Kabuki Theater and Meeting Design

Kabuki Theater is made up of stories, staging and words that have not changes in 100s of years.  The attendee always knows the outcome.  So should you when you run a large scale kick off meeting.

Your Goal – Nothing new should happen in the kickoff meeting

All your heavy lifting such as approach, teams, high-level schedule and goals should occur before you get in the room. Think of kickoff as a mini launch.  Act as if, what you announce there goes through the entire system and out to the Wall Street Journal.

  • Prepare a draft preso in collaboration with your various partners
  • Share for “feedback” (and Agreement) with – in this order
    1. SMEs/Exec
    2. Dev/Architecture
    3. Test
    4. Partner Tech
    5. Operations
    6. Marketing
    7. Project Management
    8. SMEs/Exec – final check in (get all the bosses bought in)

Lower Your Expectations – It is not about you

Identify your goals and decide on your demeanor.  The less you depend on the kickoff meeting to get things done, the better.  PMs often have been working on an idea for weeks before kickoff and are ready to jump forward.  Your audience has many constituencies with different levels of information.  Typically, for new products – they often have information from 2 pivots ago that is now incorrect.

New and large scale products are risky, have lots of moving parts and can make teammates anxious.  You need to know where the minefields are, and be ready to show calm leadership if people worrying in the meeting.

For every meeting, you should have a goal of about 3 things to accomplish.  The first one is ‘if they only remember one thing”, followed by 2 nice-to-have items you want to communicate or accomplish