Posts Tagged ‘effective project meentings’

Project Leadership #1: 7 Ways to have a kickass kickoff!

by Himanshu Jhamb on October 4, 2010

“I promise that I will produce a kickass kickoff for the client”.

Repeat this to yourself at least a hundred times before you go for the next project kickoff meeting.

I have been through many projects – some of them as a team member and some as a project manager (please picture me as ashamed and trying to hide behind my chair at this very moment) – where the kickoffs were either for namesake or worse, were non-existent. The projects just started automatically – no memo, that’s it. I just found myself in the midst of a project already underway. PS> These projects did not do well.

For a long time I tried to demystify why my projects got delayed, got derailed (had enough of the de’s?). I would lock myself in my office (it was a cubicle, really) and try to figure out what was going on – why I could not control my schedules and how come I found myself struggling with just organizing the project in manageable chunks of work.

This post is my humble attempt at sharing what I found I was doing wrong (or not doing) to find myself in this position time and again.

The problem, it turned out, was that I was trying very hard to be a good project manager. In doing so, I was missing out on the fact that what the project really needed was a leader to guide everyone through the project with CLARITY. This last word is perhaps the most important… It is the project leaders’ job to continuously be in the quest for CLARITY on the project. Clarity comes when everyone involved in doing a particular task as well as everyone impacted by the task are in agreement over a number of attributes. The project kickoff meeting is a golden opportunity to get this CLARITY and champion the project. A well organized, planned and delivered kickoff meeting gives huge returns whereas a poor one (or none) haunts the project right till the end of the project (and beyond).

Here are a few tips on how to have kickass kickoffs!

  1. Say No to Remote kickoffs: There is yet to be a technology that replaces the handshake. Put yourself in front of the client – it is a future declaration that you are approachable and reachable and goes a long way in building a relationship with the client, and it will come handy when things are not going as planned on the project (and they won’t!).
  2. Prepare relentlessly for the kickoff: Know your audience. Know the material and make sure it speaks to their concerns, not only to what you are offering. You might be ready to promise them the stars and the moon whilst they might just be looking for a way to look at the stars and the moon.
  3. Declare (through a presentation or whatever suits your purpose) what you stand for in the project & how you will run the project: This is not for the weak of heart. You need to state what you stand for, what you expect from them as much as what you commit to. The presentation is not fluff for killing time & checking off a task in the kickoff meeting with pretty bulleted slides; it should set you up for delivering very important messages, in your meetings after the presentation.
  4. Meet with the stakeholders: The fun part begins here! Make sure all stakeholders are there. This includes people who will lead the team from the client side as well as the people who are impacted by the project.
  5. Ask lots of questions & listen for agreements: Firstly, you don’t have to know the answers. This is really important (It took me about 2-3 years to learn this one). You just have to ask the right questions & listen the people in the room arrive at agreements on stuff like goals, roles, responsibilities, success criteria, processes (and many other things that I cannot put here lest I will be writing a book instead of an article!).
  6. Jot down agreements and follow-up with confirmations by exchanging notes.
  7. Clearly communicate next steps to keep things moving forward and in the direction of the project goals.

How do you know if you have had a kickass kickoff meeting? Don’t worry about that part… your project will tell you that!

Have fun!

PS> Both Guy & I were recently interviewed for our book, #PROJECT MANAGEMENT Tweet on Blog Business World by Wayne Hurlbert. Wayne asked a number of thought provoking questions on Project Management that both Guy & I did our best to answer… for those interested, you can find the interview here. Disclaimer – it is a 1 hour interview… you have been forewarned.