Business developmentcreative projectsproject managementtime management

How to kick start a project successfully

Lift Off

When you want to kick start a project with several people you will need to do a bit of planning! Here are a few tried and tested ingredients for a successful project start.

  1. Review project proposal or your idea to refine what is expected and whether there are any particular skills gaps you need to plug with an additional pair of hands and brains.
  2. Create a project board on Trello or Clickup or Favro or whatever other system you are using for project management so that you can have your docs and to do list with due dates in one place.
  3. Arrange a project kick off with the core team and key stakeholders.
  4. Draft a high level project timeline (gantt chart)
  5. Book the resources you need based on estimates from your proposal and project timeline
  6. Draft key project documents prior to kick off meetings:
    • Risks, Issues, Opportunities, Dependencies and Assumptions Register
    • Stakeholder Radar
    • Roles & Responsibilities Matrix

It might be appropriate to have two kick offs – one internal with the core project team and one with the core team and key stakeholders.

Suggested agenda for a project kick off meeting:

  1. Introductions – 5min
  2. Project Overview – key objectives, draft timeline and key milestones – 10min
  3. Project Management Approach – 10min
  4. Project Communications – how we track progress – 5min
  5. Risk and Issues Management – 15min
  6. Key Assumptions and Dependencies – 10min
  7. Stakeholder Radar / Roles & Responsibilities – 20min
  8. Discuss and Agree Discovery Phase Deliverables – 10min
  9. AOB – 5min

Purpose:

  • the team to meet with key stakeholders
  • to ensure that everyone is happy with the suggested timeline and key milestones; find out whether key stakeholders are available for review meetings at those key milestones
  • to find out who the key stakeholders are and where they see themselves on the Stakeholder Radar
  • to ensure everyone is clear of what is expected of them by reviewing the Roles & Responsibilities matrix together and discussing any cross-over and who has the final decision making power
  • find out the preferred communications channels and ways of tracking progress and risk management

Put 2 hours aside so that you don’t have to rush (1.5 hours at least).

Key Project Documents:

Project timeline with key milestones

The best project timelines are the top line gantt charts that show you when different phases of the project start and finish and what the key tasks are, who is in charge and whether there are any dependencies in between tasks.

Here is an example for a simple creative project timeline using TrelloGantt app. For more sophisticated gantt charts with dependencies, try SmartSheet.

Risk, Assumptions, Issues & Opportunities, Dependencies Register

Many people mix up risks and issues when it comes to capturing those in a risk register so it’s always worth mentioning the main difference between the two at a kick off meeting – risks are in the future and issues tend to be in the present (if still open) and in the past (if closed or resolved).

All four tabs in this sheet should have a few key risks and assumptions as well as dependencies if there are any. During the kick off, if you run out of time, you don’t have to go through all of them (even though it’s good practice as that may be the only time you will have stakeholders attention to focus on potential risks), but flag up the main ones at least e.g. how you go about scope creep, because that’s something you need to agree on up front.

Also, ask if there are any other projects that need to be completed or started before your project can commence. Capture those under ‘Dependencies’ to make everyone aware that your project may get delayed if the other one doesn’t get completed on time.

Risk Register Template:

Assumptions Log Template:

Issues and Opportunities Register Template:

Dependencies Log Template:

Stakeholder Radar exercise

During the project kick off meeting where one person tends to do most of the talking, it’s great to have an interactive exercise like this to get everyone else to do some talking and break it up a bit.

  1. It’s best to create a Stakeholder Radar prior to the meeting where everyone’s name and project / job role is pre-filled – one person per square (bottom left of the radar).
  2. During the meeting, you can share a link to the radar on Gdrive (make sure the sharing setting are set correctly and anyone in the meeting can edit) and ask everyone to drag and drop themselves onto the radar depending on where they think they should sit.

The main aim is to find out who the key stakeholders (or group of stakeholders) are and how much involvement you can expect from them – i.e. are they:

  • vital to engage – the core team who does the actual work and key client contacts for the project; involved in the day-to-day running of the project on both sides
  • necessary to engage – they may not be doing most of the work, but are still very important to engage especially when it comes to making decisions; they should be invited to review meetings if available
  • good to engage – those are the stakeholders whose buy-in is needed for the project to succeed; they may not be able to or may not want to engage more, but still need to potentially attend review meetings or be consulted before a decision is made
  • courtesy to inform – these stakeholders don’t need to be involved in the decision making process, but would feel out of the loop and forgotten if not informed about key milestones of the project

The radar is divided into four sections:

  • Provider – the team members who do the actual work
  • Customer – stakeholders who represent internal and external customers or users
  • Governance – project sponsors or senior decision makers
  • Influencer – stakeholders who need to be consulted but don’t have any decision making power

Roles and Responsibilities Matrix

If you have enough time, it’s better to start with a blank matrix. The main reason for this is to get team members and stakeholders to commit to a particular role in the project for each area of responsibility. If you pre-populate the matrix, it may look slightly overwhelming and people won’t engage as much or pay close attention to what they are supposed to be in charge of. This exercise is also good for triggering debate amongst decision makers about who has the final say.

There you go, feel free to use the above templates and adapt them to your own projects. If you need a hand with kick starting a project or would like us to review your processes and systems to make sure your projects are run efficiently, then get in touch with [email protected]

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