Project Management

The Big Problem With Your Project Kickoff

Andy Jordan is President of Roffensian Consulting S.A., a Roatan, Honduras-based management consulting firm with a comprehensive project management practice. Andy always appreciates feedback and discussion on the issues raised in his articles and can be reached at [email protected] Andy's new book Risk Management for Project Driven Organizations is now available.

“My project start’s tomorrow and I don’t know enough.”

That’s how a recent email I received from a brand-new PM started. They were getting ready to hold the kick-off meeting and were trying to anticipate some of the questions that the team might have. They realized that they didn’t know the answers to a lot of those questions—and they were getting worried.

I don’t know any project manager who knows enough about their project at the outset; there are inevitably a whole lot of unknowns, and a large part of the first days and weeks of project work is to find those answers.

But this PM wasn’t referring to requirements or risks—they were talking about fundamental aspects of the project. They knew the high-level summary of the project, and they had been told why that was important during a brief exchange with the sponsor. But they didn’t have enough understanding or background to be able to answer any questions the team might have.

The real issue is not knowledge
As far as I am concerned, the underlying problem here is not related to knowledge. If the PM was more experienced and had worked on several projects for the same business areas in the past, then I am sure they would have felt more comfortable with any questions they might face. But I don’t see that as the project manager’s job. At the …

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- Chinese Proverb