The way you start a project affects the entire lifecycle of that project.
It shapes your reputation as a project manager, it determines how the team views and interacts with the project and with each other, and it can make all the difference between a project that runs smoothly and one that is painful and frustrating for everyone.
Often, simply setting expectations and communicating clearly can make the biggest difference. And both of these start right at the beginning, in the kick-off meeting.
Prepare for kick off
Before you get everyone in a room together, you want to make sure that you have covered all your bases. That you have identified all the client needs, project requirements and risks, and impacted processes. We recommend getting a business analyst involved as early as possible to help get this part right. They are trained in extracting critical business requirements and identifying the business process that be affected by a project.
Host a kick-off meeting
Project kick-off meetings aren't the most popular, but don't be tempted to skip a face-to-face meeting in favor of email communication. We all know that email is not the best way to communicate and that, when people are busy, they can easily miss key information.
Host a face-to-face meeting and start by explaining the purpose and vision of the project to build enthusiasm and ensure that your team knows how to prioritize this project work. It's important to use this meeting to show that you are a credible and competent project leader, and to set expectations regarding the amount of work required, the project schedule, individual responsibilities, and the project management process.
You also need to set the tone for clear and open communication and explain your communication plan to the team. And finally, you want to identify, document and plan for any changes.
Communicate upwards as early as possible
Once your project is ready to go, it's a good idea to make it visible to senior management and to communicate any early changes or issues. Getting people on your side early might just make it easier to enlist their help if you run into challenges later on, and it's a good way to further your career.
As you can see, project management is all about setting expectations and communicating clearly. If you work hard to do those two things throughout the lifecycle of a project, you should be okay. And the earlier in the project you begin, the better!