How We Start Projects


Congrats! You’ve been assigned to a brand new project and want to ensure the team has a smooth start that sets you up for success along the course of the project.

At Truss, we recognize that every project is unique, and therefore will have some circumstances that need to be accommodated. With that being true, we also recognize that incorporating some standardized tools and methods at project start will set the project team up for success.

While this guide is not meant to be a prescriptive checklist that must be followed, we have identified some artifacts and activities that should be used in every project start up. In addition, we have incorporated others that are optional but that may help you with your project needs.

Within this Guide, you will find an indicator(*) on any artifact/activity that should be used on every project. No indicator? Use what you need, and don’t forget to have fun!

Step 1: Project Initiation (Transfer from Sales to Project Team)

This is an informal period of time before the Internal Kickoff meeting. During this time Delivery Management will take the lead and begin activities such as ensuring the Project README is ready for use in the Internal Kickoff meeting. If there is no DM on the project, those activities will need to be assigned to another team member.

Desired Outcomes

  • The *Project Start checklist is completed for every activity that is applicable to the project. The project team has a shared understanding of the project and its goals so team members can engage in quality discussion during the Internal Kickoff. Key administrative tasks and contractual obligations are identified in the first phase of the project.


  • *Project Start checklist co-owned by CEM and DM
    • This document includes all activities and artifacts that should be completed at the start of all Truss projects, including the related artifacts below.
  • *Contract Review checklist owned by CEM
    • This checklist assists the CEM in completing a systematic review of the contract details that can be shared with the project team.
  • Project README Template created by CEM and maintained by DM
    • This document is the high level what and why of the project. What is this project, what are the goals, what is the background? Why is this important?
  • Project Onboarding Template created by DM (or CEM if there is no DM)
    • This document is the tactical how and where of a project. What do I need to do to get myself up to speed when joining a new project, what tools do I need, how do we work together? This document goes hand in hand with the Project README.


  • Proposal provided by CEM
    • Reviewing the proposal can help provide a background understanding of the client’s problem(s) we are looking to solve and how Truss recommended we could help based on our understanding of the client and their needs.
  • Proposal Notes provided by CEM
    • Some client projects may also have proposal notes to help with interpretation/rationale for what was included by the Truss proposal team. This is not a standard practice and may not always be available.
  • Contract provided by CEM
    • The contract should be referenced for specific questions related to deliverables, tooling, etc. if they are not answered in the Project README

Step 2: Internal Kickoff Meeting

This is a formal meeting of the internal project team (Truss team and subcontractors, if applicable) to gain an understanding of the client and project based on the sales process. This meeting is led by the project’s Client Engagement Manager and will be guided by the Project README. This meeting also gives a chance for all team members to meet and sync on the project before meeting with the client.

Desired Outcomes

  • The project team has an initial understanding of the client and project including timelines, objectives and deliverables as based on the conversations with sales to date and based on what has been specified in the proposal and/or SOO
  • Project team members feel they can effectively move forward preparing for the External Kickoff
  • Build a safe space where the team can discuss the project and any initial concerns/risks that the project may face identified during the sales process.
  • Team prepares a list of questions and concerns to be raised with the client during Kickoff


  • Teams’ Project README
  • Teams’ Project Onboarding Guide

Step 3: Team Matrix Workshop

The Team Matrix is designed to address a common pain point among project teams: ambiguity with workstream accountability can lead to a ruinous pursuit of consensus over value-driven decisions. It is completed by the team, unless the team size is prohibitively large during a workshop that is intended to bring the leads from the project together to better understand assigned accountability for different tasks and decide who takes accountability when a role is not filled on the team.

Desired Outcomes

  • Have clarity on what is expected individually and as a group, be comfortable using this Team Matrix as a tool to discuss the inevitable challenges that may arise, and feel confident you can be successful
  • Have confidence to use the Team Matrix in conversations with your manager to make sure you have what you need to be successful
  • Be able to provide the broader team with awareness and insight into how the Team Leads are structuring their responsibilities and all can support each other


Step 4: Norming Exercise

Norming is a time for project team members to better understand each other and how best to work together. Projects that have a strong internal norming exercise seem to have good outcomes.

Desired Outcomes

  • Members begin to recognize and appreciate each other’s strengths. Although there is occasional conflict, everyone is working and making progress toward a common and shared goal.


Step 5: External Kickoff Meeting

This is the official start of work with the client. It is a collaborative effort by the project team.

Desired Outcomes

  • Client relationships are formed to begin working shoulder to shoulder
  • The client has confidence in the project team to deliver
  • The client and project team have a shared understanding of project, its goals and understanding of the path to achieving them


  • Project plan led by DM
    • A delivery management led exercise to develop a plan to ensure project delivery standards are met
  • Stakeholder mapping led by PM
    • A product led exercise to document key stakeholders and relationships within the client’s organization


(coming soon)

Additional Considerations

  • This guide can also be useful beyond initial project kickoff. It can be used and adapted for other situations such as:
    • Project ‘re-kickoffs” such as the start of option years
    • When new team members join a project