Key Elements of An Effective Project Kickoff Meeting
The most satisfying stage of a project is to witness its successful completion, when all of that hard work has paid off and can finally be admired. But in reality, the beginning of a project is arguably the most crucial step in getting to that final goal. In order to get your project started off on the right foot, it is important to launch a successful project kickoff meeting. You do not want your team to be blindly thrown into a project without understanding the project goals and objectives.
Essentially, a project kickoff meeting is the first meeting between the project team and the client. It’s an opportunity to get everyone involved up to speed on the vision and scope of the project. It’s also an opportunity to meet everyone with whom you’ll be embarking on this next challenge. Your team and client will learn of what is expected of them and of all the necessary tasks to be assigned at every step. A project kickoff meeting should be entertaining and get everyone excited to hop on board!
In most cases, an hour-long meeting will not suffice for an effective project kickoff meeting. You can expect there to be loads of information to share with the team, meaning the event should take place over at least half of a day. Some teams will often hold two kickoff meetings, one internally and another externally. Whether you decide to hold one or two, the following are key elements of any project kickoff meeting.
The Timing and Purpose of a Project Kickoff Meeting
It is best not to move too quickly by launching the kickoff meeting immediately after the project’s announcement. A kickoff takes place after certain things have already been agreed upon, even if they have not yet been finalized, such as contracts or statements of work. Ideally, a project kickoff meeting will be held once as much information as possible becomes available. This means it would be possible for team members to start planning and working on the project the following day.
Hosting the perfect project kickoff sets up the team for success. All team members have everything they need within reach to start working on the project. Some of the time, however, this will not be the case. At the early stages of a project, not all required information may be available in order to get the project in motion. Purpose and timing go hand in hand while planning– the team is not ready for a project meeting kickoff without a clear purpose.
Introduce the Project Charter
The project charter serves as a reference tool to prevent teammates from straying too far from the original goal along the way. It explains the scope and milestones of the project and contains enough information for the team to become familiarized with the project and perhaps start picturing their role in the project. While introducing the project objectives, the project manager can provide clarifications on any ambiguous topics. The team should be encouraged to follow up with any questions after the contents of the charter are fleshed out.
Outline Project Team Expectations For Teammates And Stakeholders
What does the project manager expect from the project team members? This is the time to highlight past mistakes and to emphasize lessons learned in the past, so they are not repeated again in the future. A study done by the Project Management Institute revealed that 41% of team members reported being unhappy with poor project performance because they believed they were not receiving enough support from project management. To avoid such instances of miscommunication between the team and the project manager, expectations should be spelled out very clearly so that all parties understand the scope of their roles in the project.
Share The Action Plan
After the expectations have been laid out, you will have some ideas on the execution of your project. This is the “how” of the project — the tangible steps that will be taken to see the project through to the finish line. As this action plan might be a draft copy at this stage, team members can collaborate and provide their input to come up with more strategic ideas. This is where you can go over the action items and confirm them and delete or modify them as necessary. The action plan also informs the team on who will be responsible for what tasks. As the kickoff marks the debut of the project, everyone should be clear about their role in the project.
Project Timeline Finalization
The timeline during the project may shift as new hurdles come up. That being said, it is still worthwhile to validate the project timeline by receiving the approval of all teammates. This will ensure a clear projection of deadlines and goals, so the team has a good overview and idea of when they should aim for the completion of their tasks.
Keep The Project Kickoff Meeting Light And Be Ready For Changes
Transparency and open communication between all teammates is a good place to start to avoid any internal complications. External issues that may arise, on the other hand, are not always as easy to prevent. Projects do not always go according to the initial plan introduced at the project meeting kickoff. Make sure to be continually updating and modifying your action plan and project timeline accordingly.
A project kickoff is an exciting way to initiate the beginning of a new adventure and to showcase the project plan to the team. Lastly, a project kickoff meeting should be fun for everyone involved, to get the team and client enthusiastic about the project!
All projects start with a strong beginning, which is why starting off right with time tracking software like actiTIME will help keep every stage of the project on track. This software will help the team stick to the timeline presented at the project kickoff meeting by making sure those deadlines are being met. It can also help assess the productivity of your team by revealing where most of their time is being spent. If there are time management issues, actiTIME can reveal and chart them.