February 26, 2020

5 Tips For Making Kick-Off Meetings Run Smoothly – Project Management Series

Teri Gibson
Teri Gibson Head of Client Operations

Kick-off meetings are one of the biggest milestones in any project. These meetings are key to making sure everyone starts on the same page and is aligned with each other. Additionally, they set the tone for how the project will go. Trust me, you want the tone to be energetic, well-thought-out, and structured. But, how can you be more practical and implement these meetings in your project, and finally make them effective?

Tip #1 – Prepare ahead! 

What’s that saying, ‘fail to plan, plan to fail’? Make sure you do your research ahead of time, do a bit of investigation into who the client is and read up on any relevant news items. For example, I also take a look at my client’s ‘team’ or ‘about us’ pages to get some more insight into their culture. Another example of preparation is to dedicate some proper time to create, practice and finalise the presentation you’ll give.

Tip #2 – Set an agenda, inform people upfront and stick to it. 

This is not the time to run away with new thoughts and ideas or start a conversation about something totally off-topic. The kick-off meetings hold a lot of power, and usually, there are quite a few topics to get through. To make sure you get – and give – all the relevant info, and set the project up for success, stay on track with your agenda. This article on planning the agenda for your meeting might be helpful

Tip #3 – Don’t rush through the warm and fuzzy stuff. 

This meeting is not just about throwing information at each other, rather it’s the time to build relationships; have a two-way conversation and make sure you are all on the same page. Which leads me to…

Tip # 4  – Keep the focus on alignment. 

Aligning expectations and priorities is vital for a project. Therefore, the earlier you start with this, the easier the rest of the project will be. Alignment takes shape in many forms – from agreeing on how to communicate with each other, understanding what success looks like, to who does what and when. Making sure you’re on the same page is something that should be top of mind the entire way through the project.

Tip #5 – Managing expectations by using the RACI Matrix

My final tip is to use the RACI matrix to manage expectations of who’s working on what, and where the end responsibility lies. The RACI chart or matrix is a quick and easy method to identify roles and ownership of different tasks.

What does the acronym stand for?

R = Responsible –  This is the person, or people, who will be doing the actual work. There will always be at least 1 person with this role.

A = Accountable – This is the single person who must sign-off on the work, or who has the ownership of the activity. There is only ever 1 person accountable.

C = Consulted – This is the person, or people, who are asked for advice before the activity is completed. You may or may not have anyone fulfil this role.

I = Informed – This is the person, or people, who are told about the activity or progress just to keep them in the loop. It’s the people you would say “FYI, this happened”.

You may ask, “why should I use this chart?” This matrix helps to avoid confusion and helps to set expectations within the team. Also, it visualises the workload and responsibility so everyone knows who to go to for what, when and how much each person has to do.

How do you make the matrix?

  1. List all the activities or tasks needing to be done on the left-hand side of the matrix.
  2. Write all of the names of the project members and stakeholders along the top of the chart.
  3. For each activity, identify and assign who is Responsible, Accountable, Consulted and Informed. Remember, there can only ever be 1 person accountable for the task.
  4. Share and discuss the chart with all stakeholders before the project work starts. This is important to set and manage expectations and avoid conflict during the project.

Kick-off meetings which have a logical agenda, focus on relationship building and alignment, and define responsibilities early on will make sure the rest of your project is a success. By using the RACI model, aligning with each other and putting energy in the warm and fuzzy stuff, you will ensure not only your kick-off meeting runs smoothly but the rest of the project does too!

If you want to know more about planning the agenda for the kick-off meeting, check out this article part of the Project Management Series.

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