Every meeting is an opportunity. Why waste your first one?
In reality, kickoff meetings range from somewhat boring to straight-up awkward, and can be an expensive reiteration of project details we already know, assembling the most expensive, busiest people and generating little measurable project benefit. We have to start the project somewhere, but something is often missing in the kickoff meeting; something that is an obvious part of the football analogy—analysis and strategy. Before that kicker sends the ball across the field, coaches spend a lot of time reviewing tapes, applicable statistics, and more—what we in the web business call “research.”
What /When is a kickoff meeting?
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Before the meeting: arm yourself!
To make sure you actually have an understanding of that problem beforehand, do stakeholder interviews and gather requirements immediately following this initial core team meeting, but before the larger, official kickoff meeting. It sounds obvious, but it rarely happens. Eagerness on the part of the client or the project team leads to a meeting characterized by an uninformed round table of introductions, boring icebreakers, and purposeless conversation that, at best, provides only slight clarification to project direction and goals.
There are two aspects to the requirements gathering process that are critical for planning a successful kickoff.
SKIP TO THE HARD QUESTIONS
Use stakeholder interviews to break the ice in a more natural, one-on-one or small group conversation. Then ask some questions that will reveal your interview subjects’ specific, personal hopes and fears for the project—the more brutally honest they are, the better. Assure your interview subjects that certain questions are “off the record,“ and then get them to really explore the relationship between the organizational culture and their project expectations. Who is the one person that will make this project a success, and who is the greatest challenge? If this is a redesign, what worked the last time they tried to do this, and what didn’t? If this is a startup, why haven’t they started up sooner? Questions like these reveal pain points which kickoff activities can confront directly.
Here are a few specific examples of questions we ask and why we ask them.
What is the one thing we must get right to make this website/application worth undertaking?
Unless you are working with an organization that has already developed a detailed project plan, this question should generate a lot of different answers. Especially if you talk to...