Uma scheduled an internal project kickoff meeting, inviting all internal stakeholders, the steering team, the project core team, and all SMEs. The agenda for the meeting was to go through the detailed project plans, including the WBS, risks, schedule, and responsibilities with all stakeholders. Questions and answers would be a key part of this kick-off meeting.
A stakeholder from the accounting department was very upset with the partial implementation of the ERP system. Her assumption was that the accounting department may have to do dual data entry into both the legacy system and the new system for payments and invoices. She also said, "Every time IT says that they will automate something, then we have to learn a totally new system. By the time you get comfortable with it, it's time for them to implement something new again. When will they settle on one system?" Uma then explained, "This is a very strategic project for the company. The technical team will minimize the inconveniences by automating data transfer between the legacy system and the new system. The old legacy system has been customized heavily and documentation is not up to date; hence the users face problems if a new functionality is added. The new system is state-of-the art technology and it has the new functionalities we need, as our business has grown in the past couple of years. There will be user-friendly manuals to ease the implementation process". Bob confirmed that fact and pointed to the project activities that address those issues.
At the end of the internal project kick-off meeting, all internal stakeholders (including the steering team) approved the project plan. Then Bob, Uma, and the core team met with their customer counterparts in an external project kick-off meeting.
At the end of this meeting the team had also secured approval from Buslog, the external customer.
Project planning often culminates in a formal project kick-off meeting with the intent of answering all questions and securing approval from all stakeholders to proceed. If all the other project leaders' planning tasks have been carried out well, the chances of securing approval are quite high. It is not uncommon for the project core team to first meet with all internal stakeholders to ensure that each of them fully understands and commits to the project plan. Then it is time to meet with the customer for concurrence.
In an ideal world the concerns of various stakeholders have been considered and there are no "surprises" at the kick-off meeting. In Uma's interaction with the accounting representative, she needed to be careful not to promise more than the project can deliver.
Project leaders should demonstrate that they understand the details in each area, but that they are concerned primarily with the overall project instead of any one portion. The project leaders often must convince reluctant stakeholders that their particular area may not get exactly what they prefer, but the project as a whole will be well served. Good communications planning and effective work on motivating these reluctant stakeholders in advance should help avoid disruption at the kick-off meeting.
A Project Leader Needs to:
Accept the fact that many diverse stakeholders must approve the project plan
Have the courage to secure acceptance by each
Exercise the wisdom to promise only what the team can deliver.
Once everyone has publicly and personally committed to the detailed project plan, the team is ready to begin project execution! Actually, on many projects, tasks and resources that require long lead times were probably preapproved in anticipation of the project plan being accepted. Time is an important factor to project leaders and they cannot afford to squander it.