Tip #1: Why do we have them?
Even in today's financially constrained times, it is very common for a project manager to call for a kick-off meeting. It may be expensive but the benefits can far outweigh the costs. In this series of Tips, we will examine some of the factors that a project manager needs to consider to make this precious meeting as effective as possible.
There are several reasons for holding a kick-off meeting, and it is important that the project manager is clear about the specific objectives:
- to introduce the project to the team: taking people through the project charter and maybe draft plans can be an early validation of these key project management deliverables
- to introduce the team to each other: it may be that, once the kick-off is over, many individual team members may never meet each other face-to-face. It makes for better communications later when faces can be put to voices over the telephone
- to introduce the sponsor and/or business users: enabling the technical team members to get a clear idea of the business benefits of the project direct from the "customer," and this can be mind-blowing for some of the head-down highly-focused technical folks
- to create some project management deliverables: well, you've got all these expensive folks in one location, so why not try to develop a stakeholder management plan, or an initial risk assessment? This can be a good idea, but might quickly descend into farce if it is badly handled. The person writing stuff on the flipchart or whiteboard really needs to know what (and what not) to write. Constant directions from the project manager ("no, don't write that", "this is very important") will just disrupt the flow and look unprofessional; this needs practice.
The main objective of a kick-off meeting is a hidden one; to show to the project team that this project manager is capable of doing a good job, and is worthy of being followed. Make sure you achieve it.
Mike Watson is a partner in a project management consultancy business, mostly devoted to running practical training in PMI-based approaches across the world. The practical theme is carried through into the 2 books Mike has in print at the moment, the latest one describing a methodology for running smaller projects using just one sheet of paper (Projects Kept Simple, published by MB2000). Mike is also very keen to remind project managers that methodologies and software do not complete project tasks, but the individual human beings that make up the project team do the work.