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Project’s kickoff: the catapult method

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A project kickoff meeting is the first one with the project team and the project client, where applicable. This meeting is the time to establish common goals and the project’s purpose.

Most importantly, the meeting shouldn’t be an “information overwhelmed broadcast.” If you need to share background information about your company or your methodology, do it on a shared document like Google Docs, a Notion page, or similar.

On a project kickoff, your focus should be on three intentions:

  1. To present the elements of your team that will work on the project
  2. To discover what are the main challenges of that project.
  3. After discovering the challenges, arrange them in order of priority and importance.

How to craft a plan for your meeting

Here’s an example of an agenda for a kickoff meeting:

0. Internal project kickoff meeting: The project kickoff is in its simplest form (only with your team, no clients). An internal project kickoff meeting aims to get the project team aligned and on the same page and allow them to ask questions before the project has started.

1. Take some minutes to set the stage: welcome the group and thank everyone for taking the time to be there. Present the elements of your team and explain their background and role on the project. You can also walk briefly through the schedule you’ve chosen for the meeting.

2. Dive into your kickoff activity (we recommend the catapult dynamic, but we’ll get into that in seconds)

3. Wrap-up and next steps. That probably felt like a lot to cover in 60–90 minutes. Look back at the activities you completed and summarize all the open actions.

Don’t forget:

Before the meeting, you can create a Doogle to ensure everyone’s availability and avoid the typical email exchange to find out the perfect time for everyone.

Facilitating a kickoff meeting: how to bring people together on the digital age

I think the answer to this question is already quite simple. Nowadays, there are tools, even free ones, to organize whiteboard dynamics. It is also easy to gather several people in different locations because they are collaborative tools, like Miro or MURAL.

We can easily access mind maps templates, workshop templates, or mapping boards or diagrams in these tools.

The Catapult Dynamic

The catapult is excellent for planning and preparing for an upcoming challenge. With a simple metaphor, this activity guides participants to look at the challenge from three perspectives:

  • The person is facing a challenge.
  • The challenge itself.
  • People’s organization to overcome the challenge.

Here is the page with all the information, but I summarise below the instructions for the dynamics:

Draw a catapult with a person flying and a mountain ahead.

Ask participants to write notes for each of the three areas:

  • The catapult records everything the organization can do to empower the person to overcome the challenge.
  • Person flying: writing related to the person facing the challenge.
  • Mountain: the challenge itself.
  • The conversation about the notes. Consider guiding the conversation by connecting related topics from the three areas.

Register the nirvana behind the mountain (colored sticky notes at the right side of the picture). The catapult activity builds upon the assumption that people are trying to reach the magic place, the nirvana, and as such, it helps the team find out the steps to get there.

Thus, you’re having a conversation about the organization’s challenges, the individuals in the organization, and the project itself. I recommend that after highlighting the main challenges (the Mountain post-its), you can organize them into an Eisenhower Matrix.

Next steps: document your project kickoff

Like the following steps, it is essential to keep the template of the dynamics used in the kickoff meeting and, at the same time, take notes of the most relevant information (mainly the main concerns of the client).

Then the cards are on your side: once the first challenges have been defined, it is enough to design a backlog (action plan) of tasks to respond to the one identified. This backlog will depend on your team’s know-how, their experience, and your work methodology.

It is also good practice to do a follow-up email and send it to your client, with a wrap-up of the main conclusions of the kickoff meeting.

This documentation process will help you speed up your next kickoff meetings because you already have your own template.

Originally published at https://angry.ventures on December 22, 2021.

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