The decisions made during project initiation are among the most critical in a project. They set the direction for the project, establish the project’s objectives and establish how the project is to be approached. Mistakes made at this early stage can be fatal. Sadly all too many projects do go wrong at this early stage and once a project has set out on the wrong path it can be difficult to rectify the situation without taking a significant write-down on the efforts and costs made up to that point.
Given the risk of getting things wrong, organizations need to take steps to ensure they give their projects the best possible start. To put a project on a firm foundation Project Managers or those responsible for leading projects need to bring people together, leverage the combined knowledge of the group and make clear and conscious decisions that are aligned with the desired outcomes the project is trying to achieve.
The Project Kick-Off Canvas is a tool that can help achieve those goals. It is a facilitated brainstorming tool that is used to engage people into the project initiation process and to bring focus to a new project. It is used in projects in which the objectives are initially unclear or in which you want to engage key stakeholders into the project’s strategic decision making processes to help build support and consensus for the project.
Figure 1 – The Project Kick-Off Canvas
(click for larger format)
The “Project Kick-Off Canvas” is the core of the method (Figure 1). The canvas is either printed on very large format paper and taped to a wall or drawn onto a white board. The canvas is then used to focus discussion during a facilitated planning meeting. During the meeting the Project Manager, the Project Sponsor or an appropriate equivalent, facilitates discussion and helps guide the group through the different issues on the canvas. Using stickie notes the group writes down their thoughts and ideas and sticks them to the appropriate cells on the canvas. Items can be added and deleted as the conversation develops and as ideas mature. The use of a structured method helps ensure all of the issues needing to be discussed are surfaced, it helps improve communications by standardizing terminology and it ensures that the key decisions being made become visible to everyone.
A full set of instructions for running a canvassing session are included in the following link.
- The Project Canvas and associated instructions are provided for personal use only. If you would like to use in a training class or for commercial purposes please contact us about copyright permissions.
- The canvassing meeting concept is in part based upon the SCOPEPAK meeting procedure developed by Mr Max Wideman (2001). The format of the canvas itself is in part inspired by the “Business Model Canvas” concept put forward by Osterwalder, Pigneur & al. 2010.