Holding a kickoff meeting as the first “real” event on a project should be a fait accompli, but you’d be surprised as to how many projects launch without one. This mistake is growing in frequency as the proportion of projects with virtual and/or global stakeholders & team members increases.
The causes for skipping kickoff meetings could include:
- The project has been “on hold” or pending resource availability for so long, that there is no patience to do a true kickoff as everyone just wants to “do it”.
- Everyone is so busy that it is impossible to schedule everyone’s time (especially across international time zones) to hold it.
- So much effort has gone into the pre-project justification or sales work of developing a business case or negotiating the Statement of Work or contract that the kickoff is perceived as an academic activity.
To counter these excuses (because that is really what they all are!), here are some legitimate benefits of holding a proper kickoff meeting (preferably in-person):
- First and foremost, it’s the best opportunity for the project sponsor to present the vision and purpose for the project to the overall team (many of whom might not have been assigned during the pre-project phase) and to sell them on the benefits the project will bring to the organization and themselves.
- It’s a chance for the project manager to review project rules of engagement with all stakeholders and team members, and to be able to get the project sponsor to back him/her up visibly!
- It’s an opportunity to have a very quick, informal “fear, uncertainty & doubt” – the formal risk identification session will likely come later, but this meeting does give the PM the chance to start to understand the risk biases of project participants.
- While not a formal planning session, it can be used to voice and discuss assumptions and constraints to ensure they are in fact, valid.
- It presents the PM with the first real chance to see the body language and interpersonal behaviors of the team members and stakeholders. If the PM has not worked with this group before, long running department or individual conflicts might start to become apparent.
- It starts the team development process in (what should be) a non-threatening and neutral environment.
Skip your kickoff meeting, and your project could end up as flat on its back like Charlie Brown!