Brian Sheehan
As a Technical Writer and Blogger, Brian enjoys the challenge of bringing concepts to life via the written word. He is a big fan of project management, technology, and cheeseburgers.
June 12, 2012 · 2 min read

Virtuous Kick-off Meetings (1/3)

Project Management Meets Confucius is an ongoing series dedicated to finding the inner philosopher in all of us. The ideas presented herein are designed to bring together the two worlds of Asian Philosophy and Project Management; ideally, in an entertaining, tongue-in-cheek, and (ever-so-humble) inspiring way.

Confucius, when not meddling in 6th century Chinese politics, obviously cared deeply for the needs of 21st century Project Managers. “Obviously” because (a) he created the first civil service examinations (a distant forerunner to the PMP® certification) and (b) he inspired millions with his views on ethics, industriousness, and efficiency. It should be no surprise that those who desire to succeed in business, coupled with fortune cookie manufacturers, are eternally grateful for his inspirational aplomb.

Before I opine, one caveat: There are many people—some of our dear readers may be included—who will scoff at the blatant and overused application of Asian philosophical musings to modern day issues. Afterall, there are only so many “Tao of IT” and “The Way of the Web” type articles we can stomach, right? I agree completely. Having said that, we will nonetheless avoid the warning signs, ignore the rules, and steadfastly leap into a subject characterized largely by its ubiquity. Together we will seek out the occasional nugget of insight and, having found it, hold it up as a shining example of how the old & new can beget wisdom. So strap on your Philosopher’s Hat and let’s see what we can find…

“The firm, the enduring, the simple, and the modest are near to virtue.”

- Confucius

In this 3-part series of posts we will combine a time-honored project management event, the Project Kick-off Meeting, with Confucius’ idea of what it takes to be virtuous. As many of you can probably attest, project kick-off meetings can sometimes be anything but virtuous. In actuality, a bad kick-off meeting can be the nail in the proverbial coffin before a project even gets underway. A kick-off meeting is really the test of whether or not everyone is on the same page… core questions need to be answered: do we have the support of Senior Management? Is the PM competent? Is information being shared? Are roles clearly defined? Are we enthused & excited? The list goes on. In short, at the end of the kick-off meeting, attendees usually feel inspired (“Great meeting, I can’t wait to be an integral part of this!”), ambivalent (“Ho-hum, whatever.”), or dejected (“This project will implode before it even starts…”).

Virtuosity, in this instance, essentially means conformity of your life to a standard of conduct that is both ethical & moral. Defining “ethics” and “morality” is a bit too big of a nut for us to attempt to crack but, for our purposes, it’s probably safe to say “doing the right thing.” In other words, treat others as you want to be treated, respect your peers, eat your vegetables, and be a good boy (or girl). You get the idea.

Have you been in an exceptionally good/bad kick-off meeting lately? Tell us about it in the Comments!

Watch for: Part 2 or “Be Firm and Enduring, Grasshopper.”


When not studying Asian Philosophy and writing User Manuals, Brian likes to fish, read fantasy novels, and eat cheeseburgers.