Step 17a: Conduct project kick-off meeting

It is important to have well thought out, proactive project kick-off meetings.

This is similar to making sure a construction contractor team understands the blueprints before laying a new building foundation.

All company stakeholders should be invited to internal meetings and all client stakeholders should be invited to client kick-off meetings unless otherwise specified in the contract or by the client.

Detailed Project Start-up Checklist (Word document)

The degree of preparation for a kick-off meeting will quite often determine its successful outcome. Before the kick-off meeting, you should:

  • Determine the purpose and objectives of the meeting.
  • Acquire meeting facilities.
  • Set the ground rules for participation and discussion.
  • Invite the attendees based on a need to know, 5 to 10 days in advance, if possible.
  • Develop the meeting agenda.
  • Develop any visual aids, notes or handouts.
  • Assign someone to take minutes and record actions.

In particular, remember that you will get much more enthusiastic buy-in from meeting attendees by emailing a detailed agenda and soliciting input at least one day before. Every agenda topic has one of three goals:

  • To pass on information
  • To come to a decision or
  • To gather information

We’ve all been to unproductive meetings. And, nothing can derail a new project more quickly than a poorly run kick-off meeting. Pass out an agenda in advance and begin and end on time. Make sure you stick to the agenda. Try to draw people out. Don’t assume silence is consent. Finally, be sure to record decisions and action assignments, and then follow up on action status.

The key elements of a successful internal your company Project Team kick-off meeting are:

  • Define project success criteria so the team is clear what your client’s expectations are.
  • Identify any risks, challenges and project constraints. Take the time to respond to everyone’s concerns about project success. Don’t assume silence is concurrence. Now is the time to encourage open discussion while there is still time to change the plan.
  • Make sure everyone understands the necessary project control and status requirements including documentation standards and quality reviews. Also, clarify time keeping and invoicing requirements for other direct charges like travel expenses.
  • Go over the tools, documents and support needed from the client.
  • Record decisions and action assignments.

A strong beginning will greatly increase the probability of project success. And, it will hopefully keep you out of trouble!

Typical internal kick-off meeting agenda Items:

  • Introductions
  • Scope and objectives
  • Challenges and project constraints
  • Project approach
  • Success factors
  • Team members and project organization chart
  • Roles and responsibilities
  • Expected client involvement
  • Work plan review
  • Major milestones and deliverables
  • Timeline
  • Training schedule
  • Project control techniques
  • Quality review
  • Documentation standards and storage
  • Project status reporting
  • Travel plans
  • Invoicing requirements for ODCs
  • Logistics for the team
  • Tools needed from the client
  • Questions needing immediate answers
  • Consensus on start-up activities
  • Preliminary documentation requests
  • Security
  • Risk review
  • Action review and next steps

After the meeting, make sure to distribute meeting minutes. This should include an action item list that identifies the responsible party and suspense date for each action. The date of the next meeting should also be shared. Follow-up on action item status on a regular basis.

These guidelines also apply to the client kick-off meeting with the addition of any requirements specified in the contract.  Also, coordinate with your government counterpart to try to get all the key client stakeholders from deciders to influencers to attend and conduct the meeting as soon after contract award as possible.

Probably the most important objective of client kick-off meeting is to achieve a clear agreement and understanding of the key work elements, deliverables and schedule.

 – Mike Lisagor


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