Feature Kick-off Meeting


Before you dive into development, gather your team for a feature kick-off meeting. What's on the agenda? Walkthroughs, feedback, and alternative ways to solve the problem.

AND I NEED THIS... WHY?

This is the one – the feature your customer research tells you will differentiate your product and delight your customers. You totally should've shipped this last release, so let's get cracking on it.

Whoa! Hold your horses, cowpoke. Your team have no context. You've probably made assumptions in defining the problem this feature solves. There's no agreement on how to measure the feature's success. And let's face it: in all the excitement, it's possible some design or technical challenges were overlooked.

Time to rustle up your team and step through the details before filling your backlog with user stories. Else, you'll start development with more questions than clarity.

WHO SHOULD BE INVOLVED?

Get the whole team together for this one.

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A feature kick-off meeting gets your team and stakeholders aligned before development starts.
People

6 - 9

Time

60 min

Difficulty

Medium

Running the play

Make sure your new feature is more than just a concept before holding a kick-off meeting. But don't wait until the design is fully baked, either.

MATERIALS
PREP

Build the concept

Before the kick-off meeting, the product owner or designer should build out a low-fidelity user journey map and have a rough idea of what to use for success measures. Share these with the team before the session so they can come prepared.

Schedule your feature kick-off meeting in a space with big walls or whiteboards. Arrive a few minutes early, and use that space to put up the user journey you've mapped out.

STEP 1

Feature overview (10 min)

Welcome everyone to the kick-off meeting and start by providing an overview of the feature and the context around it. Describe the problem or opportunity it'll address, and how that ties in with broader goals or initiatives. Introduce your target user persona and the value this feature will provide them, citing research or supporting background information. Then lay out your thoughts on measuring success.

Remember: the idea is to do "just enough" spec'ing and scoping before the feature kick-off. There are supposed to be holes and gaps at this stage – the purpose of this meeting is to bring the team together to start filling them.

ANTI-PATTERN

Sharing too late. If the spec is considered "done" then you might have missed the chance to pivot based on feedback from your team.

STEP 2

Feedback please (10 min)

Before jumping into the user journey, pause for feedback from the team. If you're met with silence and shakes of the head, use some of these questions to help get your team talking:

  • Do we have a shared understanding of what this feature is intended to deliver?
  • What are your hopes for this feature?
  • What are your fears about it?
Pro tip

Bring the feature to life by introducing it from the perspective of the target customer persona.

STEP 3

User journey walkthrough (15 min)

Remember that user journey you developed before the kick-off meeting? Walk through it from start to finish. Call out how the user will discover the feature, how they'll interact with it, and how they'll leave it. As you walk through, talk about how the feature will address the problem space, reduce customer friction, or otherwise add value.

Instead of pausing for feedback during the walk-through, ask everyone to jot their thoughts down on sticky notes. This prevents any single team member from inadvertently hijacking the walk-through and leading you down a rabbit hole.

STEP 4

Critiques and alternate solutions (20 min)

Go back to the start of the user journey map. For each stage, have everyone post their sticky notes and discuss the team's feedback. (It's fine for people to jot down new questions or concerns on stickies, too.)

Forget about what each team member's usual role is. This is a time for everyone to imagine ways the feature might fail (security vulnerabilities? usability flaws? technical constraints? etc.) and suggest ways to avoid them.

Capture all questions and concerns in writing, along with the product owner's answer or decision.

STEP 5

Wrap it up (5 min)

What other information does the team need in order to be clear on what they're doing and why?

Assign any unanswered questions about the feature to a team member, with a due date for coming back with the answer. Typically, answering them involves additional user research, fleshing out edge cases that surfaced during the meeting, or thinking though pieces of the technical design.

Pro tip

Add the feature kick-off meeting to your team's standard rituals, so there's a regular feedback loop for features before they hit the team's backlog.

Nailed it?

Be sure to run a full Health Monitor session or checkpoint with your team to see if you're improving.

Find your Health Monitor

Variations

CROSS GEO TEAM

This play can be tailored for teams in multiple locations, share the concept early on a Confluence page and make sure the room you book is set-up with a VC.

Follow-ups

If anyone in the team thinks of new questions after the kick-off meeting, add them to the spec with what they think the answer probably is.

Assign the question to the appropriate team member – if they like the proposed answer, they can just indicate their agreement with it.

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