INSIGHTS

Why You Should Do a Project Kick-Off (and How to Do It)

January 27, 2015 | Post

As a project manager, there is one task when starting a new project that is very different from any other Project Management task: the kick-off. The kick-off requires the scope and project authorization and gets all participants together to talk about the necessary steps to launch the product. We hold a kick-off meeting at the start of every new project, and because they’re so powerful in helping us gain momentum and stay focused, we recommend our customers hold their own as well.

Here’s how we suggest customers model their kick-offs for a project to gain greater enthusiasm and better focus among all team members.

Setting up the Kick-Off Meeting

Once you begin a new hardware project or program, quickly get an internal kick-off on the schedule to ensure your team is all on the same page. The first challenge of the kick-off is merely getting it scheduled. This is actually quite difficult! Nearly all kick-offs come during the execution, monitoring, and controlling phases of the project. This is okay, as long as it’s early. The longer into a project you are, the more benefit and potency a kick-off loses. However, too early before project work, the momentum and urgency created from the kick-off can dissipate.

The lesson here is that a perfectly timed kick-off will maximize its benefit. So once that time has been identified, take advantage and schedule it right away before getting 25 busy people onto the schedule on the ideal day becomes impossible due to events scheduled in the meantime.

Communicating the Project Scope with a Kick-Off Meeting

The primary objective of the kick-off meeting is to present and solicit views on the project. Department heads will have the best view into new capabilities that can be used on a project. They also control workflow through their departments, so getting their buy-in is critical. The secondary objective is to properly align urgency from the departments to meet current and future project phase needs. Raising the profile of the project does this, and it might be one of the only times the department heads all meet and make choices together about how the project will be implemented.

It’s an expensive event–25 people in a room at one time, listening to a presentation. For this reason, and to keep the kick-off organized, it’s wise to keep the roster to executives, department heads, and the project team.

Overall, communicating the project scope to all involved not only makes it clear what their roles in the project will be, but also creates a sense of urgency to keep the project on task from the very beginning.

Creating Momentum through the Kick-Off

When you walk out of a kick-off, the project visibility is at an all-time high, and this gets rid of obstacles and creates momentum. There is no better time to get ahead on a schedule than this moment because the total organizational energy directed at the project is at its peak. Leverage this momentum to get all the advantages you can out of the kick-off.

Case in Point: A Customer Held Their Own Kick-Off (and It Was a Success)

Here’s a true story of one customer who initiated their own kick-off and how it benefited their project.

The customer is currently coming on board with MBX, and though the technology is within our wheelhouse, the project has some unique deliverables and a super tight schedule. The customer took the schedule we created for our own kick-off and used it as the basis of theirs. We worked together to identify milestones that they would need to hit to prevent any scheduling delays, and they worked them into their kick-off.

In their kick-off, all departments tuned in and raised the priority and visibility of the project. The end result? A stronger commitment to the project was formed on both MBX and the customer’s sides, and the work and results were shared. Hitting the milestones on-time and providing the unique deliverables came easy as the kick-off created the momentum the project needed and made it clear to all involved what had to be done by whom and when.

This had another effect: the customer and MBX paired up and joined forces on the project team, and that strong bond has helped us work together in a more candid fashion. This is a basis for how we achieve the best results on all onboarding projects, and it is for this reason that I recommend all customers do their own kick-off.

What will Your Team Gain from a Kick-Off?

A project kick-off is an opportunity to keep energy high for the work we do for our customers, and it creates momentum for the entire project. What will your company gain from a project kick-off?

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