Closing your Project Down

Do you ever find your project is finished – yet it just keeps on going – like a dripping tap: no matter how hard you turn it, it won’t close.

You need a new washer

Sadly, project managers can’t just call a plumber and get the washer changed, but you can diagnose what is getting in the way of formally closing the project down and the reasons are usually pretty simple.

Before we look at how: why?

I am sure many of my readers need to close their projects down for good old governance reasons: need for review, no more budget, need to invoice, formal handover…

But many will also have experienced small, informal projects with no or little formal governance imperative.  So what happens is that you move onto the next project.  But here, the continuing drip-drip-drip of minor issues, emails and admin can sap your energy and reduce your focus on your current projects.

Common causes of Project Drip

image1. The commonest cause and therefore easiest solution is simple: nobody has declared the project “closed”.

Solution: Prepare a simple “”Project Closure Memo” that declares everything has been completed.  Sign it off as Project Manager, then get it counter-signed by your sponsor, SRO, director, client, or boss.

image2. The next reason is because, although the project specification has been met, there remains a whole host of project admin to be done.  For most PMs, admin is a big turn-off, so they leave it in favour of more interesting work.

Solution: allocate the task of identifying, planning and executing all your outstanding admin to a junior team member – remembering to ensure they know when they need to revert to you for authorisations.

Download my Project Closure Checklist here.

image3. My third common reason is that there are outstanding review activities that either your organisation demands, or you know to be good practice, like:

  • reviewing team members’ performance
  • evaluating project deliverables
  • assessing outcomes
  • documenting lessons to learn

Solution: Diarise time to sit down with each team member, set up a project review working group, schedule an outcomes review for 3, 6, 9 or 12 months hence, to evaluate benefits and invite operational and service staff, and convene a full team meeting to help everyone to take something away for their next project.

The “so what?”

Projects drain your energy whether you are actively working on them or not.  The psychological energy you invest in a project that you know is finished, but just needs one last turn of the tap to close it is out of all proportion compared to its true scale.  Treat closure as a new “mini-project” and get it done.

Post Script: Lessons Learned

More on Lessons Learned Reviews next time
(Link will only open from 22 March 2011)

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