- Have you ever had to plan for a kick-off meeting on a big project? What did you do to prepare for the kickoff? Did you do anything before you started working on the preparation? How did it turn out? Did you feel confident about what and how you were going to do it? Maybe for small projects, you just start working on it, but what about the big ones? It might feel obvious that each and every member of your team would come in knowing exactly what their role is for the project. Is it obvious to you? Maybe it's obvious to you, however, have you ever thought about why some projects go really well and some projects don't? Have you ever thought about why some teams are a delight to work with and some just always seem to have problems? In this video, we'll discuss the power of preparation.
We'll look at the essential questions that you'll need to have answered as you begin your project. I'll talk about the cascading benefits of making the standard project kick-off method inside your organization. I'll share how this up-front alignment can lead to a happier, healthier, and respectful working environment. I'll even talk about how these methods can help your team perform better, faster, and smarter. So if you're excited to improve your methods to kickstarting a project, then let's begin.
Then you hear a few members of the team are going to go out on vacation at the same time, right in the middle of the project. Maybe you find out that your project manager has worked on a similar project in the past, which you sort of never thought about asking. You also learn that a new designer and two new engineers just joined the company and they're going to need to be trained up on the design and engineering systems already in place. Has any of this ever happened to you? We haven't said one single thing about the project we were tasked to do.
And is that okay? Yes, it's perfectly okay. All of these details are essential to know because they impact the team. And when I say impact the team, I'm not only talking about impacting them at work. The efficiency of understanding the physical and emotional environment you are surrounding yourself with is essential. We have big problems to solve in every project., and that requires dedication to understanding how your team works together, debates together, wins together, and loses together.
But it doesn't stop there. What about how you transform and grow together? Teams don't need to feel or be so transactional. What I mean by that is the mindset to get in, execute, and be done. If we treat our teams as transactional function, then we're just thinking about the now. We're not thinking about how the win we're going to have today is going to have the shelf life for tomorrow. You might think I'm talking about the project, but I'm really talking about the team.
When teams aren't happy, people aren't happy. And when people aren't happy, they leave the team, or worse off, the company. The bottom line is that it effects the revenue, culture, and the livelihood of the business. Even if everybody on the team is amazing at their role, teams must take the time to respectfully get to know one another and establish expectations, constraints, and boundaries. This is the key of what I'm about to share with you. Just as if you would do research to understand the problem you're trying to solve, if you can get to understand the makeup of your team, you can be better, faster, and smarter.
Now, let's look at making this practical in your day to day with my four-point method. This is my suggested framework, but I encourage you to try it and retrofit it, as needed. Here are the main points that we'll cover, establish, understand, practice, and reflect. Establish, taking the first step. You'll need to answer these questions. Who are the people responsible for doing the work? Who is responsible if the project fails? Have you carved out dedicated time for project preparation? You'll need to make the time to bring the team together for an intentional prep kick-off session where you can discuss, and more importantly, answer these questions.
The next point in my framework for the project kickoff is to understand what you know, what you don't know, and what you need to learn. Start by understanding the makeup of your team. You can utilize the question worksheet I've made available to you in the exercise files called The Design Process Preparation. To get the conversation going, bring questions to your kick-off meetings and make sure your team does the same, and be ready to answer some. Bring any available research generated by the entire team with you to the kickoff.
I suggest dedicating a week in the very beginning of the project to take the time to clearly understand what you're trying to achieve. The next point in the process is practice. Consider when and how the team will practice and create a routine. Just like professional athletes, they run plays, take batting practice, and workout. They do this to get better together and independently. We are professionals in the art of building the future, and we too need a little practice.
I can't stress enough how important it is to get some practice at working together as a team before you switch over into production mode, you know, that part of the project where nothing ever goes sideways. I provided a worksheet to help you with this process. You can print it out and share it with your team, or you can use the project preparation envision freehand to keep it digital. You can also utilize the team reoccurring weekly schedule exercise file that I've provided and post it with your team so they can use it too.
Keep in mind, missing a meeting is like missing a practice. It's a big deal. Make sure your meetings count. Only schedule meetings for important topics where the team needs to be there and decisions need to be made. Use tools like Slack, Microsoft Teams, or other messaging tools for quick answers and content sharing. Remember, the reason why we practice is to get better and to be honest about what we need to get better at, as a team and as individuals.
And we need to be open to that. Reflect, how you continue to grow and create transformation. Schedule mandatory team retrospectives so you are continuously welcoming what's working, what's not working, what could be improved, and what needs to stop. Schedule a quarterly team bonding offsite to celebrate your wins and continue to get to know your team outside of work. You can do everything from a hangout in the park, hike in the woods, or a team, or family lunch.
This humanizes the culture of your team and reminds you all, those amazing professionals you work with everyday have lives outside of work. All right, you did it, you've heard the four-point method. Nice work. Guess what? Now, the time has come and you have a new project coming up and you've never tried prepping so much. Before, you just started working. I'd encourage you to consider this four-point method. It will set you, your team, and your company up for long-term success. And last but not least, make this fun.
Teams depend on each other and inspire one another. They support each other's needs and sometimes, it's as if the teams live with one another. When it comes to preparation for your next project, remember, you're not only designing products, you have a responsibility to design your team and how you work. This is not something you get for free. It requires coming together to establish your crew, understand the physical and emotional environment, practice and create a routine, and to reflect on the journey and the outcome.
If you'd like to continue the conversation about this four-point preparation method, or have questions about anything else that I covered, then I'd love to discuss them with you. Find me on LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter @abridewell, or you can post a question on our Practical UX Weekly LinkedIn group. Thanks for watching, and I look forward to seeing you next time.
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