11 Chapters
Medium 9781523095766

Plan the Kickoff with Your Team

Sherwin, David; Sherwin, Mary Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

A project kickoff can often seem like it’s more for those not on the day-to-day team. We suffer through the bad PowerPoint presentations and cold coffee, and our input is usually solicited in the last few hours of the meeting with a halfhearted “Any questions?” What’s the antidote to these one-sided kickoffs? Invite your team to help create the kickoff they want.

Organizations use kickoff meetings to accomplish different goals. No matter the aim, every team should be given the opportunity to step up and contribute to their project kickoff in a meaningful way. There are many benefits to taking this approach. Your team will be able to:

Pool all the relevant information and knowledge that they have. There are always things an individual team member knows that could be relevant for the entire team.

Prioritize what information can be shared in advance. This can save everyone valuable time and lead to more collaboration time in the kickoff itself.

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Medium 9781523095766

Talking about Accomplishment

Sherwin, David; Sherwin, Mary Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

Congratulations. You’re about to wrap up your big project and share all of the great work that your team has done. The quality of your team’s work speaks for itself. This should be easy, right? While we wish this were the case, teams often finish projects without considering how to communicate their work’s impact on their organization and the world at large.

By now, your team has an immense amount of knowledge. They probably know more than anyone else in your organization about the problems you’ve solved. Do they know how to talk about it? Are they sharing the right information with the right people?

Teams should be deliberate about how they talk about their accomplishments. When done well, your project communication can influence future priorities in your organization. You know you’re doing a good job of sharing your team’s work efforts when others begin to make decisions and build project plans around them. In this chapter we’ll share two rituals that will help your team do just that.

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Medium 9781523095766

Start the Team by Talking about the Team

Sherwin, David; Sherwin, Mary Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

Unknown quantities. That’s what we are to each other when we’re starting on a team. We’re sitting around the proverbial table, drinking our favorite coffee or tea, but none of these hot beverages will wash away our jitters. Who are these people? How do I want to work with them? And how are they going to best work with me? If these questions aren’t answered right away, we start to make assumptions about what’s best for ourselves and others—and those assumptions are usually wrong.

We encourage every team to conduct one of the following rituals before they kick off a project. By using these rituals in advance of formally starting projects, team members can get to know each other better as people, find shared points of connection, and begin to develop norms for how they want to work together before they feel the pressures of their work.

Because these rituals happen at the outset, this is the opportunity to clearly communicate to your future teammates the reasons why you’re taking the time to conduct them. Likewise, after performing these rituals, be sure to conduct any necessary follow-up conversations before you prepare for the project kickoff.

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Endings Matter

Sherwin, David; Sherwin, Mary Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

The audience starts clapping. Then they stand, whooping and hollering with delight. The team comes to the front of the stage and takes a bow. Fireworks explode, blue and green starbursts filling the night sky. Then the team is treated to a lavish meal, while painters immortalize them in portraits that will line the walls of your corporate headquarters.

If only every project could end like this.

We invest so much in project kickoffs and day-to-day team happiness that the endings of projects can often feel like a letdown—even when the project is wildly successful. What usually happens: Your team completes their work, your stakeholders review what you’d created, and everyone moves on to the next project with perhaps a few kudos from a senior manager. You might even get mentioned at the next big quarterly meeting, before they hand out those cookies you like. End of story.

And then there are times where projects don’t end cleanly. Your boss’s boss canceled the project. Or funding ran out. Or a competitor swooped in without warning and launched the same thing your team was building. What then? Where’s the ritual for the team that drifts on to the next priority at work, still smarting from the things they couldn’t control?

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This Decision Should Be Easier

Sherwin, David; Sherwin, Mary Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

Decision-making. Why is it so hard? People. People aren’t always rational. Or good listeners. We struggle with other people’s input on our work. And we can be conflict-averse. So we go around and around on decisions, both large and small. Consider these examples.

Frieda makes a major project decision over the weekend—and her teammates are not happy about it. Their next meeting is tense: She should have waited. There were better options. She’d cut them out. They want to change it.

Jeff and Lora keep debating how revising one tiny project detail could end up having huge consequences down the line. This single decision drags on for weeks, with the rest of the team waiting around for Jeff and Lora to figure it out. Before they know it, the project drifts into the danger zone.

In this chapter, we’re going to share a series of rituals that provide your team with a traceable and repeatable process for making tough decisions together. These rituals will help your team reason their way to high-confidence decisions, and better debate and incorporate each other’s input along the way. These rituals follow the same process:

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