by Leon Rosenshein

Kicking It Off

Inertia is a thing. Not just for spherical chickens on a frictionless surface in a vacuum or 3 ton robots. It’s also a thing in organizations. And one of the places you’ll see this the most is when starting a new project that requires multiple groups to change direction. Some groups don’t think it applies and make no changes, some over-rotate, and the rest end up somewhere in between.

But there are ways to provide guardrails and help people stay on track. And they all pretty much come down to making sure that there is a shared vision of what the result is going to look like. So write it down and share it. That doc, your project kick-off doc, is going to frame the work and provide the context needed to allow everyone working on the project to make all of the small, daily decisions needed to make the project a success.

  • Executive Summary
  • Problem Statement
  • Product Vision
  • Minimal Viable Product (and follow-on phases)

Executive Summary

A paragraph (two at most) with what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, what done looks like, and the major milestones along the way.

Problem Statement

An outside looking in view of why this needs to be done. Define the customer and what their problem/pain point is.

Product Vision

Your proposed solution. Not the technical details, although some might be needed, but again, outside looking in. Show how things are different for the customer. How their life is better/easier with this change.

Because the people that made the plan aren’t going to be part of every decision that gets made. They certainly won’t be in the room when the decision is made, so make sure everyone involved knows why the big decisions have been made so they can align their decisions with them.

Another way to frame things is Amazon’s Working Backwards approach. Instead of a kick-off doc, they start with the press release for the product. And when you get down to it, a good press release contains all of the same information as what I just described for a kick-off doc, An overview, the customer problem, how this new thing solves customer problems, and teasers for the next great thing.

So before you start on your next big thing, make sure you define what you’re doing, why your customers need it (even if they don’t know it), and how they’ll be happier when you’re done.