
The questions asked should offer clarity for everyone in attendance. These can range from project goals, processes, and timelines.
- End the meeting with action items
The best way to have a productive meeting is to end it with clear action items. Everyone should leave the room with a clear idea of the next steps. Always strive to complete your session by pointing out given action items for every team and person in the project.
All the participants should come out of the meeting knowing exactly what to do and how to go about the next steps.
- Make a follow-up
Always make sure that you follow up with an email. It is understandable to expect people to take notes during the meeting, but the truth is, not everyone will. Therefore, as the project manager or organizer, you should ensure that you follow up with an email summarizing the proceedings and the necessary action items.
However, this does not mean that you should include all the nitty-gritty. Just cover the main things you feel the participants should have at the back of their minds. Making a follow-up will also give the participants a guide to refer to whenever the need arises.
A project kickoff is not a waste of time. It can ensure project success if done right. It offers a chance for parties to align their expectations and goals and lay down the framework for the project. Ensure that you implement the tips discussed in our article for a successful project kickoff meeting.
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