The Power of a Kickoff Meeting

Emma Allport, CSM
August 17, 2023

Kickoff meetings serve as crucial drivers of successful collaborations, initiating projects and establishing a positive tone. We're going to break down six reasons why you should start every project with a kickoff meeting 🙌


Have you ever started building a piece of IKEA furniture without looking at the instructions? Gotten halfway through and realized you've missed a key step forcing you to rebuild the entire thing.  Yea... me neither 😉.  Starting a project without a proper kickoff is kind of like that - trying to jump in headfirst without aligning on The Plan is a recipe for disaster.

Kickoff meetings are the catalysts that drive successful collaborations. They mark the beginning of a project, setting the tone for what lies ahead. In this blog, we'll explore six reasons why teams should prioritize kickoff meetings and the valuable benefits they bring to the table.

1. Clarifying and Aligning on Project Objectives

You have the project objectives outlined in the contract. ✅ That's only step one. Contracts are great and serve their purpose but it's highly unusual for the entire project team to have been part of the contract negotiation process, and even team members that were likely did not read through every detail of your well-thought-out proposal.  (Even though we like to think they did 😊) Not to mention, contracts are often signed and forgotten about when projects start weeks or even months after the signatures.  

The primary purpose of a Kickoff meeting is revisiting the project objective and getting team members aligned on the project's goal, scope, and expectations. By clarifying these essential details from the outset, teams avoid misunderstandings and unnecessary obstacles later in the project. This is the opportunity to shape how the rest of the engagement is going to go.

2. Overcoming Hesitations and Fears

A simple, yet powerful exercise to conduct at a kickoff meeting is "Hopes & Fears." We do this to get a pulse on participants' attitudes about a project: their hopes for the potential positive impact of the engagement, as well as their doubts. This exercise allows us to address any blind spots or weak areas that may require more attention, and ensure we are on the same page about what we're trying to accomplish. 

If leadership has set the project objective and team members don't agree with the direction, Hopes & Fears helps identify potential challenges and strategize ways to overcome them, which enables a proactive and collaborative approach.

3. Defining Roles and Responsibilities

When you get above a certain number of team members, communication and meetings can quickly become unmanageable, and it gets hard to keep everyone in the loop.  A kickoff meeting is an opportunity to introduce team members to each other, and a chance to discuss their roles and responsibilities.  

We can answer questions like:

  • Who has the required technical knowledge for  conversations?
  • Who needs to attend which meetings?
  • Who can help schedule meetings?

Asking and defining who to go to for what will save everyone time and effort. This clarity prevents confusion and streamlines collaboration.


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4. Upgrading Communication Channels

Email is a very basic form of communication.  If you have an opportunity to set up a more advanced form of communication, this is the meeting to discuss and implement it.  

Utilizing a shared Teams channel or Slack channel can significantly improve team productivity and allow for seamless communication throughout the project. Transitioning to this early in the project will set you up for success.  

This is also when you can discuss how often you'll be meeting and if you need to schedule regular standup meetings to check-in on progress or stay aligned through communication channels and forego weekly meetings.

5. Setting Realistic Timelines

"I needed this yesterday" is something we hear often from clients when talking about implementing powerful solutions. However, rushing without careful planning can lead to quality compromises and project delays.  The kickoff meeting is an opportunity to align on a realistic timeline by evaluating the required effort that will be needed from each team's side to meet the deadline.  

It's best to overlay the timeline with the project milestones to provide a map of the project.  You can refer to this map and adjust as needed due to project scope changes or disruptions to the project.  Setting a realistic end date upfront will set the pace for the project.

6. Building a Unified Team Culture

Kickoff the kickoff.  Before the client kickoff, conducting an internal kickoff is vital to make sure the team presents a consistent and unified message.  This also allows you to review the deliverables for the project, understand their value for the client, and set measurable success metrics. Measuring success benefits everyone.  

You can also run through your internal project setup checklist to ensure you've got the project setup properly in your internal systems to hit the ground running when you kick off with the client.

Do you really need to plan a kickoff meeting? YES!

Reading through that simple instruction pamphlet before diving into assembling your new dresser sometimes feels like the slower option, but it saves time and effort in the long run.  

The project kickoff meeting is so much more than just another obligatory gathering at the beginning of a project.  It serves as a critical platform for establishing a solid foundation.  By aligning objectives, addressing concerns, defining roles and setting realistic timelines, kickoff meetings empower teams to begin projects with clarity, focus, and unity.  

Embracing the power of the kickoff meeting not only improves project outcomes but also empowers teams to overcome challenges and set themselves on a path to success from the very start.

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