5 Essential Steps to Kick Start Your Project
One of the most important parts of each project is the initiating session. In this article, we explain how to plan and conduct a successful kickoff meeting, aka an inception session.
There are certain things that should be done extremely well. First of all, efficient communication – this is the key to project success and probably one of the most important things the project manager does during the project. Second, complete requirements are crucial for the project. Without correct, complete requirements that are well-defined and easily accessible, the project may not stay on budget or on time.
Finally, a project that is not properly started in a close cooperation with the client is likely to get faulty. It’s all about defining adequate and correct expectations right out at the start, and this won’t be possible without an inception session.
1. Collect the main documents together
The manager who closes the project deal always has documentation. You should know the initial statement of work (SOW), high-level requirements, resource prediction and a project budget. This might be all the information you can get at the start, so you’ll have to run with whatever you’re given. But it will be sufficient to understand what the project is about and what it is going to take – at least approximately – to get the job done.
2. Define a draft schedule
Next, you bring this information that you have collected and, along with your project team (or alone if you prefer or have no team yet) start drafting the project schedule to the best of your ability.
Don’t start from scratch – it will take you a lot of time. Get a schedule example from a past similar successful project and use it as a template. Experienced project managers always have past project samples and templates that worked well on a project. You should not re-invent the wheel always. There’s no shame in recycling. Starting from scratch is tedious and slow and you can end up missing some details.
3. Communicate with the client
When you have defined a few items, you could meet or call your customer. Introduce yourself, discuss the project, speak about the aspects of the project schedule you’re putting together. The goal is to get to know them, give them a trustful feeling about your knowledge and competence to lead their project, and discuss dates and locations for the initiating meeting.
4. Bring the initiating materials
Also, put together presentation materials for the initiating session. You can put together a PowerPoint deck of several slides that discuss the goals of the project, deadlines and milestones, the resource plan, the overall project management processes and what happens next after the initiating meeting.
The goal is to complete the initiating session with a proper set of the tasks and everyone on the same side. You can save these materials till the meeting or provide them to the client in advance to get their approval and maybe any changes or additions they’d like to see.
5. Conduct the initiating session
Finally, you will conduct the session. You drive the meeting so keep the attendees under control and the discussion focused. Keep focused on what you want to get out of the initiating session. And follow up after with notes for main stakeholders – asking them to confirm understanding or to respond to any changes to your notes within 1 day. Again, you want everyone on the same side, as quickly as possible so you can move on efficiently to the next steps.
As a conclusion
The start of the project can set the tone of the project – at least the first 30-40%. If you don’t conduct a formal project initiating session with the customer, you may spend the next couple of phases of the project proving to them that you and you team can do the job. The project cycle will be much easier if you conduct a proper initiation and show from the very beginning your ability to handle the project.