I've often got two different kickoff meetings for a project, the first comes from the luxury of being brought in very early in the project genesis, and is usually a pretty casual sit down with the key stakeholders to define the project. Most of my questions here are around understanding the business drivers and getting introductions to people in the know and linking up with any available resources. Questions like:
- Why do we want this project to happen?
- What is the opportunity available to us?
- What practical, defining documents can you point me to?
- Who are the people that work here?
- Who do you think I should be talking to to find out more?
Questions are different for each project, but it helps if you try and act like a combination of information sponge + 4-year-old-child endlessly asking 'why?' to get to the bottom of things.
The second one (but the real kickoff) comes after I've done some discovery work and planned the project in consultation with a bunch of people I'll later be working with. This second kickoff is where the team comes together for the first time, everyone's expectations are (hopefully) aligned, and the project scope is explained succinctly. My primary goal is to keep the team motivated as we all make the step up into a project reality, and to make sure the right project culture is established from the beginning. It's natural for a lot of this to become an explain-fest of talking from the front of the room, but I try hard to use activities that allow people to a) make important contributions and b) discover things for themselves - and the consultative process leading up to the kickoff is really important for this.
Questions and activities I do for this second kickoff might be:
There are always internal approaches and cultures in a workplace that you'll need to identify, understand and sometimes influence. The second kickoff is a chance to reflect back to the team that you understand this and will be guiding them on the best way forward.