Congratulations! You’ve reached the end of your project and are ready to hand over the deliverables to the team who will be responsible for them going forward. It’s a big achievement to successfully finish a project, but there are still a few more tasks to do before you can say that your project is properly closed.
Closing a project is largely an administrative job. There are quite a few bits of paperwork to sort out and while this might seem like an unnecessary overhead, they are essential if you are going to shut down the project properly and in a professional fashion. Here are the steps to take in order to close down your project effectively.
#1. Check Your Exit Criteria
What was it that you were supposed to do again? Go back to the original project request and initiation information in your online file storage system and check the exit criteria. Exit criteria are the things you need to achieve with the project, like a completed bit of software or the opening of a new shop. They could also include detailed specifications about quality, so it’s important to check back and ensure that what you have completed is actually meeting the criteria set by yourself and the project sponsor when you first started out on this projected journey.
#2. Do A Hand-Over
OK, so you’ve established that the product you have produced is fit for purpose and that you have met all the goals of the project by reviewing your exit criteria. Next, you need to hand over that product to the team who is going to manage it going forward.
This is a really important time for the project because if you don’t do a good hand over the team will not be able to manage the product effectively. And they will always be calling you up asking for information! If you want to move off this project and pick up new project work, you need to be able to make a clean break and that means handing over everything you know about the product so that its new owners can manage without you.
Gather all your project documentation together, user guides, and so on, and pass these over too. Give them access to your project management software system so they can see the historical data and why decisions were taken. Finally, complete any training that you need to do so that they have the skills necessary to cope on their own.
#3. Release Unused Budget
Got any money spare? These days it is unusual for projects to finish with plenty of cash left over, but if you do have money in your budget or your reserves, make sure to tell the Finance team so that it can be allocated to new initiatives.
#4. Gather Lessons Learned
Lessons learned is probably the most critical thing to do during project closure if you want to make sure that everyone learns from this work and doesn’t make similar mistakes in the future. Lessons learned are a way of ensuring that organizational knowledge is not lost.
Call your team together and ask them what went well and what didn’t on the project. Take lots of notes, circulate them and ensure that everyone has the opportunity to contribute their own personal lessons. Then you need to circulate them wider than just the project team. Ideally, upload them to an online document storage tool so that other project managers and team members in the company can see and review your lessons learned when they come to work on their next project.
#5. Archive Your Documentation
While most projects are one-off initiatives, there are cases where you do similar projects again and again. Many project managers get frustrated when they can’t reference documentation from a similar project. The risk log and issue log, as well as the budget and task estimates, are really useful documents to have. After all, if you are running a project that is very similar to one a colleague did last year, why start from scratch? Use all their documentation as a guide and simply edit it instead of writing everything yourself.
#6. Disband The Team
When the project is over you can formally disband your team. Release your team members back to their day jobs or other projects. If you have a formal resource planning function, they can help with this because they will manage the central pool of resources and be able to let you know where people are going to after they leave your project.
You may also find that their line managers ask for input for their performance reviews. Be prepared to provide some information about how the individuals performed during their project work to go into their annual review.
Finally, throw a party! Finishing a project is a massive achievement and one you should not underestimate. So many projects these days get stopped early either because they are no longer financially viable or because the business environment has changed, so it is a great occasion to be able to say that you completed what you set out to do.
Make sure that everyone has the opportunity to celebrate with you by organizing an end of project party. This can be anything from a quick drink after work in the local bar, a meal out, or a full-scale corporate event. If you didn’t have any money for this in your project budget, put together a case for your sponsor about why your team deserve to be able to let their hair down and get some funding for your celebration!
Closing a project is perhaps one of the most rewarding parts of being a project manager. You’ve been able to deliver something amazingly useful and see your team members develop their skills along the way. You’ve completed all your tasks and ticked them off, reviewed the successes and struggles and created some organizational knowledge that will help your company in the future. Overall, you’ve made an impact on the way the business is run and you’ve helped your company stay profitable. That’s got to be worth celebrating, so well done!