It all has to start somewhere, and although we are not talking about the conception and birth of a project, we will talk about that special event that sets the stage for all future project communications. The Project Kick-Off Meeting serves many purposes. The content, detail, and duration of the Kick-Off meeting are directly related to the size, complexity and priority the project holds in the organization. Big complex projects need a lot of time to plan and conduct; so allow for as much time as possible. And if this event requires several hours, plan for several breaks in the schedule to allow participants to refresh themselves.
Who: Attendees at the meetings will include the project manager, the project team and appropriate stakeholders involved or affected by the topics addressed. Each attendee should have a defined role to ensure appropriate participation. Only people with a vested interest in the outcome of the project or have a direct impact on the success or failure of the project should attend. No Sightseers. Sightseers and strap-hangers often turn into distractors and take up meeting resources unnecessarily. In other words, people who show up only to eat the free donuts and drink the coffee waste time, space and resources.
Project Kick-Off meetings are usually the first formal introduction of the project team members. It will also be the time for establishing the chain-of-command and reporting chain as in:
- Who reports to whom.
- Who has the authority to make decisions in the absence of the Project Manager and the Sponsor.
Establish ground rules to help ensure clear expectations regarding acceptable behavior by project team members. All this hierarchy talk in turn begins the conversation as to the establishment of the organization’s communication requirements, methods, and priorities. Ensure that everyone is on the same page as to Project Scope. And, as much as possible, verify and clarify what is In-Scope and Out-of-Scope.
Integrate team building activities when and where possible. However, team building activities are not practical and appropriate for every meeting. Team building activities, exercises and games can be as short as five minutes in duration to longer off-site events for the purpose of taking the team away from the project in order to improve or establishing good working relationships.
NEAT = Nature, Expectations, Agenda, and Time
Nature = Purpose of the Project Kick-Off Meeting
Expectations = What should the participants expect and what you and the sponsor (the Project Manager and Project Overall Authority for the existence of the project and the expenditure of funds) expect from the team and meeting participants.
Attendees & Agenda Items
Attendees: A List
List the required attendees and communicate the date, location and any required preparations by the quickest and most efficient method. Give attendees plenty of time to prepare or modify their schedules to ensure that they will be at your meeting. Note: Outside Contractors/Vendors: Ensure that pre-arranged external human resources representative is at the Kick-Off; this is usually a Lead Consultant/Contractor. This person may need sufficient time and relative information if the project manager, sponsor or procurement agent has expectations of receiving any contracting fee rates and or burden costs.
Agenda [Suggested Items]
1-Introductions of Members and Stakeholders:
1-2-Who is the Sponsor?
1-3-Who is the Contracting/Procurement Officer/Manager?
1-4-Who are the Outside Contractors and external resources?
1-5-Who are the Inside/Internal team members and resources?
1-6-Who are the primary users/customers of the project’s product or services?
2-Review the Vision, Mission, Objects, and Strategy (VMOS) as relative to the project. For the most part this information is derived from the Project Charter.
3-Define what “DONE” looks like:
3-2-Major Deliverables of the project.
4-Constraints, Assumptions, and Risk:
4-1-Known Major Timeline/Constraints and Assumptions.
4-2-Known Major Cost/Budget Constraints and Assumptions.
4-3- Known potential risk(s): Both adverse risk and risk opportunities.
5-Project Management Tools and Processes:
5-1-Identify Breakdown Structure planning methods/tools (Product Breakdown Structure, Work Breakdown Structure, Engineering Breakdown Structure, Design Breakdown Structure, Technical Breakdown Structure, etc.) and participants in those efforts.
5-2-Change Control Process: Discuss the Change Control Board (CCB) process, who can submit a change and how to do so. Identify the CCB members, the request, approval, and rejection methods and formats.
6-Communications Plan: “Meetings are most effective when all participants can be face-to-face in the same location. Virtual meetings can be held using audio and/or video conferencing tools, but generally require additional preparation and organization to achieve the same effectiveness of a face-to-face meeting.” This is a good time to publish the plan and schedule for routine and status review meetings along with their requirements and formats. Don’t forget to identify the location of the project office(s), operations room, “War-Room,” and or collocated workspaces.
6-1-Record Keeping: Meeting minutes should be stored as defined in the project management plan. Project Records and Records Management: What are considered project records? Examples: e-meetings, and e-mail messages, project correspondence, memos, meeting minutes, documents describing or depicting the project or parts of the project. How will they be organized manner? How will they be accessed? Will the team use web interfaces to scheduling and project management software, meeting and virtual office support software, portals, and collaborative work management tools? Can/Should individual project team members maintain records in a project notebook or register; plus, identify the formats and cataloguing codes if required. This might be something as simple as a project code or ID# from the code of accounts from one of the various breakdown structures.
6-3-Use of Electronic Mail.
6-4-Intranet/Web-based Reporting tools.
6-7-Will templates/formularies be used for breakdown structures, procurement of resources, designs, cost/price/budget planning and reporting, etc?
7-Cost/Budget Reporting and Tracking:
Your Project Kickoff Meeting Checklist
Other Optional Agenda Topics
Discuss procurement procedures that team members will be required to use.
Discuss Bidder and Vendor Conference Plans in general terms to include any known critical timelines. Even though the project will still require detailed breakdown and planning, some procurement requirements may have extremely long lead/lag times and thus require immediate attention for proposal preparations, bidder meetings, proposal evaluations and selection and awarding of the bids to vendors. An easy example of this is consultants and contractors (subcontractors) needed for the detailed project/product breakdown efforts, designing and first stage work.
As a part of the project communication discussion, any known flow charts and process charts can be shared. Or, if these are particular to various breakout sessions, such as procurement processing, these can be issued during the breakout sessions. Other work charts/process charts can include sequence of authorization, reporting process, risk reporting, change control requests, general performance reports, and meeting plans, etc.
If the amount of material planned for the Kick-Off meeting is significantly large and in depth, consider having breakout sessions for smaller groups after the primary agenda items relevant to the group are addressed. Not all the breakdown items are important to every participant so breakout sessions are a great way to marry-up team members with their common functions and begin nurturing the small team relationships. Breakout session teams may include:
- Procurement/Contracting Office/Team
- Design Team
- Risk Team
- Software Team
- Construction Team
- Quality Management Team
Remember the old saying about first impressions: you only have one chance. Kick-Off meetings are that one-chance to set the tone for the project. Simply seeing the meeting led by the project manager, a meeting that is well organized, productive, informative, positive, and supported by the organization’s senior leadership (sponsor) will go a long way in establishing your leadership role in the project. This is your chance: get it wrong and the problems will begin as soon as team members leave the room; get it right and the team starts the project on a positive note.