A project lifecycle often involves many meetings with different purposes.
One of these meetings is the so-called kick off meeting or preliminary project meeting.
This meeting is an important communication tool between project manager, team and stakeholders.
If organized and properly executed, a preliminary meeting can help the project manager in order to handle the project more easily and with fewer obstacles.
What is a kick off-meeting?
More precisely, a preliminary meeting is one of the first meetings held among project stakeholders at the time of launching a new project.
This meeting can include all project stakeholders, up to the highest levels, such as project sponsors, management and project managers, as well as team members.
When does a kick off-meeting take place?
If the project is small, the kick-off meeting usually takes place after the start-up process with all team members. In fact, the same team is involved in planning and execution of the project.
Furthermore, if some team members don’t know each other, this could be their first meeting together.
In small projects usually only one preliminary project meeting takes place.
If the project is a big project, however, the kick-off meeting takes place when the project planning is completed and the project is about to start.
In a multi-phase project, preliminary meetings can be scheduled at the beginning of each phase.
If the project is complex and distributed over a large geographical area, the meeting will be a virtual kick-off meeting in which all participants can communicate each other in an online call or video call.
What is the purpose of a kick off meeting?
A project team can be made up of new team members, so it is important to have one session to allow team members to meet each other.
This meeting also helps to improve the feeling of trust and promotes discussion and mutual agreement between team members.
Then, the meeting helps all team members to become aware of the objectives of the project, of the hypotheses, of the constraints, of the deliverables.
The challenges, methods, procedures, plans, work environment and roles of each stakeholder, etc. are also taken into consideration.
How to perform a successful kick off meeting?
If the project is large and complex, you can have internal and external meetings.
Internal kick off meetings are scheduled between team members and the project manager to better understand the project, aligning each other.
In an external kick off meeting, all the stakeholders comes into play and the customer is taken in consideration also.
Then, they will discuss about the project, the objectives, the context and the responsibility of each team member.
It is also important to discuss about the communication and reporting system within the team and with project stakeholders.
Generally, the meeting is closed with a question and answer session in ordert o help the team in the problem solving.
Once the internal kick off meeting is finished, the next step will be schedule an external kick off meeting with the customer.
This will be the opportunity to fully understand the customer and his expectations, clarifying any doubts and to explain how the project manager is going to handle planning and execution of the project, etc.
Following are some steps to follow to achieve an effective kick off meeting.
1) Schedule the meeting
The project manager decides the topics to be discussed during the meeting.
For example, it may include a session about the team presentation, the introduction of the project and the objectives, milestones, constraints, etc.
The PM must send the invitation to all the participants in advance to allow them to prepare for the meeting.
2) Lead the meeting
The project manager, as project coordinator, leads and directs the meeting as previously scheduled.
It is important for the PM to set and communicate the expectations and requirements to the participants.
The team will have to know exactly how many days it will have to work, the roles within it, the practical issues, for example how to request holidays, how to communicate with the project manager, etc.
Explaining the communication and reporting system is important as well.
Clarifying in which format the reports are needed and how often meetings or communications will be essential.
It should be never forget, the explanation on business needs and why the project is important for the customer and for the company.
Each project presents risks and, even these, together with possible solutions, must be exposed during the meeting.
3) Close the meeting
As said before, at the end of the meeting it is appropriate to hold a question and answer session.
Here the participants can ask all the questions and receive – hopefully – all the answers.
The meeting generally closes with thanks to the project manager.
Furthermore, the PM will leave an open communication channel, emphasizing his availability to be contacted for any further questions or clarifications.
Kick off meeting benefits
Following a short list of the benefits you get from a preliminary meeting:
- It helps team members to know each other;
- Defines the roles and the authority of the project;
- It helps team members to understand project goals;
- It helps team stakeholders to understand milestones, risks, project requirements and constraints of the project;
- It helps the project manager to get support, consensus and trust from all stakeholders;
- It allows to all participants to ask questions clarifying their doubts.
A preliminary meeting is the key to completing the project.
An important tool to make all team members meet each other and to motivate them to reach the target.
This is also the moment when the project manager can show his leadership qualities for the first time and start building a relationship of trust with the team and the stakeholders.
For all these reasons a project manager must adequately prepare the kick off meeting and must consider it an important step towards the future success of the project.
Have you ever drove a kick off meeting or did you take part?
Tell us about your experience.