Don't Leave Project Success to Chance

A project kick-off meeting should be given the same focus as the project as a whole. Think of it as setting the scene for the tone of the whole project. Anything less than full focus for this meeting will put the project at risk from the outset. Following some key steps will ensure you are fully prepared for the project kick off meeting.

The key steps in the preparation for the project kick-off meeting are:

Step 1: Develop the project objectives, goals and deliverables

Defining these elements will drive staffing decisions for the project as well as developing the project plan. Write them down and ensure there is clear alignment between your project objectives and goals and the project deliverables. On occasions the deliverables will be confirmed over time as the project progresses and these should always be validated against the project goals and objectives as discussed in recent blog Avoid Confrontation.

Step 2: Identify the project team members and their responsibilities

The size, complexity, and nature of the project will determine team size. Ensure all your Project Stakeholders are identified so that you can agree with your team how you can develop a communication plan to manage them throughout the project. Developing a project team contact list that includes the name, responsibility, department, physical location, phone number, and e-mail address for each member will help with the internal communication.

Step 3: Develop a project assumptions and risk list

It’s important for project team members to be aware of major assumptions that apply to the project. Clearly identify project risks and particularly highlight if the deadline is considered challenging. See a recent article on how to handle unrealistic deadlines

Step 4: Develop the preliminary project plan

Create the initial project plan ahead of the kick-off meeting. The point of this is that you will already have a plan drafted with estimated effort, budget and a clear deadline and are fully prepared for the meeting as a result.

Preparing this ahead of the kick-off meeting can save a lot of time by developing the tasks, responsibilities, and timeframes of the project plan. Going through this exercise will help you validate whether you have the right resources, identify risks, and determine the appropriate timelines for tasks and milestones which can be discussed and addressed at the meeting if there are issues identified.

Realise that the plan is not carved in stone at this point. Actually, it should never be. Up until the kickoff meeting, it is a knowledgeable draft. Once you have the team assembled and have assigned clear responsibilities, you should ask team members to validate their task responsibilities and timeframes for reasonability, completeness, and accuracy. The plan will become more established at the first project status meeting.

Step 5: Define key success factors

Every project team member needs to know what it takes to have a successful project. Take the time to define in specific terms each item that will be required for success. Validate your list with the project owner.

Step 6: Schedule the project kickoff meeting

It is important for all project team members to participate in the kickoff meeting. Send a communication to each participant with a preferred time and date and include options in case they are unavailable

Step 7: Send the kickoff meeting materials to all participants

On your designated date, send a package of meeting materials to each participant, including:

  1. Meeting time and date with call-in phone number
  2. Meeting agenda
  3. Project participants’ contact information
  4. Project plan draft

Ask each person to review the project plan carefully. Indicate that additional information will be discussed at the kickoff meeting and everyone should be familiar with his or her part of the plan. Explain that there will be a Q&A session at the meeting to answer any questions.

Step 8: Identify key issues and project dependencies

Review the project plan prior to the kickoff meeting and make notes on points that you want to make at the meeting. Pertinent items include potential bottlenecks, impact issues, risk areas, etc.

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