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Project Initiation – A Practical Guide

 MS MS

Published: 11th April 2022

In our practical guide to project initiation, we will look at how you can achieve these, as well as some of the things you should be considering for your first project meeting and, of course, those all-important questions you really should ask at the start of any new project.

Having put in the groundwork for your project, including choosing the team and the methods that will work best for the project, you will need to ensure that the team are fully prepared to undertake the project. There are a number of points to consider; what values do you want your project team to stand for? What behaviours do you need them to adopt? These are important considerations in any project initiation.

Questions you should be asking

At the start of any project, there are some really important questions that you should be asking yourself:

  • What is the project delivering? – whatever your project deliverable, it is vital to ensure that you fully understand what it is you are required to deliver; otherwise, you risk not completing a successful project. In addition, knowing what you are doing will allow you to draw up a detailed list of everything you will need to do in the best order.
  • What is the project not delivering? – Scope creep is all too common in projects, so make sure you understand what isn’t included in the project as well or your well-planned deadlines and budgets could quickly fall to the wayside.
  • What is the deadline? – Sometimes, you may not be given an exact deadline for your project. However, if the client has a set deadline in mind, then you will need to be fully aware of this.
  • What is the success benchmark? – With any project, it is vital to know what will constitute success. It may not always appear to be as straightforward as you might first think.
  • Who do I report to? – It may seem obvious, but you need to know who you are reporting to and their preferred method of communication; do they want you to phone them or email them?
  • Who will be doing the work? – Whilst this isn’t a question for the stakeholders, you will certainly want to know who is on your team and if you have the required skills available to cover the work needed for the project.
  • Who is the audience? – One thing you need to know when working on any project is who your target market will be. If you don’t know the answer to this question, you can’t do the appropriate research to achieve the most appropriate results with the project.
  • Has a similar project been tackled before? – not essential but very handy this question will help you see what has worked and what hasn’t for similar projects.

Once you have considered all of the appropriate questions that you should consider at the start of a project and the answers, you can then think about holding a kick-off meeting for the project.

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Organising a kick-off meeting

Now that you have asked the important questions that you need answers to in order to proceed with the project plan, it is essential that you organise a kick-off meeting in order to get your project off to the right start. This is the point where you will bring your project team together and let them know what the project is all about and what will be involved in completing the project. A good kick-off will be a useful, enlightening and productive use of everyone’s time.

Run your kick-off meeting internally, the best kick-offs are those that are organised and run to an agenda. This will give you a chance as a team to formulate your ideas and thoughts on the project before bringing in the stakeholder.

This is a chance to look at the details of the project, assign roles and plan for a proper meeting with the stakeholders in attendance. As part of this, you should consider your venue carefully, make sure that you have the appropriate set-up and that any necessary tech is working properly. When the client arrives make sure they know who everyone is. After all, when there are a lot of people you may even want to consider name cards as otherwise, things might be confusing.

It is important to make sure that you are providing all of the necessary information and not wasting everyone’s time with your meeting, so here are some things to consider in this practical project initiation guide:

  1. A kick-off meeting is a formal start to your project, so make sure that you invite everyone who will be involved to attend.
  2. Consider the venue for your meeting. With so many people now working from home on a more permanent basis, your team may be more spread out, so think about somewhere central and easy to get to for everyone.
  3. Use the DACI framework and assign the relevant roles to the members of the team. Ensure that everyone has a role appropriate to their skills.
  4. In order to ensure you cover everything you need to with your meeting, create an agenda. This should cover everything that you need to discuss but also allow for the members of your team to ask questions or offer relevant information where appropriate.
  5. Set out the expectations for the project.
  6. Check all of your information and ensure that you have prepared thoroughly for the meeting. If you are asked questions, you want to have the information to hand to answer them.
  7. Prepare your meeting plan in three sections: this will encompass the things that you need to do before your meeting, the things you do during the meeting and the work you do after the meeting in order to collate any new information that has come to light. This information may be very important to your project plan.
  8. You need to make sure that everyone understands the project vision fully and that you are all working toward the same goal. This meeting time is a chance for people who have concerns to voice them so that everything can be ironed out before the work on the project is well and truly underway.
  9. It is also important that you understand the views that your client has on managing risk for the project. At the kick-off meeting stage, you do not need to know your clients’ full views on risk, but it is helpful to get an indication of how they feel.

Assigning roles

Use the DACI framework to assign roles within the team; there are 4 separate categories – Driver, Approver, Contributor and Informed person(s). This will help to give everyone involved in the project a clearer understanding of the role that they play and will help to make the meeting run smoothly.

An agenda for your meeting is essential. It gives you an opportunity to make sure that everything that needs to be covered is allocated some time. Run through your agenda beforehand so that you have an idea of who you need at the meeting and how long it is likely to last. An agenda should also help to ensure that the meeting does not get side-tracked by talking about things that are not a top priority. Part of your agenda should look at establishing the expectations that you have for the project. Part of the project manager’s role is handling expectations during the project so how you deal with this will really set the tone for the remainder of the project.

What you need to achieve with your kick-start is a clear understanding from your team members that they are all on the same page with regard to the project. You will also need to have a full understanding of the view that your client has to risk management as this can be vital for the success of the project. If you have any doubts, then you should be asking questions to help clarify the situation.

Preparing your team for the project

You might think that once you have put the groundwork in place for the team, chosen the members of your team and had your break-out meeting to provide everyone with all of the relevant information for the project, you are ready to start work. However, this project initiation guide recommends one more important step that you should take.

It is really important to make sure that your team are more than prepared to undertake the work involved in the project. This means that you should ensure that the right habits are adopted and that any cultural differences or any differences that may hinder the project are looked at. With more and more people working remotely, this is particularly important to address.

The key thing that you need to impress upon your team is the importance of communication. No matter what type of project management software you are using, you should ensure that everyone knows how to use it and how to communicate any relevant information for the project so that you always have the most up to date picture of the progress of the project.

Communication will go a long way towards smoothing the path of your project work so make sure that your team understand all the means of communication that are available to them, encourage them to use them and also ensure that they know you are available should they need to talk to you.

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  1. Simon says:

    Although maybe obvious the list of important questions that project managers should be asking themselves at the start of a project are a very helpful reminder. Even for experienced project managers

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