Project kick-off meetings are filled with excitement and enthusiasm – everyone is eager to get the new initiative underway and the anticipation of reaping the project’s rewards energizes your team as well as your stakeholders.
But kick-off meetings with the executive group can sometimes lead to unexpected challenges. They may ask for changes to your project plan. They might question the initiative’s budget or request additional justification for various line items. These last-minute complications could put your project’s start date or execution strategy in jeopardy.
If you’re concerned about pushback during your next launch, consider partnering with an experienced project management consulting firm to help you gather the right data and ensure your project plan is credible and realistic. With those assets in hand, you’ll be positioned to make your kick-off meeting with the senior staff productive, and everyone will be ready to move straight into a successful project execution.
Set clear parameters for the discussion. One issue that sometimes crops up is the desire to rehash elements of the project – its objectives, expected timelines, cost, end user concerns, etc. – that should already have been worked out and approved. The kick-off meeting isn’t the right venue to revisit any of those issues, but because the executives wield significant influence, they are the most likely group to try making additional tweaks to the project’s scope or deliverables at this late stage.
Project managers need to be ready for this potential problem and head it off early. You can accomplish that by sending out an agenda for the kick-off meeting as part of the calendar invite. Most PMs opt to include a short Q&A session to give stakeholders time for any remaining questions, but make it clear in your communications that the major issues have already been decided and they won’t be part of the kick-off meeting discussion.
Establish expectations. The kick-off meeting is a perfect opportunity to let your executives know what they can expect from your project team going forward. Outline your planned communication strategy, such as the anticipated frequency of status updates and the point of contact within your project team for any questions that may come up later. You should also set aside time during the kick-off meeting to remind (or educate) the leadership group on the tools available to them – on-demand data via a mobile app dashboard, for example – to check on the project’s progress once activities begin.
Identify action areas for the project team. Based on any requests received during the kick-off meeting, your group may have follow-up items to complete. Flag these and, either during the last few minutes of the event or shortly after, create a master list of your team’s action items and distribute it to all participants. This eliminates potential ambiguity about any outstanding requests and clearly identifies who will be acting on them.
Identify action areas for the senior leadership team. Your senior staff may also have follow-up items to tackle. The kick-off meeting is often their cue to alert the internal procurement team to expedite a time-sensitive project’s purchase orders or to let HR know they can begin any project-related recruiting activities. You don’t want these action items falling through the cracks, so document them and plan a day to confirm completion.
Set a timeframe for the next step. Close your kick-off meeting with a reminder about what happens next. That may be coordinating the first work disruption with affected end users or placing orders for materials – whatever the next step is in your project’s lifecycle, the kick-off meeting offers a good segue into the rest of your team’s execution strategy.