Ali Jafarian

I know what you’re thinking, “Not another meeting…” but hold that thought! In the five minutes it takes you to read this article you may find something useful.

I’ll be the first person to agree that more meetings equals more wasted productivity. After reading “Re-work” I’m actually convinced that most meetings are worthless. However, you can still find value in meetings that are focused and controlled. So today I’m going to share some insights on how project kick-off meetings help my team build better products.

A project kick-off meeting is the initial conversation around the problem we’re solving and the high level solution.

At RxRevu we build a variety of SAAS products, from admin tools and data analysis platforms to consumer focused interfaces. A key part of our product development process involves starting with project kick-off meetings. A project kick-off meeting is the initial conversation around the problem we’re solving and the high level solution.

For example, our CEO may come to us with a great idea after a successful sales call – “Guys, we’ve gotta add in a new user role so our customer can do __________.” Great. Normally everyone would nod their head in approval and get right to work! But not us. Instead, we find time on the calendar to execute a proper kick-off meeting.

Our general process is as follows:

1 Identify Stakeholders

First and foremost, identify the people that are involved in the project. If it’s a huge company pivot it might involve most of your team. However, for most lower level product features it may only require a few people – product owner, technical lead, UX designer, and a senior sales rep (for example).

2 Set an Agenda

Instead of everyone coming to the meeting with guns blazing, have a designated team member set the agenda so the meeting stays on track. In our case, we let our product owner(s) set the agenda since they usually have the most total insight into our product development process.

3 Brainstorm

Don’t hit the meeting hard with immediate decision-making and action items. Instead, try to keep things open and conceptual. Embrace brainstorming. This will yield healthier conversation with less egotism. We like to whiteboard our ideas since it gives us visual representation of what someone’s pitching.

However, it’s also important to stay on track. All too often we’ve found ourselves off on a tangent because the brainstorming got too heavy. So be sure to focus your brainstorming efforts in the right direction.

4 Establish Key Take-aways

Before you leave the meeting make sure you’ve established some key take-aways. For larger product features it may be an MVP (minimal viable product), or for smaller features it could be a prototype. Or, you may only accomplish enough to leave the meeting with further research. Either way, it helps everyone on the team to know that their time wasn’t wasted when you leave the kick-off with clear take-aways.


The Value add of Kick-off Meetings

Ok, so now that you understand the process, what’s the value? Why should you waste more time in another meeting?

Here’s a few key benefits – the 3 C’s:

  • Communication – modern technology has made it way too easy to get work done with with virtually no human interaction. While this may be practical, and even more efficient at times, it’s good to have in-person meetings every now and then. The strongest form of communication is looking someone in the eyes and reading their body language.
  • Clarity – all too often we engage in product development without really knowing what we’re building. The extra clarification and detail will go a long way to improve productivity and ensure deadlines are met.
  • Continuity – kick-off meetings will help you establish continuity among different team members within your company. When engineering and sales are both on the same page things really start cranking.

Give it a Try

If you’re not already practicing project kick-off meetings I would encourage you to give it a try. What do you have to lose? If it fails you can write off a few hours of work and move on knowing that you tried something different. However, I think you’ll find that they prove themselves time well spent.