Using Project Planning Software for Project Closure
“It’s not you, it’s me”, said the girlfriend. “You mean you’re breaking up with me?” the boy brokenheartedly asked. “Yes,” said the girl, “but before we officially close this relationship, I’d like to spend just some time on lessons learned. Do you have a couple of minutes?”
Now, that would absolutely add insult to injury if she proceeded with the conversation of what went right about the relationship, where things went off track, what she’s going to different on her next one, and those items about the relationship that just absolutely tanked!
Relationships come to a close. It may be breaking up like the example above (by the way, I hear people break up regularly by sending each other text messages), a divorce, or just a general parting of ways where paths are not crossed again.
Part of closing out a relationship is making sure all the ‘i’s are dotted, the ‘t’s are crossed…and that you get your stuff back.
Projects come to a close.This may be a cause for either celebration or melancholy for the project manager and their team, as projects can come to a graceful and amicable end or they can end up as an utter train wreck.
I have a Project Manager friend who just was never able to connect with the stakeholders on the client side and they unceremoniously asked her company to remove her from the project. How did she find out? She saw “remove [her name] from the project” as one of the objectives on the Powerpoint presentation they were reviewing during her last status meeting! Ouch!!!!!!
Closing out a project is never easy. Before we delve into how project planning software can help with this task, let’s discuss some of the challenges that people experience when it comes to closing out their project.
Project Closure may be Difficult for the Following Reasons
- You Don’t Know When It Ends: All the right questions may not have been asked while they were putting the tasks together in the planning software.One of the first questions that needs to be asked when a project kicks off is “what do we need to do to close this project out?” This means there must be a clear goal or set of objectives that must be met in order for the project to be considered complete and closed out.There needs to be an understanding that once the list of activities in the planning software is complete that the project will officially be wrapped up. Otherwise, the project can live on and on while the client or project sponsor looks for more and more things to be added to the project.
- The Team Moves On: The project may be just close enough to finishing that the team begins to be picked up by other projects.There are still activities that need to be finished in the project planning software, but these items are now left to those who were (un)fortunate enough to be left behind. They are now strapped with their work plus the work of the person that left.
- People Just Aren’t That Interested Anymore:Many projects are a long slough that can really drain you and the team of energy. The project may have started over a year ago and is still going on to this day with no end in sight.There’s nothing wrong with long projects, but they do need to be broken down into bite-size and achievable chunks of activity where the team can feel progress.Some projects may come to a grinding halt in the QA cycle testing gets underway. Every day there may be 10 defects fixed and 11 new defects found.Week after week of this type of testing can really begin to discourage people and they begin to wonder if the project will ever be complete. This causes people to lose interest, begin to look for other projects that may be more appealing, or worse.
Sounds like real relationships, doesn’t it? The point is, that you need to expect 100% project closure to be difficult and account for this in your project planning software. It’s always amazed me how challenging that last 2% of the project is to wrap up. Focus on closure and clear everyone’s plate to be able to work on the next project.
How Can you Use Project Planning Software for Project Closure?
- Begin with the End in Mind:You can use your project planning software to clearly identify what requirements must be met in order to completely close out the project. Don’t leave it to chance that everyone will know when the project will be complete.Include building lists of acceptance criteria for the client (either internal or external).The purpose of this list is to establish an agreement that says “we all agree that once these things are done, then the project will be complete.” This is a very important document to generate at the beginning of the project to prevent unwanted scope creep.
- Use a Punch List to Keep Up with Open Items:Another item you want to include in your project planning software is to create a punch list. This is a list of items that must be complete prior to the project coming to close.For example, I worked in a web development shop for a number of years. Near the end of the project this punch list could easily balloon up to over 100 items that ranged from critical functionality that didn’t work, to missing images. This was a living, breathing document that was updated on almost an hourly basis when it came to crunch time. Items were being added, deleted and updated all the time with the intent of getting the list down to zero open items.
- Include Work Closure Items in Your Project Plan: Part of your Work Breakdown Structure that you built your project plan from should include closure activities. You can include as long or as short of a list as you see fit.This list should include closing out all project documentation, finalizing contracts, moving team members over to new projects, compiling lessons learned, obtaining all necessary signatures and approvals from necessary parties, and other activity that is essential for closing the project out.Keeping these activities in your project planning software will help ensure a smooth closure to your project. What’s more, you won’t bring any baggage with you to your next project relationship where you can start fresh!
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