Archival projects should begin with a kickoff meeting, which is the first formal meeting of the project team members and stakeholders. The meeting announces that the project is about to commence, communicates what the project is about, and generates commitment to goals and deliverables.
The kickoff meeting happens somewhere between scoping the project and in-depth planning. This moment is the busiest time for a project manager across the entire lifespan of the project. Everyone should recognize what the project should achieve, why this project is important, and where it stands on the organization’s priority list.
Create an Agenda
The archival project manager should prepare an agenda to keep the meeting on track. Common kickoff meeting agenda items include:
- Introduction: Welcome the team and name who will be involved in the project and their roles and responsibilities.
- Executive Perspective: Allow the sponsor to discuss why the project is vital.
- Project Initiation Review: Hand out copies of the project charter and review it with the team.
- Approach: Elucidate on how the project will be undertaken, explaining the project phases.
- Overview: Discuss the project’s goals, requirements, and deliverables.
- Schedule: Explain how the project will unfold, including milestones.
- Team Roles: Explain what elements the team members will handle.
- Communication Plan: Clarify how and when you will communicate updates.
- Plan Moving Forward: Determine the tasks that the team will be working on next.
- Conclusion: Provide a summary of the meeting.
Since the meeting sets the tone for the project, it’s essential that everyone understands the goals, deliverables, and schedules for the project. Even more important, however, is team building. The meeting should take place in person. The cost of getting everyone together at the beginning of a project will be saved many times over with better communication and fewer conflicts. Shared experiences are the fastest ways to build rapport with a team.
The beginning of the kick-off meeting should focus on introducing all the players, supplying context for how the team and the project fit into the institution, and offering an overview of the project itself. Many organizations also invest in team building activities.
Welcome everyone and make introductions. Many attendees will be core team members, and others will be peripheral members who take part in the project for a limited time. Share the meeting’s goals, being sure to highlight opportunities the project will present to the organization and team members. You should also cover any unique aspects of the project that might present challenges beyond the ordinary.
Spotlight on the Sponsor
Arrange for the archival project sponsor to speak briefly on his or her perspective on its importance. Support from senior management is a critical success factor for projects. Hearing from one of the organization’s executives gives the project team a sense that the institution is behind the project. The sponsor’s presence and engagement at the meeting are imperative.
The sponsor should explain why the project’s work is important and how its goals align with broader organizational mandates. In larger organizations, political ramifications at the start of a new project may cause the sponsor to invite other senior managers to make them aware of the project and its value to the organization.
Outline the Archival Project
The project manager should identify significant tasks and milestones and ensure that everyone understands the scope and purpose of the project. Seek a shared understanding of the project charter. Engage people in discussion about the project with the goal of reaching consensus. Give an overview of the project that summarizes the business requirements and the current plans for meeting those requirements. Ensure that the summary addresses the project charter, including any schedule or budget constraints.
Describe the resources available. Although you will want to stoke the team’s enthusiasm at the kick-off, it’s equally important to set expectations about the amount of support they will get. Describe team incentives. What, besides their regular compensation, will members receive if they meet or exceed goals?
Finally, once the project has been outlined and understood, you can begin assigning action items and due dates, identifying dependencies, and helping the team establish both formal and informal lines of communication. The kickoff meeting sets the vision for the project and allows you to achieve your goals.
Margot Note, archivist and records manager, writes for Lucidea, provider of ArchivEra, archive collections management for today’s challenges and tomorrow’s. See more of Margot’s advice on running successful archival projects.
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