Launching agile projects with strangers: Tips from a consultant coach on how to run a kickoff with an external client product owner and an internal team

How you launch your project has a huge impact on its success. Done well, a good kickoff focuses the team on shared goals and protects a team from misalignment, role confusion, and expensive rework.

But what happens when the team is hired by a client, the product owner has limited agile experience, the tech stack is new to the team, and some of the team members have never met? How do you set up this team to “hit the ground running” with a clear alignment around teamwork, dependencies, risks, and desired business outcomes? This interactive presentation will share real-world stories and techniques that you can apply to any kickoff to create shared understanding quickly and increase the likelihood of project success—even if you’re working with strangers.


Outline/Structure of the Talk


For the 60-min version, I’ll combine presentation and table exercises (times include instructional debriefs):

  • (5) Connecting exercise: what have you experienced in kickoffs?
  • (5) Introduce Larsen and Nies’s model of “Liftoff” (high-level)
  • (5) The challenges of working with new clients / strangers
  • (5) Tips for setting up a client PO for success (pre-kickoff)
  • (5) Tips from adult learning theory that can improve your kickoff outcomes
  • (10) Tips for working with a flexible agenda
  • (10) Exercise and debrief: structuring exercises to surface misalignment
  • (10) How to layer mapping exercises to build cross-role empathy and surface risks
  • (5) Be ready to catch the unexpected!

Depending on how many attend and the room layout, I would adjust the exercises accordingly. Handouts are part of the workshop and nice take-aways for the attendees.

Learning Outcome

Participants will learn tips to help:

  • Understand kickoff goals: alignment, purpose, and context
  • Use a flexible agenda to let participants drive, while choreographing the dance
  • Balance the desire to focus on granular details with the need to align on global issues
  • Mix adult learning principles and facilitation to support attendees’ discovery
  • Structure exercises to quickly surface and resolve misalignments
  • Layer process-mapping exercises to build empathy and facilitate team-bonding
  • Facilitate to reduce cognitive overload

Target Audience

Facilitators who are involved in product launches, scrum masters, agile coaches, product owners

Prerequisites for Attendees


schedule Submitted 2 years ago