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Yesterday I sent out the agenda for a kick-off-meeting next week and got a totaly negative feedback on the  "human" parts.

I'm in the IT department of a big enterprise and the meeting is with our customer and two external IT partners (my role is a subproject manager). About 12 people will attend. There is a total of  20 people in the project including developers, testers,...

I scheduled 1 hour for the introduction in the beginning. I listened to your meeting postcasts and found it would be a good idea to get to know each other and reduce later conflicts. Additionally i asked for a short profile with name, company, picture and role in the project.

I got a totally negative feedback from my PM and the customer representative: "waste of time", "unnecessary", "you won't get any profile from me".

I saw the profile in another project and liked the idea, as we will be a virtual team and it's nice to have a face in mind, when you are talking on the phone.

I now have two problems: Do I stick to the profile and long introduction although PM and customer told me otherwise? How can I get my PM and customer on board? Which ways do I have to improve the relations in the project?

I would be glad to hear any suggestions

jhack's picture

Is this a virtual kickoff or will everyone be in the same room?  Will there be people on the phone, too?   Videoconference?  

John Hack

Trashbox's picture

Everyone will be in the same room.

No phone, no video conference. But this will be the only  "non-virtual" meeting during the project with all participants

shafeknf's picture

It is very disappointing that your PM responded this way.  He or she should know how beneficial it is to the project for the team members to get to know each other at the outset.  But people are still people, even if they have a PMP after their name.  Since you received negative feedback about your agenda, your next step is to hit the phones. 

Starting with your PM, call or visit a few of the members and find out really why they are reluctant to participate in an introduction meeting. I've found that many IT folks (I've been one for 26 years, so I am well acquainted with their various idiosyncrasies),  hate talking about themselves, hate talking to strangers, and really hate talking about themselves to strangers.  They hate meetings, they hate things that are "touchy feely" and they almost always believe their time is much too important to sit around talking about things that they believe are irrelevant.   The team members usually do, however, want  to know with whom they will be interacting, how they will be interacting and how often.

To overcome their reluctance, I wouldn't ask them to submit a profile, especially if you want them to include a picture or anything personal.  Instead, I would call them directly and explain that you will be introducing them to the rest of the group and you want to make sure that you have their name spelled correctly, their current job title, their role on the project, and/or their contact information.  When you get into the meeting, start the introductions with a chart showing with whom each person will be interacting on a regular basis (kind of like that first page on the DiSK sample report).  Then introduce each person to the ones they will be working with the closest.  Work your way through the chart, making sure everyone is introduced and they are comfortable with who they will be interacting with.  Ask them to exchange contact numbers, how they prefer to be communicated with, i.e. phone, email, text message, etc., and the best times to be contacted.  Given sufficient time to do this, I think you will find that they will begin talking to each other about more personal things and will begin making the communication connections that will help make your project successful.

Oh, and lastly, something very important -- bring food.  Nothing gets an IT person to open up like free food!

Hope this helps.

jhack's picture

I've been through several different forms of "introductions" (including M&M's recommended intro, a "life's up and downs" intro, and a "guess who this profile is" intro) and they are generally very good at getting people to communicate with each other better.  

Don't just collect the profiles, do the intros.  You don't do them because you (and they) like them;  you do them because they work.  

John Hack

Trashbox's picture

Thanks for your suggestions,

I think I will keep the introduction more formal than I planned. It seems like my company is currently not very appreciated by our customer. Additionally I am not very senior. I guess a bit of "aura" is needed to do the introduction the manager tools-way. And an overall attitude of "getting.it done".

It seems like this project will very likely become a "it wasn't me"-project with a lot of finger pointing. So there is no use beeing blamed for "wasting" cutomer and partner time.

 

 

 

Jazzman's picture

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MicrosoftInternetExplorer4

I am saddened when things get to this.  As an unsolicited caution: this is the kind of thing that can cause relationships between companies to break down…causing loss in business.  It doesn’t matter who’s fault it is, and no one wins in that case.  Been there…done that.

Regardless, there is no magic “aura” needed to do the “Introductions” meeting.  It does take faith in the approach, some “know how” to make it work well, and a little courage to push through challenges.

Per Jack’s note, don’t try to mix in new stuff or change things around unless you know what you are doing.  The introductions tool works just as is. 

Also, and probably most importantly, this is not your meeting.  You need to get the PM’s buy in before communicating this out to the full team.  Also, because it sounds like you’re an external supplier to your “customer,” there’s another strong superior/subordinate relationship you have to work through as well.  In that case, after getting your PMs buy-in, you need to get the buy-in of the main sponsor at your customer’s organization.  From their perspective, they’re not paying you for what they initially perceive as fluff.  Convince key people of the value first, then the rest fall in as you’re doing the exercise.

But what to do now that the music has already started?  Well…as Shafeknf says, you can start with your PM.  You’ve got a tougher road to go now that they already have a mind against, but still possible.

Best wishes on this.  I’ve used the intro exercise a number of times within IT and with internal and external folks.  It’s always been beneficial and is sometimes challenging to pull off.

-Jazz

 

mtietel's picture

As others have said, sell it on the value proposition.  The hour you spend on the introduction ceremony will pay off immeasurably over the life of the project.

Anecdote:  I recently went to India to help create a new team that we will be working closely with over the next 18 months (and some of us for the forseeable future).  I suggested an introduction ceremony to my boss as a kickoff to the two weeks we were there.  I facilitated using the MT Introduction tool.  Although we had some minor glitches with taping the pages to an easel, the response from the team there was outstanding!  There were several that approached me later expressing excitement that they'd been working together for several weeks but didn't know everyone's name, nor anything about each other.  My boss was also very pleased (always good!) and we established a great foundation that we are already drawing upon as we work with our Indian colleagues.

One of my boss's peers is also creating a group in India.  They didn't send anyone to India, nor do any sort of introduction ceremony.  When, in an overall project status meeting, I told them that we'd done an introduction ceremony, you should have seen the looks and body language.  Eye rolls grunts, heavy sighs, "melting" onto the table in disgust, and a comment of "You better slide away from her or she'll hit you."

Needless to say, we have an outstanding releationship with our overseas colleagues and things aren't going so well in the other group...