Project Kickoffs: How to Set Your Team up for Success
When it comes to kicking off a new project, it’s important to lay out the purpose of the work and establish common goals. So much needs to go into a project kickoff and taking the time to go deep into the projects and expectations will not only excite your team, it will set a baseline for expectations and lay the groundwork for the success of the entire project.
Typically there are technically two project kickoff meetings that happen once the contracts are signed and the work is ready to begin. The first is an internal project kickoff, meeting where the internal team gets briefed on the project and what needs to happen to get to the finish line. The second is the external project kickoff meeting that happens with the clients. For that to go well, the internal kickoff will have had to be well organized and thought out so everyone understands the goals and their roles within the project that will ultimately ensure success.
For project managers, the internal project meeting isn’t just a kickoff to the job or a precursor to the client meeting. It will set the tone for the entire project and is the last chance for a project manager to properly brief their team so that no one is floundering in front of a the client at the external project kickoff.
Getting the internal project kickoff right
It’s important that the team knows as much as possible about the client and how they can work together to come up with a solid plan to instill confidence in the work ahead. It’s also important to collectively make important project decisions ahead of time, so resources and time aren’t wasted on internal debates (with the client watching).
Working with your team on a solid plan probably means that you, as a project manager, have already done some leg work and the meeting will layout your plan and potentially iron out some outstanding details with the team.
An internal project meeting agenda might look something like:
- Having brief introductions to team and main internal stakeholders
- Discussing about the client (who they are and what they expect)
- Laying out of the project (what the project is and why the company is taking it on)
- Defining scope (what the team will be doing within the project itself)
- Discussing approach (how the team will make it happen)
- Clarifying roles (who on the team will be handling what portion of the project)
- Showcasing the team will work together (in terms of communicating throughout the project)
- Briefing the team on the client kickoff meeting
- Leaving time for Q&A
Prepping for the main event: a pre-project kickoff meeting
Once your team has been prepped on the project and is ready to take it on, it’s time to loop in the client. From there, it’s important to get the client on-side, and that means having a pre-project meeting with the client(s). It will help set expectations outside the more charged “rea” kick-off and gives a project manager a chance to build rapport with the client. During this main event prep, project managers can communicate essential project and team details while gathering as much information as possible about the client.
By getting a feel for the client and their personality, a project manager can really refine their agenda, align expectations, and cover smaller project management aspects of the job that aren’t necessary in front of a larger audience of stakeholders.
A pre-project kickoff meeting may look something like:
- Offering introductions
- Reviewing the project teams (outlining who’s responsible for what)
- Outlining the approval process
- Clarifying what is being done, when, how, and by whom
- Discussing Risk, Issue and Change Management protocols
- Reaffirming how reporting will be handled and how project items will be tracked
- Outlining when collaboration tools will be used to make work and communication quick and easy
- Bringing up assets and laying out what is needed to truly get started
- Going over the Kickoff Agenda
- Coverage of anything else not yet discussed
The Main Event: presenting your project to the client
A slick, professional and polished presentation is an important element in any kickoff meeting. All of the information you’ve discovered in your pre-project kickoff meeting with the client should be added to this, and, between the internal kickoff and the pre-kickoff meeting, a project manager should have a pretty good idea of how the project will work and should be able to visualize and articulate all of the moving parts to the client.
Want to make sure you never miss a project deadline? Check out five typical reasons project deadlines get delayed and how to prevent delays from happening.
Be sure, in your presentation, to do a bit of an introduction to your company, in case anyone in the room isn’t in the know, and include lots of supporting content for the project kickoff.
By taking the time to prep your team, and to learn a bit about your client and their expectations, the project will be off to a great start. Remember to always allow enough time for project milestones, and to have a plan in place for mission creep so that throughout the project, the scope doesn’t get distorted.
And don’t forget that the most important part of any project is communication - with both the clients and the team. Having something in place that allows the clients to see the project’s progress - or to easily ask for updates - is a great way to build rapport and trust in the final product.
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