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Project Planning Part 1: the Kick-Off Meeting

By : Peter|6 Dec 2021
project management

In our previous articles, we talked about how to initiate a project, what are the key components, and what types of documentation or tools that can help you successfully kick off the project initiation phase.

In this article, we will be focusing on the second phase of a project’s life cycle, the planning phase. Planning is a crucial phase as it helps to map out the full project, understand the work needed to achieve the project goals, and coordinate efforts and timelines with other teams and stakeholders.

The planning phase may differ from project to project, but generally three big things are worked out during this stage: the schedule, the budget, and the risk management plan. But first, to get the whole team on board and get the project going, a project kick-off meeting should be held.


Who is invited to the kick-off meeting?

Well, that would be the team members identified in a RACI chart, created during the initiation phase which we discussed in our previous article. You should also invite your stakeholders and your sponsor to the meeting, so that they have a chance to understand the high-level plan for the project, can share their perspective, and you can ensure that everyone is on the same page.


Why is the kick-off meeting important?

A project kick-off meeting is the first meeting in which a project team comes together to ground everyone in a shared vision, gain a shared understanding of the project's goals and scope, and to understand each person's individual roles within the team. It is also a great chance to build team rapport.

During the kick-off meeting, team members will learn more about how they'll contribute to the project and how they'll gain a deeper understanding of how the team will work together to reach the project's goals.

The kick-off meeting is also an opportunity for teammates to ask questions and offer insights, and it's a great time to set expectations with the team about how each person will individually contribute to the project.


How to run a kick-off meeting?

There are lots of templates for kick-off meeting agendas, but most follow a similar structure and last about an hour.

Most meetings start with brief introductions. You can allocate about 10 minutes for everyone in the group to introduce themselves and their roles. And if time allows, share a fun fact about themselves to build rapport. Then you'll spend about 5 minutes giving an overview of the background of the project. This covers details like how the project came to be and why the project matters. You'll also use this time to set a shared vision.

Next, spend about 5 minutes sharing the goals and the scope. That includes making it clear what work is considered in-scope, and what work is considered out-of-scope. This is also a good place to share the target launch date and highlight any important milestones the team needs to be aware of. It's a good idea to spend about 5 minutes making sure that everyone is clear on what work they'll be responsible for throughout the duration of the project.

Next, it's time to address collaboration, which is how the team will work together on the project. This is a great time to go over tools that will serve as a communal source of information for the team, like a project management software tool like IDEX. It's also a great time to determine how the team will communicate with one another, like through daily standup, a team chat, and weekly team check-in meetings. You should spend about 10 minutes on this topic.

Then, spend about 10 minutes setting expectations with your teammates for what's coming up. Finally, set aside about 15 minutes for questions from the team. This is your team's chance to gain clarity on any of the topics you've discussed so far. It's also your chance to hear from the team and ensure that the project is benefiting from diversity of thoughts, experiences, and ideas.

Once you've finalized the meeting agenda, document this information into a meeting agenda template, and send it to attendees a day or two ahead of the meeting. And after the meeting, don't forget to send a follow-up email to the team, summarizing key points and outcomes from the meeting, as well as any action items to the attendees.


Kick-off meeting best practices

  • Set the right time and duration. Choose a meeting time that works for everyone, and don’t make the meeting time too long.
  • Invite the right people.Invite attendees who play a role in the development and execution of the project, such as all team members, stakeholders, and the project sponsor.
  • Designate a notetaker.The discussion that takes place during the meeting is important. It is critical that you document any feedback, changes, or questions asked by attendees. If you are leading the meeting, designate someone else to take notes before the meeting starts.
  • Set the agenda.A kick-off meeting agenda should generally include: introductions, the project background and purpose, project goals and scope, roles and responsibilities, the collaboration process and project tools, what comes next, and time for questions and discussion.
  • Share the agenda.Prior to the meeting, share the agenda with attendees via email and identify speakers for each topic.
  • Stick to the agenda.During meetings, discussions can sometimes go off topic or take longer than expected. It is important to keep the meeting on track by redirecting discussions to the items on the agenda.
  • Follow up after the meeting.After the meeting, make sure to send out a meeting summary featuring the meeting notes and any action items.


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