In an athletic competition the most important thing is to have a good start. I have experienced that myself when I was doing athletics. A good start in the competition gives you confidence and is the foundation to build on. If you are not properly concentrated and something goes wrong that really unsettles you. It takes time to gain confidence again and forget about the problems in the beginning. It’s the same in project management – the kick off meeting is the starting point of your project and should give you and your team the confidence and the directions for the project and the first steps. A project manager should therefore carefully plan the project kickoff and have reasonable time for planning. I have experienced it very often that the sales phase of an IT project takes quite long – mostly negotiations of price, contract or scope are consuming a lot of time. Original wishes for time planning of the customer can be jeopardized if the sales phase is taken longer than planned. As soon as the contract is signed everyone is very eager to start and maybe even wants to make up time to stay within the original timeline. As a result, the time to kick-off is shortened and the planning may just happen on the fly or in worst case a proper kick-off meeting will be skipped. If that’s the case your missing out the biggest and first chance to gain momentum in your project!
The project kickoff is your possibility as a project manager to bring your team together and build the foundation for your project. In the kickoff meeting you should take the opportunity to define the framework for your project and set the directions. Make sure everyone in your team knows what’s the target of the project and is aligned with it, has clear responsibilites and as much information as possible. For sure you will not be able to clarify everything in the kickoff meeting but the better your organization is from the beginning the easier it will be to add or define missing links in the project. You can compare it to solving a puzzle – if you have setup the border it is easier to add the inner pieces. And if you ever get in the situation that your kickoff meeting might be jeopardized try everything you can do to make it happen. It’s your responsibility as project manager and leader to take care that the project starts in the right way from the beginning.
If you need some input on how to organize your project kickoff I have put together the main aspects from my point of view. You can download the PDF: How to organize a project kickoff