Kickoff Meeting Disasters and How to Handle Them

No one you need shows up.  This can happen for a variety of reasons.  Best thing is to reschedule.  If that does not work, you can have 2 kickoff meetings, or an “executive kickoff” with a only execs, dev and a marketing (maybe operations).

Hijacked. There often you will have someone who want to pick holes in your preparation.  Did you get the data from Fred?  Did Rose agree to this?  What about legal?

Of course the best defense is not to have any holes.  Failing that, and the typical – “I will find out” response, you may need to looks a little deeper.  Is this person sold on the project? Do they not want to be there, or do they perceive they have more skin in the game than others?  If yes, set up a side discussion to directly address these concerns.  In the larger meeting try to reassure the team that ultimately you are accountable, no other individual. Worst case, if this person is a heavy hitter, or the questions get out of control, collect the ideas, call the kickoff done and cover your kickoff materials in the first project meeting.

Solutioning too early.  For new products, we often don’t know what we will build and how.  Many times regulatory and funding questions may need to be answered. In other cases, constraints have ruled out certain solutions before you enter the room. That said, everyone is an armchair software developer or marketer and there may be a spontaneous eruption of ideas and possible solutions.  It is up to you, but I think this is a good sign that people are engaged.  The only issue might be that you set expectations on the final solution being vetted and communicated in another meeting.  You don’t want people to leave thinking we all adopted their idea only to be rudely awakened in a couple weeks when the question is reopened.

Claim Victory and Move On

If the kickoff does not go s well as you hoped or cover the material, you wanted to cover; it is fine!  Just claim it was a success and cover your material in the next project meeting.  A kickoff meeting that occurs; has fulfilled its requirement to kickoff.

A couple of resources:

What happens after the kickoff….

Hold A Kickoff Meeting Before Diving Into The Design