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Prepare for project kickoffs

“What is a project kickoff meeting?”

“How should I schedule a project kickoff meeting?”

“How do I prepare an agenda for a project kickoff?”

“What questions should I ask at project kickoff?”


After you are assigned to a learning design project, you’ll lead or participate in a project kickoff meeting. In this lesson, you’ll learn what a project kickoff meeting is and how to prepare for it.


Through this lesson, you should be able to list questions to ask at the project kickoff meeting that will help you plan and execute the project.



What is a project kickoff meeting?


A project kickoff is the first meeting where all project team members and key stakeholders gather together to define the scope, resources, constraints, process, and plan of the project. You may also hear this meeting called a “discovery meeting” or a “client brief.” Team members and key stakeholders may include designers, developers, project managers, subject matter experts, business partners, leadership, and others impacted by the project. In some cases, a project may have two kickoffs: an internal kickoff with project team members and a client kickoff where key stakeholders and subject matter experts are invited.


How should I schedule a project kickoff meeting?


The project manager of your team will typically schedule the kickoff meeting. However, if you are the only learning designer, then you may be responsible for scheduling and leading the kickoff meeting.


Project kickoffs are typically 30 - 60 minutes, depending on the complexity of the project. They can occur face to face, over the phone, or via video conferencing. For a client kickoff, invite all key stakeholders and subject matter experts. In your meeting invite, include an agenda with the purpose and objectives of the meeting and some questions you’ll ask so others can come prepared with answers and ideas.


How do I prepare an agenda for a project kickoff?


To prepare for a project kickoff, begin with the end in mind. For instance, what answers will you need from this meeting to successfully lay a foundation for this project? You’ll want to walk away with a shared understanding of what you’re working on, why it’s important, and how the project will come to fruition. Here are some topics to include in the agenda:


Welcome and introductions

  • Project purpose and overview

  • Project background

  • Learning audience

  • Critical success factors


Goals and scope of the project

  • Project and learning goals

  • Resources and constraints

  • Project plan and process

  • Project schedule and key milestones


Roles and responsibilities

  • Expectations

  • Questions or concerns

  • Key decision makers (and when to involve them)


Conclusion

  • Recap and next steps


What questions should I ask at project kickoff?


The project kickoff is generally a good time to ask questions to help team members reach consensus on key project drivers. Finding answers to key questions early can clarify the right path forward and uncover potential roadblocks. The specific questions you ask will vary based on the nature of your project. Consider the following options:


Project drivers

  • What is driving the need for this project?

  • What learning gaps are contributing to the problem?

  • What has been tried in the past to solve the problem?

  • What analysis has been done, and can I see the data?

  • What critical success factors must be met?

  • Who are the key decision makers around this issue, and what are their expectations for this project?


Team members

  • Who will work on the project, and what are their roles?

  • Can you give me an overview of the learning audience?

  • Who is this training development project for?

  • Who are the critical stakeholders that must approve tasks and deliverables?


Scope

  • What is the scope of work?

  • Have the learning outcomes been defined? If so, what are they?

  • What types and levels of analysis should be conducted?

  • What technology and tools should be used for design and development?

  • How will the training be implemented and evaluated?

  • When does the project need to be completed? What’s driving this deadline?

  • How and when will the training be delivered?


Process/plan

  • What key milestones should be built into the project plan?

  • To meet the needs of this project and our stakeholders, will a waterfall or agile process work best?

  • Who are the key decision makers, and when should they be involved in the process?

  • How many client/stakeholder reviews are needed (e.g. alpha, beta, gold)? How many days do they need to conduct each review?

  • What is our plan for managing quality and ensuring consistency among project deliverables?

  • How will we manage and record our time for this project?

  • How many hours per week can project team members dedicate to this project?

  • Are there any upcoming out of office dates or events that we should be aware of as we put the project plan together?


Resources

  • How will the content be sourced (e.g. subject matter experts, existing resources)?

  • Are there style guides and templates that need to be used?

  • What is the current state of readiness of the content (e.g. accuracy, stability, comprehensiveness)?


Constraints

  • What timeline constraints must be considered as we put a project plan together?

  • What budget must we work within?

  • What resources are (or are not) available for this project? (e.g. content, technology)

  • How much time can subject matter experts and stakeholders reasonably dedicate to this effort?


Review the following sample project kickoff agenda, which includes questions learning designers may want to ask during the meeting:


Summary and next steps


You’ve been assigned to a learning design project – now what? To establish a strong foundation for your project, you’ll want to schedule and invite project team members to your initial kickoff meeting. Then, with an organized agenda and thorough questions in hand, you’ll be prepared to build team morale and propel your project forward on a pathway to success.


Now that you are familiar with how to prepare for a project kickoff, continue to the next lesson in LXD Factory’s Learn the basics series: Work with project team members.

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