A quality kickoff meeting begins with a killer proposal with a clear scope and a solid agenda. The purpose of a kickoff meeting is to get everyone on the same page, working toward a successfully completed project. If you are in a service industry and are executing projects, these tips help with how to lead a well-planned kickoff meeting.
Internal Kickoff Meeting
Prior to meeting with the client, be sure to have an internal kickoff meeting to go over the scope, timeline, and budget. Make any tweaks to the schedule to accommodate a technician’s vacation or a lead’s obligation to another client. Be sure the technician has reviewed the scope, creative brief, or technical specs and has an opportunity to raise questions that might affect timing or budgets. Handoff any mockups or other items that you collected in the preliminary work with the client.
Invite the Right People
The role players that should attend are:
- Project Manager
- Lead (Creative Director, Tech Lead, Accountant)
- Technician (Art Director, Designer, Developer, Bookkeeper)
- Client Operational Lead
- Client Financial Lead
- Sales (Client’s Purchasing Agent; Service Professional’s Salesperson)
Some of those roles might be played by the same person, depending on the size of the project and the size of the client.
Make sure that everyone knows who is playing which role. And, share contact information for each of the role players. All of these people might not be in future calls, but they should definitely be there for this one.
If there are other participants that will have an influence on the project, find out now. For example, if the client has a partner you have never met who can veto a project, make sure you keep that person in the loop as you work. If there are employees who struggle with technology or who fear change, try to include them in the testing process so they feel like they have a leg up when launch comes.
Review the Agreed-Upon Scope
Walk through the scope with everyone at the beginning of the kickoff meeting. Especially if a salesperson and a purchasing agent handled the initial proposal, it is important that everyone gets on the same page as far as the scope. If anyone in the meeting isn’t completely clear on the goals and deliverables, stop and reassess before moving on.
Additionally, if a member of the client team leaves during the project, it is important to walk the replacement team member through this scope again. I can’t tell you the number of times that expectations of someone new coming into the situation are wildly different from what the original person’s thoughts were. It can completely destroy the outcome of a project when everyone is not on the same page.
Discuss the Timeline
Share the initial milestone schedule and discuss any conflicts. For example, is the client lead on vacation during the testing window? Have you scheduled the launch for the client’s busiest day of the year? Make sure that you are clear on who is responsible and about how much work each milestone might require so that the client can raise concerns if something is not like s/he expects.
Explain the Testing Process
Are you doing market research? If so, what impact do those results have? Do you need team members to test different portions of the software as they are developed? Is there a certain process of taking test data to a new live server? What are the quality control steps? Do you need a proofreader? How is software tested before it is sent along to the client? How can you confirm that all the financial information is accurate when it gets to the new accounting package? Is there a staged release? How is client feedback collected and where is it housed?
Answering these questions not only makes the testing go more smoothly, it also gives the client a sense of security that you know what to expect in a project. The goal is for the highest quality work — and working together is the only way to get there.
Also, be sure to explain that there might be bugs or typos. But, also explain that the testing process is there to catch them.
Schedule Standing Status Meetings
Once you are all on the same page, set up regular status meetings. Be sure to discuss who should attend. Minimally, it should be the client operational lead and the technician. Also discuss how to communicate with the other members of the team. For example, does the client financial lead need a weekly update in writing? Or, does the client’s purchasing agent need regular updates?
In each meeting, be sure to cover:
- What is complete?
- What is next?
- And, what’s a blocker?
For more details, read running effective status meetings.
The last step in the kickoff meeting is to cover any details and/or acquire any materials to begin the next steps. It’s a great time to ask questions like what screen resolution the clients are using, whether you can get a specifically formatted copy of the client’s logo, or what version of a particular software they are running. Anything that helps move the project along is important.
Lastly, be sure to allow everyone in the kickoff meeting an opportunity to ask any final questions. And, then remind everyone of the first status meeting’s time and date before bringing the meeting to a close.
If you start a project with a great kickoff meeting, it sets the tone for the project to come. It also begins building the team of professionals who will be finishing projects together as partners.
Originally published at Beyond the Chaos: Small Business Project Management and Operations Consulting.