A good project start is essential for good teamwork and project success. Although a kick-off meeting is not absolutely necessary for this, it is a good means to provide the necessary motivational boost for everyone involved. In this article we will give you a detailed insight into the topic of kick-off meetings in project management. The following topics will be dealt with in more detail:
- What is a kick-off meeting?
- Why is a kick-off meeting useful for project management?
- How to organize a kick-off meeting?
And at the end we give you a checklist for planning your kick-off meetings.
What is a kick-off meeting?
Essentially it is a briefing of and with all project stakeholders, even the customer. It often marks the official start of a project or is scheduled before the start of a new, important phase of a project or sprint, if you are an agile team.
It is not unusual that the kick-off meeting is the first time for everyone to meet either face to face or in a virtual meeting. So, a kick-off meeting is also a way of getting to know the project team. Especially for project staff of dispersed teams, this is an important benefit of a kick-off meeting as it is unlikely that they will all meet in person during the project.
A kick-off meeting, however, is not for project planning. The project plan should have already been drawn up and the kick-off meeting is held at the start of the actual execution of the project.
Why is a kick-off meeting useful for project management?
Kick-off meetings are widely used in project management because they are known for their many advantages. Apart from providing a structured start into the project execution, kick-off meetings often serve objectives that are less tangible but vitally important for project success:
- Establishing a positive atmosphere among the project stakeholders
- Laying the foundation for a respectful interaction within the project team and with the customer
- Attributing the project the necessary significance to be considered valuable
- Focusing the team on common goals and establishing a sense of unity
- Motivating the project stakeholders to work together for successful project completion
In short, it is a way to bring everyone involved on board, let everyone have the same information about the project and to ensure that everyone knows what is expected from the project.
How to organize a kick-off meeting?
Let's first look at the potential agenda of your kick-off meeting. In principle, a kick-off event can consist of any one or more elements. Quite often, presentations of the customer and/or the project manager take place first. Here you can present the main project objectives and provide an initial overview of, for example:
- Project plan (e.g. important milestones, start- and end-dates)
You should also explain the principles of project communication and cooperation. In teams that have never worked together before, it is important to establish concrete communication rules. These include, for example:
- Important contact persons e.g. within the team, in the PMO or the customer’s organization
- Defining the primary means of communication and processes
- Establishing feedback loops and error reporting to react to change requests quickly
- Setting rules for documentation and document management
In case of larger projects, such as federal construction projects, press conferences are also held or selected press representatives are admitted to certain parts of the kick-off event. Such projects are usually accompanied by professional project marketing.
An integral part of kick-off meetings are workshops. They can be designed for various goals:
- Getting to know each other
- Discovering each other’s skill sets
- Exchanging lessons-learned (or retrospectives for agile teams) from previous, similar projects
At the end of a kick-off meeting, you should leave enough time for questions. Also, make sure that you summarize the points discussed during the kick-off meeting and consider the next steps in the project’s execution. And, of course, don’t forget to provide time and space for a relaxed winding-down and opportunity to network afterwards.
Checklist for planning your kick-off meeting
Now that you have gained an insight into the content of kick-off meetings, you may have realized that this is not just a small team event. An event of this kind cannot succeed without appropriate preparation. Our checklist for the preparation of a kick-off meeting for the project start helps you to think about all the important points and to set up a successful event:
1. Basic preparations
- Define project goals and scope, clarify key points with the project initiators or the customer
- Define the project team
- Clarify responsibilities: Which team member should fulfill which function in the project?
- Preliminary project planning (schedule, budgeting, resource planning)
- Define the meeting schedule and agenda in detail
2. Organizing the kick-off meeting
- Determine meeting participants
- Set the time, place, and duration of the meeting
- Book room in sufficient size with required equipment (if necessary, check availability of beamer, notebook, flipchart etc.)
- Optional: Order catering and drinks
- Invitation to the meeting by the project manager
- Prepare the presentation of the project
- Send the agenda and preliminary project plan to all participants no later than two days before the meeting
- Prepare documents to be distributed to the participants
- Appoint someone to take minutes of the meeting
- Prepare the respective agenda items (e.g. workshops, networking)
3. During the meeting
- Welcome and introductory words by the project manager
- Presentation of the meeting agenda
- Introductory round: All participants should say a few words about themselves and their function in the company or project
Course of the meeting according to planned agenda
- Feedback, questions and answers
- Evaluate the mood in the team
- Optional: Relaxed winding-down of the event
- Write a clean copy of the meeting minutes and send them to the participants
- Write a clean copy of the questions and answers and elaborate on them where necessary
- Adjust project plan based on meeting results and resend if necessary
Concluding remarks: A kick-off meeting is about setting the first steps for the project and not about the details. Comments, criticism, concerns, etc. should be taken seriously and written down. However, there should be no discussion about details of the project plan or individual tasks.
Checklist or for download
You can also download the above described approach and checklist for free and use it productively.
Click here for the free download: Checklist Kick-Off Meeting (Word Document)
InLoox planning template for download
If you work with InLoox, download the planning template including tasks for a kick-off meeting here.