…… Part of The Basics series. First published in May 2007 ……
Global intranet project kickoffs can be tricky. You have to bring together business and intranet mangers from business divisions and countries around the world to move forward in a coherent way.
These tips might help you through the initial steps:
1. Make sure you have a high level support, mandate and/or sponsors and that this is communicated to all involved.
2. Make sure that these sponsors are aware of their role, and that they know it is more than “in name only”. They will need to communicate, be involved with some key decisions, help arbitrate when differences emerge along the way.
3. Organize a project kickoff meeting or workshop where you bring the key people (intranet managers and sponsors) together physically. The rest of the project may be run virtually but an initial face-to-face workshop is worth its weight in gold all along the following year as the project advances.
The sponsors will hear from intranet managers firsthand; the intranet managers will spend time with each other, and also get to know the sponsors.
Your agenda for this kickoff workshop (which may be one or one and a half days) should include:
A. You listen to the trenches and they listen to each other
Give the local intranet managers the following pre-workshop brief: “Prepare 3 slides and be ready to give us a 5 minute presentation on the strong points of your current intranet, on-going projects, challenges and needs for the future.”
Ask to see the slides in advance so you can incorporate any unexpected issues into the session program. Note that some intranets will most likely have tools and functions that others will be eager to use in their intranets.
This discovery aspect of global workshops is very important and deserves significant time in your program.
Highlight points in common from the different presentations, discuss how they can impact each other. Reinforce the notion that “we can learn from each other, share our ideas and tools”.
B. The trenches listen to the global work groups
Then move to presentations (5-10 minutes each) from global work groups or projects that impact everyone such as a global search tool, a new function, etc.
The members of these global work groups are most likely some of the local intranet managers.
You have now moved up a notch on the “we share the same needs” view to the “we are working together” feeling.
C. The trenches listen to you
Present your global project, remembering to address in advance issues the local intranet managers may have.
Here, you have 2 options:
1- You may structure your presentation around high level goals, actions and timeline, then ask the members of the workshop to help develop the details.
2 – Or you may have a fairly detailed presentation, and your goal is to get buy-in from the others.
The two dynamics are different, and must be managed accordingly.
Whichever you choose, place your project in the big picture by taking into account and giving credit on the slides and verbally to all previous or on-going initiatives related to your project.
Headquarters is notoriously famous for being “late” compared to the front lines of the organization, starting up projects that give the impression of “starting from scratch” when in reality a lot of similar work may have already happened in the trenches.
Modesty is a valuable trait if you are part of the HQ team!
D. Discussion – honest and open
Solicit comments. Ask for concerns. Find out if the people have suggestions.
People will probably feel a need to communicate issues from their viewpoints, and will talk about points you have already considered. Let them speak out without responding too quickly. Assuming your project has been well thought out and clearly presented, you will often find others in the group who will respond “in your place”.
If there are major concerns, you may need to re-think some parts of your project. Do not feel defensive if this happens. A good approach is to note the concerns on a paper board. List the “pros” and the “cons” or list the opportunities, the risks and ways to manage the risks.
Get the whole group to analyze the concerns, rather than simply raise them. If you need to come back later with some answers, commit to doing so.
E. Action mode
Present, or work out and Action Plan together (depending on the approach you took at point C).
An Action Plan means defining “what”, “who”‘ and “when”. Nice and simple!
F. Finish with a splash.
Whether you have a dinner, glass of champagne, or give everyone a specially prepared gift when they leave (something that evokes the project like a branded cup, mouse pad or whatever), take the opportunity to make people feel good about coming together.
If people are together over 2 days, create plenty of networking moments. The overall “feeling” of your workshop is actually more important than the details of your project.
If the atmosphere and working relations are strong, global projects are much more likely to succeed.