There are many books, articles, and blog posts that describe how to plan and run an effective kickoff. Unfortunately, most of these resources talk about the kickoff as a one-time event.
I believe there’s value in having a kickoff-like meeting at least twice a year so that the project team can pause, reflect, discuss, and plan as a group.
Recently, we worked with a client to build the beta version of a new mobile application. We started the project with a traditional two-day kickoff. After a few months, we planned a second kickoff to start the next set of features.
Below are four activities you can run to guide the next phase of your project.
1. Have a Release Retrospective
Every two weeks, our team does a sprint retrospective, with the goal to check off our “start doing” items within the next two weeks. There are typically some items that can’t be finished or extend to a longer term, so we hold a macro-level retro during this session. We use this time to discuss larger items that should be resolved before the next phase of the project.
2. Revisit Hopes and Fears
The Hopes and Fears Design Thinking activity helps the team voice their aspirations and concerns for the project. Hopes turn into goals, and fears turn into tracked risks throughout the project. Re-visiting this activity midway through a project enables the team to review new items that have emerged. This session might overlap a bit with that of the retrospective, but that’s okay.
3. Discuss Features and the Product Backbone
Provide time for the designer and product owner to explain the next set of features with the development team. During the course of the project, discussions around stories and features are more tactical. Taking a step back to review the larger set of features allows team members to analyze them through a different lens.
If designs are complete, this is the perfect time to show those workflows. Just as you would in a traditional kickoff, you can then build the product backbone.
4. Confirm Team Logistics and Composition
During the first kickoff, I ask everyone to check calendars and commit to sprint meeting times. Meetings are hard to change mid-project, especially if you have team members distributed across different time zones.
This session can alert you to big changes required in your schedule. For example, we were working with a team in Pune, India, so our overlap of work hours was very small. After Daylight Saving Time began, we decided to move some meetings to capitalize on an additional overlap in work time with that team.
Hopes and Fears and the retro can unearth a lot of logistics and staffing issues on the project. You can also utilize this time to brainstorm solutions as a group and request any needed team changes (such as additional staff) from leadership.
The planning and prep for these activities are similar to that of the initial kickoff, so it’s not inconsequential. However, I’d argue that it is just as important for the project. Is it expensive to have people travel for two days? Yes. But it is also invaluable to have them all together in one room to focus on the path forward and figure out ways to succeed.