Successful Project Management

Part 4: The Kickoff Meeting

Welcome back to what is already the 4th part of the blog series “Successful Project Management.” After a short summer break, we now plunge straight into the next topic, the “Kickoff Meeting“.

In case you want to brush up on the earlier installments, here they are: Part 3 – Project Management as a Process, Part 2 – The Stakeholder Analysis and Part 1 – The Pre-Project Phase.

I already touched on the topic kickoff meeting in the last article, “Project Management as a Process”, which primarily dealt with the project start-up phase. After all, it’s a key component, and THE most important milestone in the project start-up phase. (The rule “As you sow, so shall you reap!“ again brings to bear here. What you fail to do in the first meeting may come crashing down on you later!)

The chief purpose of your kickoff meeting is to draw up the so-called Big Project Picture for the project team. That means everyone knowing what it’s all about, knowing the goals, the planned results, and what they have to do. The project is then on track, so to speak.

This is an essential step, deserving particular attention, prepare it well. In your kickoff meeting, plan for enough time to allow the participants to get to know each other, network, and – as just said – “put them on track”! And this does not happen if you mechanically recite hundreds of slides :-).

Participants of the kick off meeting get to know eachother

Creativity is permitted!

It’s perfectly okay to be creative during the kickoff meeting. Your participants can, e.g., discover things in common by designing joint posters, act out the deliverables of their respective work packages in stage plays, define shared values for the following years, and much more. After all, in the coming years you’ll be working with the very people in the same room with you now. So take the time to get to know them and engage with them. The key words to keep in mind are: team development and project culture.

You can find some examples as to how you can put this into practice in the kickoff meeting reports from the EU projects Fish Forward and Fish Forward 2 – coordinated by WWF Austria – as well as the EU project net4society, coordinated by DLR.

One possibility (which the abovementioned projects took advantage of) is to place this first, important meeting into the hands of an experienced person, so that you – first and foremost a project leader – are free to concentrate on the content, without having to play a double role, and thereby taking the pressure off you. It saves time, work and possible aggravation when you farm moderation including preparation out. You can also be sure that the agreed goals and outcomes will be achieved, in a productive atmosphere, dominated by team spirit, within a flexible timeframe, all unforeseen circumstances planned for. Return on investment guaranteed. 🙂 Here’s what I offer.

Participants of the kick off meeting being creative

And what else?

I also recommend that your project owner be present at least at the start of your kickoff, to demonstrate commitment to the project. Also, ensure that the majority of your project team can attend on said date. Never hold a kickoff meeting with less than half of the participants! What’s more, investing in a social event at the end of the day usually really pays off!

After all, during kickoff the project structure (which I already touched on in the last article) is worked out in detail (or even just created at this stage). I’ll have more to say about this in my next article, otherwise I’ll be writing all night! 🙂 So stay tuned, visit me again soon!!

Best wishes,

Birgit