How to Kickoff a Project

Before you start your next project, watch this video with Devin Deen to kick it off right and setting the right tone.

In Review: How to Kickoff a Project

In this video, Devin Deen, gave you his experienced advice on how best to kickoff a new project. He’s project managed hundreds from the start and has learned the following four practical steps:

  • Get on the same page with everybody (your team, stakeholders, business partners, end users, IT… everybody)
  • Get to know your team. (Find out what they want to achieve on the project one-on-one.)
  • Prepare administrative documents (from the budget to purchase orders and vendor negotiations).
  • Host a kickoff event (and make it fun). 

Follow these simple rules and you’re going to have a collaborative team all working towards the same goal, which will give you a head start to crossing the finish line successfully together.

Pro-Tip: If you can enlist the support of your team from the start of the project, you have the resources in place to fire on all pistons. This can be achieved by having one-on-one talks with the people you’re working with, so allocate time in your schedule to interface with everyone. This soft skill helps you get hard and positive results.

When preparing documents, one of the most crucial to the successful run of your project is the Statement of Work (SOW). CEO Jason Westland’s article From SOW to Project Plan offers some important tips on getting it right and using it correctly.

Thanks for watching!


Hi. I’m Devin Deen, Content Director here at Today we’re talking about kicking off projects, kicking off your new project.

I’ve kicked off probably hundreds of projects in my career and there are four essential items that I think you should know when you’re thinking about and getting ready to kick-off your project.

So first off, really it’s about getting on the same page. Next it’s about learning about your team, so doing one-on-ones followed by getting the admin sorted. I know it’s a terrible drudgery but you’ve got to get thatsorted and lastly, having a kick-off event. Now let me talk a little bit about each of these things and I want you to just listen and understand about the kick-off, because if you get it wrong here, you’ll spend half the time as a project leader, project manager, getting the team back together again, whilst the project is already kicked off and already underway which is a lot harder job to do.

So first off, it’s about getting on the same page. Now there are lots of things that you can do to get your team on the same page and it’s not just your team. It’s your stakeholders, your business owners, the ultimate technical users of your system, the IT architecture team. It’s about everybody on the same page.

So, a number of documents can help you with that. First and foremost, your statement of work which is sort of a commercial description of what you’re intending to do, your business case and your charter. What I find is
actually most effective is to come up with a PowerPoint presentation which covers off the top level points about your project: what the objectives are, what the scope of the team is meant to be doing, roles and responsibilities, your approach, where some of your key risks are, what the schedule is.

A PowerPoint presentation is a real effective way of getting everyone together on the same page and make sure that that team contributes to it. Make sure you workshop getting that PowerPoint presentation together with both the individuals on the team, but also your business stakeholders.

If you do that, then you actually subtly enlist their support. Having that presentation be the first inaugural event of the project, you actually get them on board. You get them thinking about what could go wrong, what could go right, and most effectively how to work together as a team. So that’s actually the first step, is really getting everyone on the same page.

Next, as a project leader, you really need to get to know your team. And I like to do one-on-ones with each of the individuals. These can be quick quarter of an hour, half an hour coffee chat with each of the people on the team to find out, not only about what they want to achieve on the project, but personally what’s the impact of the project on their lives.

What are they looking to gain in terms of new skills or opportunities? What sort of events will this bring into their life? How are they personally committed to the project? If you don’t take the time to do those one on ones,  you’re just going to try and bring everyone on the, I guess, the project with you, along the way without getting their full buy in and their commitment and in the middle of the night, we all know when that system has to go live, you really need people to pull together.

By enlisting their support from the start and doing these one on ones, you’re showing them that you actually care about them as individuals and also about resources on the project. You’re making time out of your day to do that and they’re obviously going to try and reciprocate that back to you on the project team. So make sure you do those one on ones leading up to the kick-off event.

Next, sort the admin. Get your project commercials done. Get your budget  let up, purchase orders, vendor negotiations. Get your time sheeting process set up, your status report, your risk register, your issue register, your change control register. All that collateral that goes in to help you effectively control and manage your project, get that established and set up right from the start.

If you don’t do it and get it set up right from the start, you’re going to end up spending many, many hours at night, on the weekends, playing catch up, getting everything set up so that it can run smoothly. The last thing you want to worry about when your project is underway is, “Oh, have my time sheet system effectively captured everyone’s effort on the different tasks, so I know what’s actually up to date in terms of my status.”

Lastly, the kick-off event. Now this is kind of a social, or could be a team building event, depending upon the number of people involved in the project and your budget for kicking off. It can be as simple as going through that PowerPoint presentation that I talked about at the first or it could be something a little bit more challenging. Maybe a mountain bike ride, a fishing trip, maybe some obstacle course as a team, or even a simple lunch can do.

But I think it’s important to take time out and kick-off as a team together. If you kick-off as a team together, the people who are most, the core project team are most likely to continue to gel together as a team but if you just start the project without an actual event, people are often wondering, “Have we started, have we not started? When do I record time on my time sheet for the project? When don’t I?” You really need to have that event to really tie it together and bring it home.

So once again, just to cover off the four basic steps on really kicking off your project in the right way. First off, get everyone on the same page. Next, make sure you have one on ones with the individuals and get to know
them and enlist their support and their commitment to the project team. Get your admins sorted. It’s drudgery. We all know it but get it done right away and you won’t have to worry about it once the project’s started.

And lastly, have that kick-off event. Make sure there’s some sort of event or team building activity where you can bring that team together to actually start working and starting building that culture of that project team.

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