If you’re a person who manages projects, do yourself a favor. Learn to lead powerful kickoff meetings. Learn to take control of a project, to seek input, and to place everyone on the same page. Step to the front of each project with purpose, set the tone, and deliver a solid kickoff.
Don’t “Hold” a Kickoff Meeting, Lead It
Some people define a project kickoff meeting as the first meeting with the client and the project team. In their minds, as soon as the project is initiated, a project kickoff meeting should be held. They believe its primary value is to introduce everyone and announce the start of the project.
Viewing a kickoff meeting from this limited perspective; however, means it becomes scheduled prematurely. When it’s scheduled too soon, the project manager lacks the necessary information to actually lead the meeting. Instead, he or she is relegated to “holding” the kickoff meeting.
You can be certain there’s a difference.
“Holding” a Kickoff Meeting Can Hurt Your Project
When the kickoff meeting is merely held, it’s usually riddled with unanswered questions. It fails to include necessary stakeholders and it often starts late, ends late or both. Typically, it creates an appearance of disorganization. It places the project manager in a poor light and wastes the time of several people.
“Leading” a Kickoff Meeting Is Your Path to Success
Although the kickoff meeting is used to announce the start of a project, it has far greater value.
The importance of the kickoff meeting is to set the tone of the entire project and to inspire the project team. By its very nature, the kickoff meeting foreshadows how the project will be managed.
During the kickoff meeting, attendees form important first impressions regarding the project. They assign value to it and they predict its ability to succeed. Whether we recognize it or not, these first impressions either foster project success or expose the project to risk. For these reasons, the kickoff meeting is perhaps the most important of all project meetings.
Timing and Planning Matter
Strong kickoff meetings don’t just happen. They are timed and they are planned.
Timing is important because the meeting shouldn’t be held until key information is gathered. The kickoff meeting also shouldn’t occur until preliminary project planning is complete.
By following the checklists below, you’ll be well on your way to leading a powerful kickoff meeting that is well planned and perfectly timed. You’ll provide the meeting with every opportunity to signal project success.
Three Lists for Leading
Doomed to Fail
Weak kickoff meetings are merely held, and often before adequate planning. They are characterized by having too many unknowns and a lack of clear direction. They start late, they end late and they fail to account for the input of valuable stakeholders. Weak kickoff meetings waste time and they expose the project to risk. They foreshadow project failure.
Destined to Succeed
Lead kickoff meetings that are powerful. Start them after ample planning. Seek input from others and motivate the project team. Set clear expectations, step to the front of the project, and lay the groundwork for success. The checklists above are sure to set you on the right path.
Be a leader, not a holder. This Kickoff Meeting Checklist and Kickoff Meeting Agenda Template can help.
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