Yes, we know that work does not always equate to play, but did you know that projects and project kickoff meetings can actually be fun? If you manage projects, we encourage you to find ways to infuse a little fun and creativity into your projects.
We’re not suggesting that it’s your job to make everyone love showing up each day for loads of fun. We are suggesting that you involve your team in finding consistent and simple ways to build team camaraderie and allow a little room for a laugh during the course of the week. Enjoying some element of work has the added benefit of increasing team productivity. You can set this tone early during your project kickoff meeting.
In project management, the project kickoff meeting is used to accomplish several things:
- Reiterate the goals and objectives of the project
- Introduce the project team, stakeholders, and their roles
- Establish or communicate the project framework, including standard meeting dates/times, time reporting requirements, project working times, project phases, key events or milestones, risks and opportunities
- Communicate project location(s) and logistics such as building access and parking
- Provide the opportunity to address questions and clarify any misconceptions
Your team should walk away from the kickoff meeting feeling excited and energized about the work ahead of them. Be clear that while yes, you expect them to work smart, be effective, and support project guidelines, you also want them to enjoy the experience, work well with the team, and be part of a successful engagement.
As the project manager, you should lead the way. Here are some ways you can infuse a little fun into your project kickoff meeting:
- Spice Up the Team Introductions: Don’t simply introduce your team members. Find a cool way to allow your team to “discover” something interesting they have in common with another team member. Ask them to find someone else in the room who has coded in C++, or who drives a blue car, or who has a scar on their left leg. This encourages them to talk to each other until they’ve found a match. If you start off with this activity, it will loosen up the team and make them more receptive as you move into the “meat” of your agenda. Choose an activity that takes no longer than 10 minutes.
- Measure Project Deliverables: There’s a saying, “What gets measured, gets done.” I’ve found this especially true in the project world where you’re managing resources, timelines, budget and scope. Pick one or two key metrics to highlight at the kickoff meeting. Once the project starts, VISUALLY show progress against the metric by displaying it in a creative way. Using interesting, big, and easily seen ‘progress visuals’ will encourage the team to keep sight of where they are and where they’re headed. When I was a System Security Lead for an ERP implementation, my team had several key deliverables that 5 other teams relied upon.
We created an over-sized poster of a barometer – much like the ones used for fund raising campaigns. Each line on the barometer represented one of our deliverables. A star at the top represented our final goal. Colored symbols represented deliverables that were “completed”, “in progress” and “not started.” At the end of each week, a team member would pull reports to determine progress for our deliverables. That person would then move each symbol up or down the barometer accordingly. We hung the barometer at the front of the project room where everyone could see it, including leadership or stakeholders who occasionally visited the project area.
- Hold Weekly Team Events: Connect with your team on a weekly basis using some element of interest. For example, we have ‘Fun Fact Fridays’ in which we post a fun fact every Friday. The facts can be about the company, the industry, an upcoming Holiday,etc. Be creative and always be appropriate. Mention the first fun fact at the project kickoff and ask the team to submit others for distribution throughout the project. We also encouraged our team members to submit their weekly timesheets on time by creating a little friendly competition. The team with the most timesheets submitted by Friday at 6:30pm was given the project trophy. Want to know what the trophy was…a blinged-out clock like the ones Flavor Flav wore! Talk about hilarious. As crazy as it sounds, each team wanted to win that clock because it meant their Team Lead had to wear the big blinged-out clock around their neck for at least one hour the following Monday.
Yes, photos were taken…and laughed at all week. That’s a simple weekly event, but was really a lot of fun. You could create the clock and show it off at the project kickoff meeting – or ask for a creative volunteer to decorate the clock. Be prepared for a lot of laughs.
- Team Recognition: I don’t need to say how important this is. Discuss how the team will handle recognition of jobs done well. A few ideas: 1). Create a box for team members to anonymously submit the name and ‘good deed’ of someone who they feel has done something work acknowledging. At the end of the week post the recognitions on a group SharePoint site or lunch room wall for all to see. 2). Bring cake to the break room once a month to celebrate team members having a birthday. Schedule this for the same time and place each month and invite the project team. There are many ways to recognize team members; solicit your team to help choose a good one.
Choose your activities wisely. Incorporate the team in developing and implementing them. Be sure the activities are appropriate, professional, relevant, and not embarrassing. Encourage participation but don’t force it. No one likes being forced to have fun.
What other ways have you jazzed-up your project kickoff meetings?
Chrystal Richardson is Managing Partner of CE Wilson Consulting, a project management and business efficiency consulting firm that has managed projects for technology, mining, medical and manufacturing clients since 2001.