A shared understanding

Project management

This blog is the first in a series on project management, where we share some basics and insights into improving the management of projects. Our experience spans complex projects; those that involve significant investment and / or significant risks. ‘Investment’ usually refers to time, money, technology and human resources. ‘Risks’ may be broader. They may refer to the risk involved in the development of novel, untested capability. Risk may refer to the interrelationship of the project to the broader operational system, such as a rail signalling upgrade and the impact it has on the broader rail network operation and timeliness. Risk may refer to system sustainment or redundancy, or risk of asset or system failure. Ultimately, in many of the projects we undertake, risk may refer to that of preserving human life.

With the relative complexity of the projects we undertake, developing shared understanding is very important.

Once a project is won, one of the first steps we take in setting a project off on the right foot are Kick-Off Meetings. We hold two types of these meetings, Project Kick-Off Meeting and Client Kick-Off Meeting.

These meetings bring together the project team (internal and client) to ensure that the project plan, that has been developed and approved by the client, is understood by all. It is typically chaired by the Project Lead.

Project Kick-Off Meeting brings together the team that developed the project plan, alongside the team that will develop and implement the solution. It is to ensure that the project team fully understands the client requirements to be met, the planned approach, each team member’s role and responsibilities and resourcing to further develop the Project Management Plan.

At Shoal, we work on many projects that have a combined Shoal / client project team, so a Client Kick-Off Meeting is crucial to clarify ambiguities, roles and responsibilities, approvals and reinforce stakeholder requirements. At this meeting, we discuss the Project Management Plan and ensure the Project Team and Client Team are on the same page and in alignment. At the conclusion, we have a shared understanding and clarity with respect to:

  1. Client needs
  2. The project requirements to be met
  3. Deliverables, scope and execution plan
  4. Team structure, roles, and responsibilities across the Shoal and Client team
  5. Planned resourcing.

When we have an alignment of client requirements and project scope, clarification of uncertainty and agreement of the proposed project schedule, we know that we have set a project off on the right foot.