You are a Product Owner and it’s your first product kick-off meeting. It’s the first time you’ve brought together so many different people to work on something. You can’t afford to make the first step a mis-step.
So how do you make sure your kick-off meeting goes well?
- Invite the right people.
When launching any product you need to remember it isn’t just about digital. Most products will require a service wrap and therefore cross-functional collaboration is key. You’ll need to invite participants from sales, marketing, technology and customer service operations. You need to have those people in the room from day one.
Avoid having more than one expert per field. You need to keep debate structured and the meeting fast flowing. Too many people with the same expertise will get you bogged down in endless debate and swirl.
If you’re developing a product that is going to work on desktop and app then consider bringing in experts from both areas. There’s nothing worse than things getting lost in translation after a meeting someone wasn’t invited to.
Make sure you’re the only Product Owner. Sounds obvious but it’s amazing how many meetings are held with two Product Owners invited. One might have been invited to provide additional guidance, but before you know it you’ve got two POs playing off against one another.
2. Set clear expectations.
Make sure attendees know what the kick-off meeting is for and what the ideal outcomes should be on leaving the room. In my most recent kick-off the aim changed from reviewing requirements to dealing with some ‘elephants in the room’ that we hadn’t landed previously. We had to make the change on the fly, which was easy but not ideal.
Spell out how you see everyone’s roles, what they are responsible for and how everyone should work together. This should be the first thing you agree as a team. Ways of working cannot be established later in the project without having to overcome and unpick bad habits.
During the meeting you might want to run through requirements and other detail areas. If this is the case then make sure everyone has had time to digest any Trello board, PDFs or briefing papers. Don’t use up meeting time reading when it should be about aligning, debating and deciding.
3. Basic housekeeping.
Leave enough time to discuss everything. Don’t schedule a kick-off meeting for less than 60 minutes. Time together to align and debate is worth the investment. Our last kick off meeting was 90 minutes.
Get someone to act as note taker and decision tracker. There’s nothing worse than leaving a kick-off only to receive no notes or actions. It simply slows things down and let’s unresolved issues fester despite them being dealt with in the meeting.
Spend time with your Project Manager (PM) before the kick-off to agree how you want to run the session and overall governance. You both need to be singing from the same hymn sheet.
4. Be careful with terminology.
Not everyone is familiar with ‘sprints’ or ‘drops’ let alone ‘cycles’. If you’re going to bring a cross-functional team together make sure everyone has a glossary to hand. It’s fine to use technical terms, but make sure the meaning is understood.
5. Encourage future thinking.
Like any new product, it’s easy to get stuck on MVP/S 1 and start down a path that eventually leads to a product that is not scalable or supported by the right back-end technology. Have someone in the room who is there to spark questions about where the product / service might be a year from now. It’s a difficult balance to think of the future while still building the present but it’s critical to developing a successful product with a long term, viable future.
6. Allocate to the parking lot.
Some issues will require deep thought and reflection. Not everything will be answered in 60 or 90 minutes. For bigger issues or items that need senior leadership decisions log them in the parking lot and re-visit later. Avoid letting the meeting go off track discussing a contentious feature.
7. Be strict on how you want to design, develop and ship.
This is one for the PO but also for colleagues from service operations and technology. When developing MVP/S 1 it is temping to agree requirements that actually have no basis for development. You can easily dream up a long tail of requirements that will take ages to build only to find users didn't want them. Start small with requirements and feature batches. Encourage other team members to think of quick ways to get things done without getting bogged down in months of process and system building.
7. Have fun.
Launching a new product / service is pretty exciting stuff. You’ll be working with the very best people across your company. Like any project you want people to walk away thinking ‘I’m doing the best work of my career’. Make sure you build and foster an environment that gives people autonomy to get things done and a chance to show off their mastery.
8. Keep the party going.
Delivering your product / service isn’t a one day event. The team is in it for the long term so make sure you build and nurture strong relationships. Spend time networking with one another. Plus it’s always good to grab some pizza and beers as a team.
At Strategy Activist we help clients deliver products and services more effectively. To learn more about how we can help visit us at www.strategyactivist.com or call us on +44 77860 63053.