Project onboarding guide | How to efficiently start a new project

Press Release from Idealist

Project onboarding guide | How to efficiently start a new project

Minah Kim Feb 28, 2022 10:00 AM   Photo By Pressmaster

Starting a project can be challenging with overwhelming amounts of new information and gaps in knowledge. You might have many questions but not know where to start. Whether you’re starting a new project or joining a new team, taking a systematic approach can create more structure and relieve the stress of a new situation. 

Key questions to ask 

If your workplace does not already have an onboarding guide, work with your team to plan your first 100 days. As you get started on your first projects and tasks, here are some guiding questions for you and your team to answer together. Choose the questions that would be most relevant for your situation. 

Team roles and responsibilities

a. Who are the core team members, and what are their roles?

b. Who are the other stakeholders who may be involved (e.g., other teams, clients)?

c. Which tasks am I responsible for?

d. Who reviews my work and gives the final sign off?

e. Who is responsible for communication with each stakeholder?

f. What regular meetings does this team have, such as weekly check ins? 

g. Who is responsible for meeting agendas and facilitation? If these meetings are already scheduled, who needs to be added? If not, who is responsible for scheduling?

h. How will the team members communicate and collaborate with each other?

i. How will team members provide feedback to each other? How often and in what format?

Client details

a. Who is the client contact? What is their role and background?

b. Have you worked with this client before? What previous projects have we completed with this client? Who has worked with this client before and how should we transfer knowledge and information?

c. What are the client’s objectives for this project? What are the client’s larger objectives and priorities?

d. What is this client’s working style? How do they prefer to communicate, give feedback, and schedule and conduct meetings?

Project context

a. What is the project objective? What are the key questions to be answered through this project?

b. What are the interim and final deliverables (e.g., final slide presentation, report document, press release, creative video)?

c. What is the timeline? What important milestones or deadlines need to be met (e.g., conference or meeting, client deadlines)?

d. Who is the client or end user? Who will review and give final sign off on deliverables?

e. What resources are already available? Are there materials that provide additional context? Does a repository of documents already exist, or can one be created? 

f. Which people have expertise in this project area and should be consulted? What is the best way to get this information (e.g., scheduling a knowledge transfer meeting or emailing key questions)?

Next steps

a. What are the immediate next steps, when are these tasks due, and who is responsible for each one?

b. When is the next time the team will check in again on these next steps?

c. When is the next time the team will review overall progress and plan?

d. If you need more information and context before getting started, who should be involved in future information-sharing meetings, and when can they occur?

Common challenges when starting on a new team

You are thrown into a project in progress and feel like you are getting bits of information

Start by scheduling a separate meeting dedicated to getting you up to speed. You may have to ask around to figure out who should be present at the meeting—it could include a supervisor, a colleague with previous experience, or another team member you will be working with. Before the meeting, share your questions, using the above list as a reference, so team members know what to expect and have the opportunity to plan ahead. 

You have not yet been added to all relevant meetings and don't know where to find needed information

As early as possible, ask for a project or team document repository with all relevant documents; if one does not exist, offer to set one up. This shared folder should include meeting notes, any existing relevant documents, meeting schedules or calendar invites, and a project plan or timeline. In the introductory meeting, create a checklist of resources you need and make sure you get access promptly. 

You do not have enough context or information to execute on your responsibilities

If the project or subject matter is entirely new to you, it may be helpful to schedule additional one-hour sessions with team members for Q&A after you have reviewed any existing materials. Make sure to identify the people who can answer subject matter questions and let them know you will be following up with more questions. 

You do not have a clear understanding of timelines and whether you are on the right track with your tasks

Ask a supervisor if a project timeline already exists. If not, offer to set up a meeting to create a timeline together. Make sure that important deadlines are included in a project timeline and discuss with your supervisor how often you should check in to make sure you are on the right track. For example, if you decide to have regular check-ins twice a week to review your work, set up these recurring meetings in advance. 


Onboarding can feel overwhelming, but it can also be an exciting time to learn new skills and get to know your co-workers. By practicing using a systematic approach, keeping track of best practices, and honing your approach, onboarding will become easier and more efficient. Becoming savvy with onboarding is a skill that will benefit the rest of your career. 


What are your best practices for starting a new project or on a new team? Tell us about it on Facebook.


Minah Kim is a writer based in Brooklyn. She is a labor and community organizer with experience in the healthcare and professional services sectors. 

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