A project manager asked: In order to obtain buy-in from your Project Stakeholders at Kick-off, what are some key points to communicate or clear up front?
This is one of the fatal mistakes project managers make.
If you wait until the kick-off for stakeholders to give their buy-in for the project, it is way too late.
Buy-in is a prerequisite to the project kick-off. By the time the project is kicked off, there should be no doubt in anybody’s mind as to why we are doing the project.
You always need a mandate to kick-off the project. There needs to be much leg work done in advance to build the business case for the project before it starts. The business case must address, among other things, what problems the organization is trying to solve, what other options were considered, and why the envisioned solution or approach was chosen.
During the formulation of this business case, the organization can deliberate, debate, and argue about the what, the why, the how, and all the differences that need to be resolved. But once all is said and done, a business case document is approved. That becomes your mandate. You no longer need to get buy-in after that. The organization has made a decision to proceed with the project.
I understand if your organization does not at the moment have a governance process that requires a business case to be made and approved before a project is initiated. In this case, what you need to do first is start a mini-phase or mini-project to create that business case. You will need to spend the time needed to build the buy-in first. Then you can formally kick-off the real project. Not doing this heavy-lifting before the project starts only means that you will have to do it during the project. Not something I recommend.
Understand that when you lead the development of the business case, it is really not your job to obtain the needed buy-in. That is the job of the project sponsor or economical stakeholder. Your job is only to facilitate the “meeting of the minds” so to speak.
In a nutshell, the project kick-off is only to formalize the initiation of the project not to get stakeholder buy-in. Never kick-off a project without an already approved business case.