Holding a formal project kickoff is generally considered to be a good way to get everyone aligned to a set of common goals and practices at the start of a project.
I’ve always found the word kickoff to be somewhat inaccurate as that brings to mind the organized chaos which ensues in a football (American or otherwise) once the referee blows their whistle. I prefer to use the analogy of runners in a relay race waiting at the start line for the starter’s gun to be fired – a high-level of activity, but everyone running in the same direction and focused on getting their sprints completed as quickly as possible with highest quality.
If you are preparing for your project’s kickoff meeting, it can be daunting to come up with a short list of topics to cover – for many attendees, it might be their first formal exposure to the project so there is so much you will want to share, but you only have an hour or two to do so.
Here’s a short list of some questions which you will want to answer.
Why are we doing this project (and what’s in it for me)? A kickoff meeting is not the only opportunity to answer these two questions, but you’ll fail to kindle the enthusiasm so desperately required at this time if you don’t help everyone understand the rationale behind the organization and the team investing in the project.
What’s my role? Depending on how many projects they’ve been on, team members and stakeholders will join a project with a pretty clear idea about how they will engage with others and with you. The kickoff meeting is the right time to clarify any questions or misconceptions regarding roles and responsibilities, as well as some very basic rules of engagement. The objective is not to “lay down the law” as team dynamics need to be developed not enforced, however you do want to establish a framework or set of values that will help to guide the process of working through the details.
What’s for real? It’s rare that someone comes to a kickoff meeting without some preconceived notions so take the time to debunk myths and confirm assumptions. It can be hard to distill all the data you’ve gathered, but you’ll certainly want to share any key decisions made as well as any hard constraints which will impact the project.
What’s next? If you cover all of the previous topics but fail to answer this question, the kickoff meeting will have failed to generate action. You will hopefully have team members and stakeholders alike walking out of the meeting eager to get started, so take advantage of this early momentum by providing some early work assignments.
Cover this content, and you won’t need to worry about your kickoff meetings looking like an episode of the Keystone Cops!