Sometimes projects don't always go through an organized sequence of planning and execution. On many projects, you're forced to jump into execution and then catch up with the planning later. Before you know it, you find that team members and stakeholders have varying levels of understanding about the purpose and status of the project.
Regardless of how you start your project, you should always hold a project kickoff. The purpose of the kickoff meeting is to formally notify all team members, clients, and stakeholders that the project has begun and make sure everyone has a common understanding of the project and their roles. Like all formal meetings, there should be an agenda. There are a number of specific things you want to do at this meeting:
- Introduce the people at the meeting.
- Recap the information in the Project Charter, including the purpose of the project, the scope, the major deliverables, the risks, the assumptions, the estimated effort and budget, and the deadline.
- Discuss the important roles and responsibilities of the project team, clients and stakeholders. Many, if not all, of the people that will work on the project should be in attendance. If there's confusion about the role of any person or organization, I you should discuss and clarify it here.
- Go over the general approach and timeline of the project. This gives people a sense for how the project will unfold. In particular, you will want to ensure that people understand what they need to be doing in the short-term to support the project.
- Discuss the project management procedures. It's important for everyone to understand how the project manager will manage schedule, issues, scope, risk, etc., since many people play a role in these procedures. For example, you need a process to surface scope change requests, determine their impact, and bring them forward for approval. You don't want to fight with people about how the process works after the project has started. The kickoff meeting is the time to make sure every understands and agrees to the proposed project management procedures.
- Discuss and answer any outstanding questions. The purpose of the discussion is not to rehash the purpose of the project, but to allow people to voice specific questions or concerns they have as the project begins.
- Confirm that the project is now underway.
In general, the project team, client, and stakeholders should be in attendance. Most kickoff meetings can be conducted in an hour or two, but other complex and long projects may require a day or two.