The Project Kick Off Meeting - Why it Matters and How to Do it Right
You should start every project with a project kick off meeting. Get the team in a room and walk them through the project. The meeting’s important - maybe the most important you’ll do on the project - because it sets the tone, it gives you opportunity to really explain the business case and you can walk people through the plan. You want the whole team onboard and that first meeting is where you tell people how they fit into the big picture.
Things to cover off in that important first meeting include:
- The business case - what is the wider strategic aim for the project? It may seem obvious but it’s possible that not everyone on the team understands what the real long term goal is.
- Who’s in the team and what do they do? It’s also important to make clear to everyone how much time different team members can commit. The project works better when people understand that not everyone is full time on the project.
- The plan. Walk people through and flag up important milestones. Make sure everyone understands key dates and dependencies. There’s an opportunity here to get people involved and take on feedback. Plans on projects are never static and you should be quick to change something that’s not right.
- Quality. I’ve got a theory that a some project managers - particularly in software development - don’t really see quality as part of their job. The quality expectations around the deliverable are a critical part of the project and I’m not sure that a project that delivers some software on time and on budget can be counted as a success if the subsequent implementation fails because people won’t use it. It’s not clear cut because project managers are not responsible for the business case and they don’t design the software. But still, that doesn’t mean there aren’t points in the project where the project manager shouldn’t drive some discussion about quality and what needs to be done to increase the chance of long term success.
- Risks and immediate issues. Go through a short risk register, explain how you see risk and what the mitigation is. Are different people responsible for managing different risks? Make sure people are clear about who owns the different risks. Issues come up all the time on projects. Is there anything that needs immediate attention? Talk about issues and decide who is going to resolve them.
- Communicating and reporting on the project. Tell people how often you’ll as a team. Give them an idea of the agenda. Explain the wider communication that happens. Who’s on the project board and how often does it meet? What about the wider stakeholders?
Open communication on a project is a good thing. The worst thing is where people can see things are going wrong but they don’t say anything. Or you’ve people in a team meeting who know their bit but don’t really have any interest in the wider project project. The first project meeting is an opportunity to get that tone right, to be purposeful but at the same time encourage discussion and to set expectations around quality. Put some thought into that first meeting - first impressions count.