Project Kickoff Meeting: Your Secret Weapon for Success

11 Jun, 2014 By: Robert Green

Establish ground rules and responsibilities before a project begins to minimize managerial challenges along the way.

Your Leverage

Don't conclude the meeting until everyone is in agreement as to how the project will be conducted. At this point, you have a very powerful piece of leverage in your possession: managerial approval! Now anyone who tries to deviate from project procedures is not just making your CAD management job tougher, they are actually trying to rewrite management's approved approach for the project — thus potentially compromising deadlines or causing unforeseen technical issues.

Following are a few examples of how team members might digress from project rules. When dealing with such cases, you'll want to restate the project standards as defined at the kickoff meeting and point out that the team member is deviating from them.

Problem 1. Engineer A wants to use the a new iPad app we'll call CADCloud 1.0 to edit project electrical DWG files, even though the project instructions clearly state that AutoCAD Electrical is the software required for client deliverables.

Explain: We don't know that changes made in CADCloud 1.0 will be compatible with our component databases in AutoCAD Electrical, nor do we know what the filing format is from a version control standpoint.

Problem 2. Architect B wants to use his personal Dropbox folder to share BIM files with other branch offices even though project instructions clearly state that all work files must be stored on secure company servers.

Explain: We should never have project data floating around on unsecured personal accounts — ever! This creates a danger of exposing client information, for which we could be held financially liable.

Problem 3. Project manager C is in a hurry to get something sent to a contractor and instructs the CAD personnel to "forget doing this in BIM — just do it in AutoCAD so we can get it done now," even though other project team members are designing exclusively in BIM tools.

Explain: While the desire to get things done quickly is understandable, bypassing our BIM tools can open the door to coordination problems and simple errors that would otherwise be caught in a coordinated BIM environment.

I think you can see my approach: Use the agreed-upon project standards derived in the kickoff meeting to keep your project on track and your project tools consistent.

Summing Up

As technology and tools change, you might feel powerless to control it all. However, by using a project kickoff meeting framework to agree on tools and methods early on, you'll establish the authority needed to reduce project variables and risks.

So, remember the secret weapon — the project kickoff meeting — and use it for every significant project you start. Until next time.

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About the Author: Robert Green

Robert Green

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Re: Project Kickoff Meeting: Your Secret Weapon for Su...
by: cmwade77
June 11, 2014 - 1:45pm
A good set of CAD Standards and strong IT policies should eliminate most, if not all of these issues. For example, by using Remote Desktops we are able to have one single set of CAD files for all offices. This also solves remote and mobile users. This also lets us ensure that all CAD systems are up to date and running on the same version. Our CAD Standards specify what file format everything is saved in. Our IT policies state that no software is to be used without being first tested by the IT Manager (in our company that is also me, the CAD Manager), but this eliminates can I use this product without prior testing? The answer is no, I need time to test and make sure it is compatible. I am not saying a kickoff meeting isn't a good idea, although in our company that would be impractical for every project, we honestly wouldn't get anything else done especially on weeks that we have 10 or 15 projects starting.
Re: Project Kickoff Meeting: Your Secret Weapon for Su...
by: jmaeding
June 11, 2014 - 1:47pm
I agree on the kickoff idea, its just that on medium to large projects, there are many efforts starting and ending, and once teams get in a groove, they don't need to be walked through procedures again. Then someone, or a whole team, gets put on the project who is not in the groove. Then things get missed. Bottlenecking everyone through some doc mgmt. system has not proven profitable for us, so you cannot use that to lock people out that do not know standards. The overall problem is a robust policing system is not in place. That is probably because we don't know what needs policing at a given moment. Some decent standards checking tools would be of use, things that would help with folder structure and base file naming.
Re: Project Kickoff Meeting: Your Secret Weapon for Su...
by: jmaeding
June 11, 2014 - 1:53pm
CMWade: "A good set of CAD Standards and strong IT policies should eliminate most, if not all of these issues." Yes, if they are followed and if your users understand why the standards are there. Things like base file setup and so on do not have one solution for every project. Users have choices that all fall within standards. Once files are set up and xreffed everywhere, you cannot easily change things so rely on people to get things right from the start.
Re: Project Kickoff Meeting: Your Secret Weapon for Su...
by: mikepo
June 11, 2014 - 2:31pm
Very timely article! I couldn't agree with you more. This is ESPECIALLY important when trying to use a client's CAD standards, as I have been made painfully aware of the last few months.
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