A kickoff meeting is when you meet your project team, establish communication flows, and discuss your goals. It creates the foundation for the architectural process and helps form a successful working relationship. At Neumann Monson, we host a kickoff meeting for every project, and we find the most effective kickoff meetings occur when clients know what to expect and who to include.
Each kickoff meeting has the same core objectives, though the details depend on your project and scope. To demystify the process, we have outlined the goals of a typical kickoff meeting. By the end, you will understand the importance of this meeting and feel prepared to start your project off right.
Discuss Values and Process
The kickoff meeting is one of the first times you meet with your project team. This is an opportunity for our team to get to know your organization and your project goals. The architect-client relationship can be long-lasting, and these initial introductions are the beginning of a collaborative relationship that can continue for months or even years.
To set a solid foundation, we start the kickoff meeting by discussing our purpose, values, and the way we will work together. Our goal is to find design solutions that reflect your mission and values.
Additionally, we will break down the architectural process and discuss the work ahead. This is the chance to establish roles, responsibilities, and expectations for all parties involved. We want to make sure that we are engaging the right stakeholders and decision-makers in upcoming meetings.
Review Site, Budget, and Program
The kickoff meeting is also an opportunity to assess the project’s current state and its potential. Typically, we will discuss the building site, budget, schedule, and any planning, studies, or community engagement that has happened to date. We also review the program—a document that identifies the project elements, noting the approximate size and functional requirements of each component.
Many clients find a site and establish their budget and program before contacting an architect. Other clients will need help completing these elements. For instance, some organizations will need to complete a site study or programming study before we can begin design. In these situations, we will use the kickoff meeting to discuss timelines and set expectations for these services.
If you already have a program and budget, we will review these elements to ensure the budget aligns with the project requirements. It is important to establish alignment from the beginning and set the project up for success.
Establish Lines of Communication
We will also establish lines of communication. During the kickoff meeting, you will meet your Project Manager—your day-to-day point of contact until the project’s completion. You will also identify the primary point of contact from your end, streamlining communication and decision-making.
Typical Communication Flow
Communication flows will change depending on the organization, project type, and project delivery method, but many public and commercial projects follow a similar pattern. Many clients create a building committee if they don’t already have an established process. The building committee will identify a single representative to communicate with the Project Manager.
Typically, financing departments, operations departments, and Boards of Trustees will communicate with the building committee. At our end, the Project Manager communicates with the entire project team, along with any relevant consultants, and keeps everyone moving in the right direction.
Discuss Project Goals
After outlining expectations, we can preview the creative process. We may discuss your organization’s values and your goals for this project. We may ask questions like:
- What do you hope to accomplish with this project?
- How do you measure success?
- How do you measure failure?
- How do you work?
- To what degree do you want/need to involve the community in the design process?
We will also discuss broader goals like sustainability. By identifying these goals early, we can start finding solutions that reflect your mission.
Later, we will tailor visioning workshops and benchmarking tours to fit your goals. Throughout pre-design, we will engage as many stakeholders as possible, gather ideas, and lead discussions about precedent projects. We aim to make your values tangible.
Preparing for Your Kickoff Meeting
The kickoff meeting sets the foundation of your building project. It is an opportunity to establish goals and answer questions, so be sure to include everyone who will be a part of the building project, especially your building committee.
Of course, this process will look different depending on your organization and project. Some organizations may not have a formal building committee. Others may have a dedicated facilities department. Smaller projects may include an even closer collaborative relationship with the design team. Depending on the scope, we may even combine the kickoff meeting with the first visioning workshop to get started on the design.
Before attending your kickoff meeting, check out our comprehensive guide to the architectural process to learn how the process will evolve.