SOARing into your Project Kick-Off!

SOARing into your Project Kick-Off!

 

SOARing into your Project Kick-Off!
SOARing into your Project Kick-Off!

 

Projects are typically launched with a kick-off meeting. Depending on the Project Manager, aren’t those kick-off meetings sometimes dry and un-engaging? Wouldn’t it be great to SOAR into your next kick-off by unleashing the energy and commitment of all those involved - and embedding it into a unique project culture?

Well then, let me share with you an approach that I’ve discovered that has helped the teams that I have worked with identify their strengths, opportunities and aspirations while also focusing on purpose-filled mission statement to spark a broader engagement from that initial, but critical meeting! This approach combines facilitation, the balanced scorecard strategy map and the SOAR analysis. Let’s get to it – and see if we can jump start your next project kick-off meeting!

 

Infuse your Project Charter with Purpose 

During the kick-off meeting, the Project Manager will present the Project Charter that outlines many aspects of the project. The Project Manager will state the project objectives, scope, roles and responsibilities, identify the main stakeholders, and governance…etc. Here is how the PMBOK sees the process for developing a project charter:

The PMBOK also states that a good Project Charter should contain a “Project purpose or justification” which is absolutely true, but how often do we tend to overlook this and focus on the process related aspects of the project charter? And in doing so we miss an opportunity to put together a purposeful mission statement “owned” or better yet “co-created” by the project team.

Numerous times I have seen this occur, where project teams are so focused on process outputs that they lose sight of purpose of the project, or better yet the benefits to be derived from it. All of these aspects are equally important and at the programme level we tend to methodologically capture a vision or blueprint – and therefore here it is embedded into practice and theory, but at the project level this is not systematic.

Given that projects are cross-functional, and require the contribution of many team members, many of who are typically tasked with the project work on top of their daily responsibilities, therefore it is often an energy-intensive exercise to build as much engagement around the project from the early phases (comment on what are some activities to help you overcome this?). And during the kick-off meeting it is a great moment to begin co-creating a purposeful mission and team values with your team. Practically speaking how can this be done? I would recommend starting with a SOAR workshop.

 

 

 Step 1: Facilitate a SOAR Workshop

I would recommend to allocate a good hour and a half of the project kick-off meeting (or even a separate meeting) to facilitate a SOAR workshop. Wait, what is a SOAR workshop? Strengths, opportunities, aspirations & results (SOAR) analysis is a positive transformational approach to strategic thinking that focuses an organization on its current strengths and vision of the future for developing its strategic goals. This tool differs from the commonly used SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis, which tends to also focus on the negative threats & weaknesses thus canceling out the overall positive energy of the exercise.

Here is where your facilitation skills as a PM will be key. Run through each of the below quadrants of the template with your team by asking the following questions and capture their input as best as possible (you can use a large A0 printed template of this and write down their feedback of the team members using sticky notes).

As an outcome of a SOAR analysis you will obtain key information from your project team members specifically on values, expectations, aspirations and many other relevant insights that will become the fundamentals for your project team’s values and mission statement.

Step 2: Co-Create your Project Team Values

Once you have your SOAR analysis completed you will be able to extract the inherent values that are important to the project team members such as for example: Teamwork, innovation, customer-centric, respect, on-time delivery….etc. These should be shared and validated together.

They will define the behaviors that should be the norms within the daily interactions of the project team. Team values are the guiding principles that drive behavior and can help people understand the difference between right and wrong. There are many different types of values, depending upon the project context (and the organization within which the project is being led).

Step 3: Develop Your Project Purpose and Team’s Mission Statement

Now that you have defined core project team values, supported by the SOAR analysis you can use this to guide the process of building your project team’s purpose or mission statement. This statement should clearly communicate the purpose of the project. Many mission statements succumb to an overuse of words in general, but especially to jargon.

Good mission statements should be clear, concise, and useful (and above all inspiring!). The SOAR output has helped you to understand your project team’s aspirations and the intended project results. From there a proposal can be made of a project mission. This should also be validated among project team members (a draft circulated by email and validated at the next team meeting)

Step 4: Ensure your Project Purpose is Aligned to your Organizational Vision

Now that you have your project team values and purpose it is time to ensure that there is a clear alignment with the project benefits and the vision and strategy of your organization. This can be done using an adapted version of the BalancedScore card map (with a slight tweak to be tailored to project management), which will give you the certainty to make the link between your project and the strategic objectives.

This template connects the dots between big picture strategy elements such as project mission statement (project purpose), vision (what we aspire for as an organization), project & organizational values (what norms and behaviours should guide us), strategic focus areas (themes of the BalancedScoreCard) and the more operational elements such as quality expectations (PRINCE2 concept), measures (or key performance indicators, or KPIs, which track strategic performance), targets (desired level of performance), benefits (desired outcomes of your project).

Now you can take these elements- and have a good 1-page representation of how your project aligns to your organizational vision, all of which can be easily embedded into your project charter!

Conclusion: Watch your Project Culture Take Shape – and become a vehicle to drive your Company Culture! 

A project charter with such a twist will also help to shape your project culture. What does this project culture entail? Well you can see it is as a microcosm of the organizational culture that is underlying beliefs, assumptions, values and ways of interacting that contribute to the unique social and psychological environment of the project. Since projects are temporary created for the purpose of delivering one or more business products according to an agreed Business Case, each time you kick-off a project you have the opportunity to launch a new and unique project culture (and if properly aligned re-enforce your existing organizational culture).

As we see the rise in projects in organizations, projects will become instrumental vehicles in driving company culture. This approach will help to do just that. Not only are you able to form a project team culture based on a purposeful project mission statement and values, but also align it to your organizational vision, which will help release energy and commitment of your project team members to deliver above and beyond time, budget and scope requirements - SOARing dynamically into the first phases of your project!

 

 The Author :  Kamil Mroz

Kamil Mroz

About :

I am an award-winning project leader with director level & site-leadership experience, strong communication skills, and a strategic long-term view enabling the connection between strategy and operational execution.

I am driven and energized by coaching, mentoring, and developing talents while overcoming transversal organizational challenges. My experience in people management has enabled me to discover my passion for the leadership of intercultural, diverse, and technical teams composed of both direct reports and cross-functional matrix project teams. I have been awarded global distinctions from both the largest PM organizations, IPMA, and PMI for advanced project management expertise, strong teamwork, communication & leadership.

I owe my servant leadership approach to the time I have dedicated to social and volunteer-causes where I focused on several high-impact philanthropic projects in Europe. I am also proud to have also been the first-ever student to be awarded the Young Alumni of the Year by the Faculty of Engineering from the University of Ottawa and I also Chair of the ISPE BeNeLux Steerco on Project Management.

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