The term „kick-off“ is a frequently heard term coming from the world of sports. It is used frequently, especially in football. The term „kick-off“ is also used in project management. A“ kick-off meeting“ is the initial meeting at the start of a project.
Goals of the kick-off meeting
The kick-off meeting brings clarity to the project objectives and underlines the importance of the project. The concrete procedure in the project is presented on a rough timeline. The motivation to act together is awakened and strengthened. The kick-off meeting is one of the most important events in the project start phase. This creates the basis for working together in the project.
The meeting contributes enormously to the further course of the project. If things go wrong, if they are badly organized or if no results are achieved, the project already has a bad image before it has even got off to a good start. The project manager is responsible for organizing the kick-off meeting.
Participants of the Kick-Off-Meeting
All project participants take part in the kick-off meeting within the project. The presence of the project sponsor, important decision-makers and stakeholders is of great importance for the project. These people give the project great priority right from the start. The further circle of participants consists of the project teams and subteams, as far as they are already known. The presence of other potential candidates who may be considered for participation in the project is often helpful and recommendable.
The kick-off meeting – every beginning is not difficult, but thorough!
Checklist for the Kick-Off Meeting
Mistakes often happen in kick-off meetings. The consequences can have catastrophic effects on the further course of the project. This is because the meeting shapes the expectations of the project participants and all interested observers. Here each individual makes his or her own preliminary decision regarding the chances of success of the project, the importance attached to the project and how much he or she is willing to get involved.
A Kick-off Meeting that achieves its goals and has an effect on those involved and affected does not just fall from the sky. It requires intensive preparation and good coordination of content and dramaturgy.
To ensure that nothing goes wrong, the following is a guide for planning, preparing and holding the kick-off meeting. This ensures that nothing important is overlooked and that those involved in the project have transparency, orientation and motivation in the project.
Preparation of the kick-off meeting
As always in project management: Preparation is half the battle. In order to make the kick-off meeting a success, it is essential to invest sufficient time in preparation. This is where the foundation is laid for the image of the project and for the start of the project work. Everything that goes wrong here can only be corrected with difficulty or a lot of effort. So: Take your time!
- Determining the goals of the meeting – what should be achieved?
- Determination of the participants of the kick-off meeting: All already known project participants and potential project collaborators; if possible, the project client and important stakeholders of the project should also participate.
- Detailed definition of the content topics and duration of the meeting.
- Creation and sending of the agenda at least one day before the meeting to all participants.
- Invitation by the project manager.
- Reservation of a meeting room in sufficient size and procurement of required equipment (beamer, flipchart, pin boards, etc.).
- Preparation of documents providing information about the project.
- Preparation of name cards (makes sense if most participants do not know each other yet).
- Clarification of how to secure the results of the Kick-Off Meeting and who is responsible for it.
Opening of the Kick-Off Meeting
The meeting owner is the project manager. He is responsible for the kick-off process. He welcomes the participants, moderates the appointment (exception: there is an explicit moderator) and ends the meeting.
- Welcome by the project manager
- Presentation of the agenda
Optional: Short introduction to the project by the project client or important stakeholders of the project – this underlines the importance of the project.
Round of introductions
A round of introductions promotes mutual acquaintance between the project participants and is particularly important for further cooperation.
- Introduction of the project manager, his professional background and why he was appointed as project manager.
- Short introduction of the participants; each participant introduces himself.
An important aid can also be provided by a list of names with photos and contact details of all persons involved in the project.
Optional: Targeted collection of expectations, fears, hopes and wishes in the project; this should be limited to collecting information, no discussion should arise; expectations, fears, hopes and wishes are taken seriously and dealt with at a later point in time.
Goals and content of the project
This point is underestimated again and again, since the prevailing opinion is that everyone knows what the project is all about. Unfortunately, that is not the case! Usually there is a variety of expectations to the project. In this case the project manager has the chance to communicate the project content to all participants.
- Structured information about the project’s history – what has happened so far.
- Presentation of the (strategic) objectives of the project.
- Presentation of project benefits – what will be better afterwards? Why do we want to achieve this? This will develop a first common understanding of the necessity and priority of the project.
- Demonstration of the connection to the corporate strategy.
- Information about already existing results relevant for the project from the pre-project phase as well as general conditions; here it can also be clarified with the participants whether there are still essential results or documents.
A successful kick-off meeting contributes significantly to a successful further course of the project!
Organization and Project Structure
The point that all participants are most interested in:
- What is my own role in the project?
- How do we work together?
- What meetings are there?
- What is expected of me? How is it documented?
Questions over questions. Here all these questions must be answered so that there is orientation for the participants.
The clarification of tasks and competencies ensures a high degree of orientation for all project participants. Regulations for cooperation and communication create clarity in the project.
Presenting the first planning steps in the form of a „project roadmap“ is an important part of every kick-off meeting. The project roadmap contains the essential project phases and milestones. As a rule, detailed planning content has not yet been worked out. This development process usually takes place in subsequent planning workshops with the technical experts.
- Presentation of existing project plans, if possible, but at least a project roadmap:
– Rough project phases
– Inherent Activities
– Dates and Milestones
– Project start and end
- Presentation of the project organisation (first draft):
– Who will probably work with
– Who is in which function/role in the project team?
– What are the tasks and responsibilities?
- Presentation of how communication should take place in the project (communication plan):
– Which meetings are planned, who takes part, what should happen there, duration and frequency of the meetings
– At least the first dates should already be fixed or agreed upon immediately.
– Rules for communication
- Presentation by the project manager of the most important rules for cooperation in the project and joint definition of further cooperation:
– Project filing (paper, electronic) and versioning
– Meetings (who invites, agenda, smoking, breaks, punctuality, etc.)
– Minutes (when necessary, who creates it, etc.)
– What is deliberately not regulated and lies in personal responsibility
Mood picture of the project (optional)
If you want to create a mood picture for the project, then there has to be enough time in the kick-off meeting!
- Collection of information and rumours, which may already be circulating about the project.
– Even the project manager himself can openly address rumours, this also conveys self-confidence and security to the project manager.
– through targeted information by the project manager, rumours can be cleared of the world right from the start
Meeting Conclusion and Next Steps in the Project
No project event should end without it being clear how to proceed. This is also the case with the project kick-off. This also ensures that the energy created in the kick-off meeting is preserved and does not fizzle out.
- Information about the planned next steps in the project
– Next Meetings / Workshops
– Necessary preparations
- Allocation of first tasks to the project team
- Concrete agreement on who is responsible for completing the defined tasks by when
- Information on how the participants of the meeting receive the information/results of the meeting (e.g.: minutes).
Whatever you can do or dream of doing, start with it.
– Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Tips and tricks for a successful kick-off
- A good preparation of the kick-off meeting is important because the first impression of the project will be remembered by all participants.
- Ensure the presence of all project participants.
- The participation of the project client and important stakeholders underlines the priority and importance of the project.
- The course of the kick-off meeting determines the working style and culture for the entire project, which is why good preparation and tight leadership through the agenda are important. This does not mean that there should be no room for discussion.
- Discussion of content, especially of principles, should be avoided. The reference to workshops for project planning may be extremely valuable here.
- Create a positive atmosphere and spread optimism, but also point out the seriousness of the situation.
- Distribute first „smaller“ tasks, e.g. look for suggestions for the project name.
- To ensure the lasting results of the kick-off meeting, draw up a protocol and distribute it to the participants immediately together with important documents.
The kick-off meeting is a cornerstone for successful project management. It creates clarity and transparency and a positive atmosphere among those involved in the project. Once things have gone well, the project team then gets down to work on the project with energy and verve.
- The kick-off meeting brings the project participants up to the same level of information.
- It creates awareness about the strategic direction of the project and the context to the company goals.
- It makes the project benefit visible
- In the kick-off meeting, clear priorities are set for the project in relation to the line organisation and other projects.
- It is the first step for the regulation of cooperation in the project
- The project participants receive an initial overview of the course of the project in terms of content and schedule.
- The kick-off meeting promotes teamwork in the project team and further team development.
- The project team receives well-founded information on the next steps in the project
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):
Isn’t the kick-off meeting overrated?
NO, a kick-off meeting should definitely be held! Surely the project team members already have information about the project. But from where? Questionable sources such as one-on-one interviews, e-mails, bilateral conversations between doors and hinges or the rumour mill primarily provide pieces of information here. The employees have a lot of information, but little of it is „official“, which leads to rumours and interpretations about the project. The aim of the project kick-off meeting is to eliminate exactly this.
Should all project participants be present at the kick-off meeting?
YES, absolutely. Especially for large projects, it is important that all participants receive the same information about the project. This is the only way to avoid unnecessary discussions during the project start phase. It is certain that not all employees are present in large project teams. It is therefore important to plan the date for the project kick-off early on and to invite the project participants in good time. Persons who cannot participate in the kick-off should receive all necessary information about the project at first hand.
Should the kick-off meeting also take place without the project sponsor?
NO. If the project sponsor does not have time on the scheduled date of the kick-off meeting, another date must be found. The project sponsor is usually a person who has power and influence in the company. His main task during the kick-off is to show that he is the one who wants to successfully implement this project and that he fully supports the project and the project manager.
Should the project steering committee also be invited to the kick-off?
YES, absolutely. The more top-class the steering committee is, the more the importance of the project is underlined by its participation. This is the first activity for successful stakeholder management. Ideally, the steering committee members present will be given a small active role in the kick-off – e.g. a few short statements on the project. These few words can often be very helpful for the project. If not all members of the steering committee can participate, then this is also ok. Only the participation of the project sponsor is mandatory.
Should the project goals be sharpened in the kick-off meeting with all participants?
NO. The aim of the kick-off is to provide all participants with clarity about the project, the project goals, the expected results, the planned procedure and the cooperation in the project team. If these points cannot be presented clearly and unambiguously, it is too early to hold a project kick-off meeting. The project objectives are agreed between the project sponsor and the project manager and must be clearly defined at this stage.
Should employees with a critical attitude to the project also be invited?
YES. These critical voices in particular need clear information and statements on the project, and the kick-off meeting is the ideal platform for this. If not here, then the criticism will be posted somewhere later. In the kick-off meeting there must also be room for critical questions. All questions should be answered as clearly and precisely as possible. Sensitive questions should ideally be answered by the project client. Questions that cannot be answered immediately and satisfactorily must be clarified later. This creates an atmosphere of open communication in the project right from the start.
Does it make sense to do the project planning together during the kick-off?
NO. The primary purpose of the kick-off is to provide all those present with information on the project. Goals, deadlines, expected results, the procedure, background information, the team composition, future roles in the project team, already existing plans, etc. are all part of the kick-off process. It’s about motivation, positive atmosphere and committing to the project.
The detailed planning work should definitely be separated from the kick-off meeting. If the participants have travelled from far away and this meeting is to be used for the first planning activities, then the kick-off meeting must be formally concluded beforehand.