Project Kickoff Meeting | The Recipe For Success

Tips to Run Successful Project Kickoff Meeting

Project Kickoff Meeting: The Purpose

Project kickoff meeting is the first and possibly the best possible instance for a project manager to introduce his/her team to a project such that

  • Project team will understand project goals, objectives, deliverable and timeline
  • Project team will have broad understanding of expectations from them
  • Project team will be aware of communication - status reporting, escalation
  • Project team members will get to know each other and build a sense of the TEAM

Running Successful Project Kickoff Meeting

Though there is more to project kickoff meeting but let me say this, right in the beginning that it is the project manager who has to generate excitement among team members. And project kickoff meeting is the most important meeting to make first impression.

Like any other project meeting, project kickoff meeting requires planning but this meeting is lot more important to set the tone of project execution. Project manager can really set the environment to thrive project execution or make team members feel cautious/skeptical.

Letís look at how you can prepare yourself of successful project kickoff meeting that can help you to set your role as project leader, set the tone for project execution and help project team members remain focused, working as a team.

Clear Agenda for Project Kickoff Meeting

You want your project stakeholders and primarily team members to clearly understand project goals, objectives, deliverable and expectations from them. The clarity has to start from project requirements, project charter, project plan and it should also reflect in project kickoff meeting.

Chalk out the agenda for project meeting to be absolutely clear and unambiguous. If you donít have a way to present your meeting agenda, use good templates. What should your agenda for project kickoff meeting should include?

Template Agenda Project Kickoff Meeting
  • Project objective and goals
  • Project deliverable, project timeline (WBS), risks
  • Team Member Introduction, roles and expectations
  • Key success factors/indicators for project to be termed as successful for customer and your own company
  • Communication nitty-gritties - status reporting, escalations
  • Q & A

As usual, one need to send meeting agenda in advance so that participants can come prepared and have meaningful meeting discussion. If required and appropriate, you can also hold pre-kickoff meeting.

Kickoff the Project Kickoff Meeting J

As the project kickoff meeting begin, project manager has to take the lead, welcome all participants and initiate team member introductions starting with himself/herself. Despite of the fact, you may have circulated meeting agenda in advance, you will find not all participants would have read it completely. Thatís the reality of this life! So take a moment to skim all participants briefly through agenda for a meeting. Then get started with the nitty-gritty of the project goals, plan, assumptions, team roles, expectations, risks, etc.

Keep in mind that the purpose of the meeting is to get everyone familiarize with project objectives, deliverable, timeline and expectations from them - before everyone starts working on their activities.

Central Aspects: Project Objectives, Project Plan, Timeline

As project introduction, team introduction takes place, you have already set the spirit for the meeting. Now it is a time to get into structured discussion of project details: project objective from customer & organizationís perspective, assumptions, risks, project plan, high level deliverable, delivery timeline project execution responsibilities (roles) and expectations from each role. Go through the details of project schedule - task by tasks, duration/efforts. Hear from you project team: its feedback, dependencies involved, etc.

Ensure that team members are clear with project objectives, deliverable, high-level timeline, and especially about their roles. Make sure that they understand why they are chosen to work for a given project - utilizing their skillset, experience, etc. Hear their concerns, acknowledge it with a promise to look into it when you gather more details. Project kickoff meeting is not a place to deliberate too much about a specific team memberís role/hesitation. That said, be sure to urge team for whole-hearted assistance and support from everyone to complete the project.

Set Clear Expectations

You would like the project to get delivered on time, within budget - the way you have planned. It is important to set the expectations from the team members so that their aspirations, their energies and working style get aligned for project success. You can talk about expectations in terms of

  • Roles to play, expectations, contribution from each team member
  • Importance of working as a team for given project if team is dispersed
  • How project status update are to be communicated, how frequently, by email or project management software?
  • How delivery timeline is not stretchable and have consequences (legal, financial, otherwise)? Be clear if project requires occasional working for long hours, weekends but encourage to have better work-life balance (you donít want to scare them off, in the first meeting itself).
  • How leaves will be approved during project execution?
  • How responsibility and accountability ensured?

You would like your team to be disciplined as well as creative to deliver on time, with high standard of quality. Through your tone, assure team members that they will be empowered, given work freedom during project execution as the rapport builds up.

Project Communication Plan

Equally important, crucial part of project execution - project communication. Do remember to discuss project communication plan during the project kickoff meeting

  • How project task assignment will be communicated, how changes to schedule will be communicated?
  • How team members are expected to report project activities update
  • If weekly team/status report meeting will be held, how long, when and how?
  • How can project team members report project issues, project risks?
  • Whether and how should team member respond to customer requests?

As our experience goes and we at Zilicus, are convinced that project management software is the indispensable tool to facilitate & automate most of the project communication, leaving little or no chance for human error (of forgetting, missing out). So we would recommend using project management software for project planning and execution. As you decide to use PM tool for your project, introduce it to your team and set a clear process of using project management system for your project status update, issue reporting, project communication, project leaves, time tracking, expense reporting, etc.

Questions and Answers | Feedback

Towards the end of the meeting, as you have covered most of the points from meeting agenda, open the forum for Q&A, ask for team membersí feedback, let them come out freely.

If you are running short of time, encourage them to send their feedback, questions through email and promise them to look at those, address those issues. If appropriate, you can set up another/follow up meeting to discuss feedback, answer team membersí questions.