The Most Perfect Moment: Kickoff Meeting

This is a short series on kickoffs.

The idea, funding, people and will to achieve are in one room. The product manager is the ring master, coordinating lions, acrobats and magicians to proceed into the shining future of on time, quality software product that users want and like. If the meeting succeeds, you are off to a great start, if it fails, it IS recoverable, but that takes more work than getting it right the first time.

A great kickoff includes:
Opening Moves
• Have the right people in the room
• Although important, you should have low expectations for action. All the actions, decisions and fights should happen before you get in the room.
• Create a shared mission through business and technical goals “The Why”
Game On!
• Confirm “The What” we are building
• Let each person and team feel special and engaged
• Introduce the schedule, constraints, risks and opportunities
• End with a plan for next steps
• Last 2-3 hour tops
• Do a second kickoff for anyone who missed the first one.

Get the right people in the room.
Optimally you have one key person (startup, lean), but likely you will have a couple for each functional area(complex/corporate) – the actual decision maker and the person who actually goes to the meetings.

The list should or could include:
• Executive Sponsor/Funder – if you can get a big wig to come for 10 minutes – people LOVE it.
• In house Legal and Regulatory (win a friend for life! No one includes them until its way late and they don’t know what you are doing. Then you get the task of giving them a crash course in your product. Educate them early and take a load off)
• Developers – Just one dev lead and an architect suffice
• Data Analytics Lead – you’ll need to be on their radar when you need reports
• Data Warehouse Lead – you will need them for any data storage issues and god forbid you collect new data, you will need some major diplomacy efforts that should start here.
• Test Lead Front End– Hilariously this person is often left to much later in the process. That is a mistake, your test lead can identify crap requirements from 20 miles away and will do a much better job testing if they are part of a team instead of an afterthought.
• Test Lead Database – news flash – you need to check the backend too
• Integration Lead – if you have a product that needs to be installed, customized or fine-tuned, these people need to buy into the dream since they will be going through hell to deliver it.
• Sales Lead – keep your friends close and your sales team closer.
• Marketing Communications – The main issue for you with these folks is to coordinate the marketing materials, demos, news releases and messages into the actual delivery schedule. Trust the project manager to do this at your peril.
• Customer Support – they may not come, but it’s nice to invite
• Project Manager – required time tax
• Subject Matter Experts – they talk a lot and will need several meetings
• Operations, and leads from technology teams you need help from in future – basically any gatekeepers who could show up in 2 weeks and tell your boss everything has to be stopped until they evaluate their pipeline and how your product may fit in. These guys have to be neutralized before kick-off.


Seems chaotic, right?  Not if you stage it correctly.  Up Next: Kabuki Theater and Kickoff Meetings