We have all been there – A brand new project was just approved, and everyone is excited to start working. The Project Sponsor has allocated funds to get a team together, but there’s lots of confusion; who’s going to do what? Who is the customer? What’s the expected output? What commitments did we make already? At the start of a new project, there are many unknowns that need to be answered or clarified. How this stage of the project is handled can set the tone for the rest of the effort, and kicking off a project should be managed with careful planning and executed smoothly.
So how do we make sure everyone on the project is working together towards a common goal? Here are a few tips for you to consider for your next project.
Tip #1 – Provide a high-level vision for the product/project/solution
A project is an investment towards something that is expected to provide some kind of benefit, whatever that might be. More often than not, many project teams skip providing a high-level vision, or provide the ‘big picture’ and go straight towards implementation, which can create a lot of issues down the road. One way to make sure everyone is aligned is to have the Project Sponsor provide a high-level business objective for this effort. This may seem trivial, but it will likely have a significant impact to how decisions are made throughout the project when you least expect.
Tip #2 – Communication approach for people/process/tools
A brand new project team usually cannot function effectively without some guidance on standards, such as processes, policies, and tools. This should be communicated as early as possible and reinforced with regular updates as the project progresses, and changes are required.
Tip #3 – Who’s doing what?
Roles and responsibilities for a project team can be handled in a variety of ways, but no matter how formal or informal this is managed, the team needs to have clarity of their areas of accountability. This can be handled using the tried-and-true RACI Matrix (Responsible, Accountable, Consult, Inform). You may choose a different method or tool if you prefer, but make sure everyone is clear on who owns what decisions.
Tip #4 – What does success look like?
Is the project considered a failure if it takes longer than expected, or if it overruns the initial budget? This may vary from project to project, so the team should understand the constraints and success criteria that are defined by the project sponsor and stakeholders.
Tip #5 – What are the key milestones?
Long projects can be demoralizing, especially when the team does not receive feedback or a sense of accomplishment. Setting some key milestones can provide a great way to help focus the team’s efforts. Even if the customer does not demand critical delivery dates, it is generally advantageous to set incremental checkpoints that the team can use to inspect completed work and make adjustments as needed.
These are few simple tips for planning and executing an effective Project Kickoff. Give these tips a try if you see an opportunity to improve how the team collaborates.