30 Aug Hitting It Out of the Park: 7 Steps to Win at Your Next Project Kickoff
The first step to an effective kickoff is ensuring you know exactly what you want to achieve, and how you’ll do that.
Project managers face many challenges. If you’ve ever had to wrangle your team to kick off a new project, you know how much of a struggle it can be! Without ensuring everyone is on the same page right from the start, things can quickly go awry and much time, energy, and resources can be wasted.
To save yourself from the disappointment that comes from a faulty project start, we’ve come up with a step-by-step list of best practices to make sure your new project goes off without a hitch right out of the gate.
STEP ONE: HASH IT OUT
The first step to an effective kickoff is ensuring you know exactly what you want to achieve, and how you’ll do that. Before you even call a virtual meeting, sit down and hash out all the details.
Gather a few key team members to brainstorm what you need to achieve, how you are going to get there, the possible risks, an escalation process, and what meeting cadence you’ll need.
Think also about how you’ll share information (the cloud, Dropbox, a server with access to all team members). How will you communicate/meet (Skype, Slack, Webex)?
And now, before you hold the kickoff session, make sure you don’t have a lot of outstanding questions. Large groups on virtual calls are great for execution, but deadly for setting direction. They will expect you to have all of this organized.
STEP TWO: KNOW YOUR TEAM
Before you assemble your dream team, make sure to choose them wisely (consider where they live, what their strengths are, whether they’ll be working on this project in addition to their day jobs, etc.). It’s also super important to know exactly how the logistics of your project will work in order to ensure high levels of productivity. Will all team members report to one manager (you)? Or will you have a co-project manager? Depending on the size of the project, this is something that will need to be considered.
If it is a large team, you may want to consider using a RACI matrix to keep the project’s roles, tasks and responsibilities organized. Don’t forget to consider various time zones!
STEP THREE: PREPARE
Making sure you’re prepared beforehand is always a good idea, so ensure you have the objectives and agenda set before you call on your team. Once you know how the meeting will be organized, send the agenda out alongside the invite to your team, so everyone knows what to expect in advance.
Don’t go into a meeting without feeling fully prepared, as you don’t want to show anything but absolute confidence. Practise your presentation in advance if that helps you (how could it not?). No amount of pre-planning is too much. Really knowing your stuff helps you project positivity and self-assuredness which will rub off on your team, and drastically improve your chances of success.
STEP FOUR: KICK IT OFF!
Gather the team for a kickoff meeting. Present the details, outline each person’s duties, and make sure everyone is on the same page.
Gather the team for a kickoff meeting. Present the details, outline each person’s duties, and make sure everyone is on the same page. Go over the desired outcome and end date of the project as a whole. Visuals are helpful, so it’s a good idea to cue up a presentation that better explains the scope of the project, as well as your expectations of each team member. Use your knowledge and preparation to your advantage!
Here’s your chance to hype the project! Your enthusiasm can be the thing that makes or breaks it. Don’t forget you’re the leader here, and your team is looking to you for more than just the details. Keep the meeting as succinct as possible so as not to overwhelm, and make sure to ask for input/ideas from the team as you go (two, or five, or twelve heads are always better than one!).
Lastly, leave time for (and encourage) questions so you can clarify any snags with everyone present before the meeting ends.
STEP FIVE: FOLLOW UP!
Take notes and send them to the team members once the meeting is over. This process will not only improve the project itself, it will also let your team know they’re an integral part of the outcome!
Because you worked with your team in the meeting to establish a communication system that works for everyone, you’ll all be prepared for this process. Touching base after a meeting gives you the opportunity to add anything you may have forgotten, and to re-iterate and/or clarify information. After all, there’s nothing worse than a project going off the rails because of simple confusion and miscommunication!
STEP SIX: MAINTAIN THE MOMENTUM
Just because the meeting is over doesn’t mean your job is. To make sure every person on the team fully understands how to proceed, make sure you follow up and allow room for them to get even further clarification, in order to stay on track. Checking in one-on-one via email or video conferencing is usually preferable, but if that’s not possible, schedule a follow-up meeting with everyone present.
Use this time to get your team up to speed, and to encourage them to stay motivated in what they’re doing. If you can, give everyone the opportunity to ask questions or give feedback anonymously, as it can be hard to give genuine feedback when you feel put on the spot.
STEP SEVEN: ASSESS HOW IT WENT
Once the project is complete, make sure you assess how it went. Check in with the team and ask for some honest feedback. We know this can be hard for people, but getting constructive criticism is the only way to get a good idea of how you can improve for the future. Don’t just rely on your team for feedback, though; make sure you assess your own performance. What could you have done differently? How will you improve before the next kickoff?
Once the project is complete, make sure you assess how it went. Check in with the team and ask for some honest feedback.
Don’t neglect giving yourself credit, though, too, because leading a team into a brand spanking new project is a thoroughly challenging undertaking and you managed to get it done! Pat yourself on the back, take feedback with stride, and plan to make necessary adjustments for next time. It’s the only way to ensure your next kickoffs get easier, and are more effective.
Whew! Project kickoffs can be challenging! Here at Sales Beacon, we know this, and are determined to help you through the process. Follow the above steps to help you launch your new project successfully. As the project manager, it’s your responsibility to project confidence, energy, and approachability. Having a winning plan right from the get-go will help bolster the confidence we know you already have. Following through, and giving room for your team to ask questions is paramount to effective communication, and will assist you in achieving the positive outcome you’re striving for—every single time!