Blog

How to Kick-Off a Successful Project – Project Management Series

The kick-off meeting is one of those often overlooked parts of a project, but in my experience, they’re one of the most valuable. This meeting is almost like the first chapter of a book. It sets the scene, introduces key characters and paves the way for the rest of the story. It doesn’t only create a clear structure of what’s to come in the project, but it also makes sure you all starting on the same page and there is alignment.

Types of kick-off meetings

There are two types of kick-off meetings: the internal kick-off and the client kick-off; 

The internal kick-off meeting takes place first, and this usually happens once the agreement has been made, contracts signed, and there is an agreement of the scope, timeline and main goal of the project. This internal meeting has the purpose of preparing the team for the project – making sure everyone understands why the project is happening, who the client is, what work will be included in the project and who is involved and what role they’ll play.

The external – or client kick-off meeting takes place after the internal kick-off. Whereas the internal meeting prepares the team for the project, establishes roles and processes, the external meeting has the aim of creating alignment and collaboration between the project team and the client (or project sponsor). This meeting establishes the common goals for the project, sets expectations and provides an understanding of what success looks like.

Why is the kick-off meeting important?

Well, it is very similar to onboarding a new employee within your company. Without the proper onboarding, your team member has no idea about what they’ll be doing, how to do it and who they can rely on for help.

If we take the kick-off meeting into a recruitment context, this is the time and place to find out more about the hiring needs, the hiring plan and the process, and the team.

Preparation of kick-off meetings

Both kick-off meetings take some preparation. As a project manager, you need to set the stage for success and make sure everything runs smoothly. For example, it’s a good idea to do some background research and prepare the agenda (maybe even a presentation). The kick-off meetings should not be too lengthy – max 90 minutes – to make sure you stay on track with the agenda.

Which brings me to the next point – what should the agenda contain to cover everything?

Agenda of a kick-off meeting 

To make the agenda for the kick-off meeting, you need to already have a basic understanding of the project agreements – what is the scope, the timelines and people involved in the project. If you don’t have these, you may find this blog about planning of a project helpful.  

The structure of the agenda is similar for both internal and client kick-offs, and we’ve created an easily adjustable template presentation and agenda for you to use as a reference, so check this link to download and adjust your own presentation.

The first point – Introductions and roles

This first section is important for relationship building. Take a bit of time to introduce yourself and the team. Also, define what role each of you will play in the project. This is the warm, fuzzy part of the kick-off so make sure you relay your enthusiasm, a strength or two, and maybe even what people can expect from you.

The second point – Get to know the project to understand the client

For internal kick-offs, this is to understand why you’re doing the project, what it will include and to get a basic understanding of who the project is for.

With the client kick-offs, this is the time to let them shine! Ask big-picture questions, like “what is the vision of the company”; “what is your biggest hiring pain at the moment” or “what makes your company different from all of your competitors?”

The third point – Establish what will make this project a success (identify deliverables and timelines)

During this section, identify the deliverables (the product or service you’re expected to produce) and the time frame for each.

For example, in a recruitment project, a deliverable could be 5 iOS developers hired in 6 months. Or it could be an in-depth training for hiring managers. This training can be on how to do interviews given within the first month of the project.

Deliverables and the timelines for them are super important to establish what and when results can be expected.

The fourth point – Define what the rest of the process looks like (preferred communication channels + clarify next actions)

This is the ‘how’ part of the agenda. How are you going to get the work done, how will we communicate weekly, how will the recruitment process look like – will there be 2 onsite interviews or only 1?

Finally – Wrap up. 

This is to summarise the meeting, the agreements made and to officially start the ‘executing’ part of the project process.

With each point on the agenda, you will ensure all the key info is relayed and understood by both parties involved. The kick-off meeting has the purpose of alignment. Therefore, make sure you – and your client – walk away from this meeting with the success factors, timelines and process clearly defined. Only when you are on the same page with each other, can the project be a triumph.

 

By: Teri Gibson –  Head of Client Operations