To compete, we need to surround the target on all sides! War and sports analogies run rampant in business because they help us understand and communicate. Continuing the football analogies can help reshape thinking around the all-important Project Kickoff Meeting.

The Problem with the Project Kickoff

My problem with the typical Project Kickoff Meeting is that too much emphasis is placed on predicting exactly what will happen, when, and to what end – the game flow, if you will.

In football, the kickoff is merely the beginning. The players take the field and the outcome awaits in doubt, 60 minutes ahead. There will be momentum shifts, exhilarating plays, and penalties that set you back 15 yards. There will be timeouts for in-game adjustments and a halftime to rethink strategy…followed by the second half kickoff. The game may hang in the balance until the thrilling finish or be decided early.

If you’ve managed projects for a few years, you’ve experienced the equivalent of every one of these analogies. Projects rarely go as planned, sparking the rise in Agile, Beta testing, and more.

A Better Way to Kick It – Dribble Instead

What should be emphasized in the Project Kickoff Meeting? Switch to basketball and focus on the playbook and the game plan.

  • What plays can we run? (How do we want to approach this project? What tools and methodologies should we employ?)
  • What tempo do we want to dictate? (What is the timeline? Can we keep up without getting sloppy or exhausted?)
  • How many timeouts do we have left? (What internal or client-facing meetings and milestones should we set?)
  • Who is in the starting lineup? (Who are the core project teammates at the beginning phase?)
  • Who is on the bench? (Who needs to watch closely and enter the project later?)
  • Who is our 3-pt specialist or rebounding machine? (Which specialists can add value along the way, such as the analytics expert, SEO strategist, or QA team?)

Finally, every sports team has a competitor strength in mind to neutralize. In business, this equates to the pitfalls we want to avoid. If the client is known to overthink or kill momentum with feedback delays, talk about it.

“Can we all agree that the schedule is important and we’ll hold ourselves accountable to provide timely feedback? Can we all agree to focus only on details that add value to the end product?”

If you made it this far, grab a Gatorade and don’t forget to stretch!