Project close-out: efficiently closing the chapter
Types of project closure
Extinction occurs when a project comes to an end, either due to successful completion or unsuccessful outcome. While successful projects can be seen as a triumph for the team, even unsuccessful projects provide valuable learning experiences that contribute to future success. A good way to learn from failed projects is to document everything. At the start of a new project, look at the old documentation and maybe the other project was at the same point where things went wrong. But because of what was learned from the previous project, you can choose a different way to continue the new project and make it a success.
In contrast to extinction, addition termination involves a successful project becoming a permanent part of the organisation's structure. For example, if a research project in nanotechnology at a prestigious institution produces positive results, it may be transformed into a permanent PhD programme in nanotechnology, which is integrated into the organisation's offerings.
Integration completion occurs when project team members who have worked across functional areas during the project return to their respective departments or organisations after the project has been successfully completed. Projects are temporary organisations and the integration process facilitates a smooth transition back to the parent departments.
Starvation termination is when a project is cancelled due to budget constraints or other compelling reasons. This type of termination can be caused by a variety of factors, and project managers must be strategic in addressing them to avoid unwanted consequences. In this context, the importance of risk management and resource allocation becomes paramount.
Elements of project close-out management
1. Finishing the job
As a project nears completion, team members may begin to shift their focus to new projects, potentially compromising the final stages of the current project. It is the manager's responsibility to keep the team focused on finishing the work and effectively achieving the project's goals. It would be helpful to motivate the team, for example by offering them a position on the new project.
2. Handing over the product to the client
Project completion involves more than just handing over the deliverables to the client. It includes the transfer of all relevant documentation, technical support and training to ensure a seamless transition for the client. Before handing them out, it is also advisable to hold a review meeting to discuss the evaluation and any revisions to the deliverables.
3. Gaining acceptance
Client acceptance is critical to project success. It is the project manager's responsibility to ensure that the client is satisfied with the delivered product and that it meets their expectations. To achieve client acceptance, the project manager plays a key role in facilitating open channels of communication between the project team and the client. This collaborative approach not only ensures alignment with the client's vision, but also fosters an environment of mutual understanding and long-term partnership.
4. Harvesting benefits
Projects are initiated to address specific problems or opportunities. Evaluating whether the project has delivered the expected benefits to the organisation is an essential part of project closure management. Doing this with your team is a valuable exercise that facilitates learning from both successes and setbacks. This stage involves assessing project challenges, failures and successes, and documenting this data for future reference. Key questions are asked about time management, communication, adherence to plans, customer satisfaction, challenges encountered, risk mitigation strategies and opportunities for improvement. Through this process, organisations gain insights to improve future projects, anticipate challenges and develop a clear roadmap for success.
5. Final documentation and archiving
The final documentation and archiving process involves providing the client with all relevant information, such as cost data, staffing details and any legal issues or penalties that may arise. This step ensures that essential project information is retained for future reference and compliance purposes. If any unresolved issues are identified in the contract documentation, it is essential to initiate clear communication and gather all relevant information necessary to successfully address and resolve the issue at hand.
6. Dissolve the team
The final step in the project closure process is to disband the project team. This can be a formal or informal process, depending on the size and complexity of the project. But recognizing and rewarding your team's achievements is crucial to building trust, morale and loyalty. Celebrations create a sense of appreciation that motivates better performance in the future. There are many ways to celebrate success: giving gifts such as flowers, thank you cards or bonuses; organising social gatherings with food; and sending thank you emails to acknowledge achievements. These actions foster a culture of achievement and camaraderie, inspiring the team to excel in upcoming projects.
Remember, a well-executed project closure not only reflects positively on the project manager, but also contributes to the overall success and reputation of the organisation. So, approach project closure with care and diligence to leave a lasting impact on the projects you manage.
As IAPM Senior Official for the Metropolitan Region of Kolkata, he is responsible for events in Kolkata and the surrounding region and the person to contact on organisational issues in India.