Kick-off Workshop

In this article we describe what happens in the Kick-off Workshop and how you can prepare for it as a team member as well as a coach. Let's go!
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Karl Rabes

Business Design Coach

1. Purpose

The Kick-off Workshop is the formal start of an iteration in the Business Design project. The purpose is to align on common goals and other organizational issues defined in the Project Charter. It is also a good opportunity for the sponsor to connect with the team and motivate them with inspiring words on the reason behind why this project has been set up and why it is important for the future of the company (either in person or with a short video message). The sponsor should let the team know what channels work well for direct and fast communication throughout the project (e.g. SMS, WhatsApp, Slack, E-Mail, PAs and other proxies are not what the team needs). In addition, we spend some time to discuss the Guiding Principles of Business Design and define our "code of conduct" for the teamwork, which includes:

  • Expected behaviour

  • Communication rules 

  • "Las Vegas Rule" ("what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas")

  • "Sticky Notes Exercise"

It's important that nobody discloses intermediary results of the project to anybody in the organization without permission of both the sponsor and the team manager.

The Kick-off workshop is also important to prepare the upcoming Discover Phase with questions the team should explore and gain insights to create better solutions for the sponsor's problem. We usually include the following Discover areas and define activities by using our Discover Cards:

  1. Today's business model

  2. Practices & processes

  3. Customers & users

  4. Competitive landscape

  5. Market structure & dynamics

  6. Data & resources

  7. Technological capabilities

  8. Rules & regulations

At the end of the workshop, we always define clear tasks and assign them to the members of the Project Team. Weekly Status Calls help to keep track of the team's activities.

2. Duration

1 full day + preparation and documentation

3. Participants

The Team Manager and Team Experts need to attend a Business Design Training before they join a Kick-Off Workshop. We train team members in our Business Design Academy.

4. Preparation

As a Project Team Member

Your journey as a Project Team member in a Business Design Sprint starts here. You will get to know your other team members, if not already happened, and why this project came to life. Before the Kick-off Workshop, the Business Design Coach will have reached out to you to get to know you already before the start of the Business Design Sprint and discuss how you can prepare for it (see box below).

  • Familiarise yourself with the context of your innovation project (e.g. blogs, research papers, podcasts or your organisations perspective on the topic are good starting points)

  • Prepare access to insights and resources (e.g. specific experts, potential customers, reports, knowledge databases, etc.) that will help you in your area of expertise

  • Free up your calendar for the day and make sure you can attend the workshop with 100% attention

  • Arrange travel and accommodation in cases needed

As a Business Design Coach

The Kick-off Workshop is the first acid test revealing how well and precise you pinpointed the Setup Phase and the Project Charter accordingly. Take your time and do not rush to start the Business Design Sprint. You should estimate a couple days to prepare the Kick-off Workshop (check out the tasks in the box below), one day execution, and at least one day to document the outcomes and disseminate decisions taken throughout the team and towards the sponsor.

  • Plan and conduct short "get-to-know" calls with all team members before the workshop

  • Ensure with the Team Manager that all team members are invited, travels, accommodations and room setup incl. catering is arranged

  • Agree with the Sponsor about his/her availability during the Kick-off Workshop and that a short visit is scheduled (30 min.) / alternatively: A short video message from the Sponsor is recorded and uploaded to the Project Workspace 

  • Define the agenda for the workshop and align it with the Team Manager

  • Book and organise room & catering

  • Prepare and print all tools & materials

5. Signs of Success

We consider the Kick-off Workshop as a success...

  • ...if the project team and sponsor agreed on the Project Charter (in best case, let them sign it)

  • ...if the team got the impression that they will be working on a meaningful challenge worth solving for the sponsor

  • ...if the project team has a very clear idea on what to do next in the Discover Phase (tasks on an Action Plan)

  • ...if the project team is fully committed to work on the tasks assigned to them and see a reason why this is important

  • ...if the coach is fully accepted and respected by the team as an methodological expert

6. Tools & Materials

7. Documentation

8. Q & A

  • What if the sponsor can't make it to the workshop? Well, this should be the exception but the least the sponsor can do then is to send you a short video of his / her message. Upload the video to the Project Workspace and show it during the workshop.

  • What if we collect 100+ Discover questions? It seems you need to discover a lot and your team is not too deep into the topic. Focus on some Discover areas and not all of them. Usually, the world of customers and users, technologies as well as the competitive landscape are a good starting point.

  • How can I tell team members that the next couple weeks will be special? Tell them that Business Design projects require passion and extra effort (> 2 days per week) over the next couple of weeks. We need that and we expect that. Team members will leave their comfort zone from time to time and will be confronted with personal conflicts and disputes. Be clear about that right from the beginning. 

  • What if some team members tell you that they are not able to work on the tasks because they are too busy? The availability of the team members should have been addressed before the workshop when you were about to prepare the Project Charter. Schedule 1-on-1 with the team members and review their calendars for the next two weeks. There are always possibilities to postpone or cancel other activities.

  • What are "communication rules"? We usually define how and when we communicate results of the project to people outside of the team. It is very important that this happens in a controlled manner. Moreover, we define how we communicate in the team especially between workshops (e.g. preferred time and channels).

9. Room & Infrastructure

  • 1x Empty wall: > 420 x 200cm 

  • 1x Empty wall: > 220 x 90 cm

  • Chairs or cube seats

  • 1x Low-distance projector for Project Workspace and sponsor's presentation

  • 1x Table for catering

  • Hot & cold drinks, snacks or finger food

Example Layout

Room Layout for Kick-off Workshop

10. Example Agenda

In some cases the Kick-off Workshop has to take place in a virtual work environment, which influences the agenda. Check out our Miro Board to facilitate the Kick-off Workshop online.





08:30 - 09:00

Arrival and "Good Morning Coffee"



09:00 - 09:30

Welcome and introduction

  • "Why the h*ll are you here?"

  • Purpose of the workshop

  • Agenda


Team manager & Coach

09:30 - 10:00

Short sponsor's motivational speech incl. Q&A



10:00 - 11:00

Recap of Business Design Process, roles & "code of conduct"



11:00 - 12:00

Alignment on Project Charter

  • Motivation

  • Objectives

  • Problem / solution (optional)

  • Stakeholders & roles

  • Schedule & dates for workshops



12:30 - 13:30

Lunch break



13:30 - 14:00

Introduction to Discover Phase



14:00 - 16:00

Collection and prioritization of Discover questions



16:00 - 17:00

Task management



17:00 - 17:30

Wrap-up and farewell

  • Today's (personal) highlights

  • Reflection of teamwork

  • Short summary of output

  • Outlook 



* P = Presentation | D = Discussion | B = Break | T = Teamwork