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Seven tips to run a Project Kick-Off Meeting

How to run a project kick off meeting

In my experience, kick-off meetings are much like the starting pistol of a marathon: they signal the beginning of a journey, one that requires endurance, teamwork, and a clear path forward.

Just like a wedding ceremony sets the tone for a marriage, a well-conducted kick-off meeting can establish the foundations for a successful relationship.

Project kick-off meetings aim to align the team on the project's strategic direction, boundaries, and methodology. 

It should cover the overarching vision, scope, and objectives, clearly defining each team member's roles and responsibilities. 

Additionally, the kick-off outlines the specific practices the team will follow throughout the project lifecycle. By the end of the project kick-off meeting , the team should have a concrete action plan outlining the immediate next steps to mobilise swiftly.

How not to run a project kick-off meeting

Unfortunately, not all kick-offs create this solid starting ground and can end up in divorce - or worse. 

I worked within a mining project kick-off where the focus was on contract clauses and penalties right from the start. You can probably guess what happened next. 

This approach immediately set a tone of distrust and defensiveness, which is hardly the way to foster a collaborative environment.

How to run a project kick-off meeting

In our approach, we focus on key elements to ensure the kick-off meeting truly serves its purpose to achieve high performance. 

Here's my top seven tips with how I like to run project kick-off meetings.

1. Build genuine relationships

Our first interactions with new teams or partners must go beyond the ink of contracts. Creating an atmosphere of trust and openness from the get-go is essential. I've learned that introducing the team, sharing personal insights, and engaging in ice-breaking activities not only ease tensions but also pave the way for genuine connections.

See our resource on team agreements if you need to get your team aligned. 

2. Recognising and valuing different perspectives

Acknowledging that each team member may bring a different approach to the table based on their background and expertise enriches our project. This diversity in problem-solving enriches our strategies and outcomes.

3. Communicating Clearly and Effectively

Ensuring that everyone understands the project’s scope, timeline, and their roles should be a priority. I aim for clarity and brevity in our discussions, making every moment of our meeting count by focusing on what truly matters.

4. Fostering a Comfortable Environment 

It’s important that everyone in the room feels safe to express their thoughts and concerns. By establishing a team agreement that outlines how we treat each other, we create a supportive space that encourages openness and collaboration.

5. Setting the Vision and Goals

Sharing the vision and goals of the project helps align the team’s efforts. I always encourage team members to share how they relate to the project’s objectives, which helps personalise their commitment and energize their contributions.

6. Planning for Continuous Engagement

I view kick-off meetings not as one-off events but as the beginning of an ongoing dialogue. Regular check-ins, retrospectives and adaptive planning are essential to keep everyone on track and responsive to project dynamics.

7 Adapting to Various Skill Levels 

It’s essential to tailor the discussion to accommodate all levels of expertise present in the room. This ensures that everyone, from novices to experts, can follow along and contribute meaningfully.

The memory of that poorly executed kick-off in the mining sector serves as a constant reminder to me of what not to do.

Instead of pulling out contracts and highlighting penalties, we should be pulling teams together, celebrating diverse viewpoints, and building a roadmap that everyone is eager to follow.

By focusing on these human elements, we not only enhance our immediate project outcomes but also strengthen our long-term relationships, making every project kick-off a launchpad for collective success.

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