So much time and effort is put into the planning of a project, it is often forgotten that the end of a project is equally important. There’s a lot of work involved even once a project is technically complete. Our free project closure template is a great resource to help you remember what remains left to be done.
For example, there many tasks that you still must complete. They might be procedural, but that doesn’t make them any less important. There are approvals, signatures, payments, all of which might seem like pushing paperwork to you, but tell that to the team member waiting to get paid.
Not to mention, when you are ending one project, you’re likely beginning another. Therefore, you want to get transition support for this changeover. You’ll have to release resources, archive documents and don’t forget to acknowledge the project success with a party or some type of celebration. That’s important, too.
Steps to Closing a Project
The close of the project is the final phase of your job, it’s the last turn of the project life cycle, and like any other aspect of a project, it requires a process. The following are five steps you should take to make sure you’ve dotted all the I’s and crossed all the T’s, as well as taken full advantage of the experience.
1. Arrange a Post Mortem
Managing a project isn’t only about tasks and resources, budget and deadlines, it’s an experience you can constantly learn from. While you should have been learning throughout the project, now is a great time to look back without the pressure and distractions that might have dulled your focus.
Gather the core team to invite feedback about what worked, and what didn’t. Encourage honesty. By documenting the mistakes and the successes of the project, you’re building a catalog that offers historic data. You can go back and look over the information for precedents when planning for new projects. Projects are never standalone things, but part of a continuum, where the specifics might vary, but the general methods usually remain the same. There’s a wealth of knowledge produced after any project closes.
2. Complete Paperwork
As noted, projects generate reams of documents. These documents are going to have to get sign off and approval from stakeholders. Everything needs attention, and must be signed for, which is the legal proof that in fact these documents have concluded. That includes closes all contracts you might have made with internal partners or vendors or any other resources you contracted with.
This includes addressing all outstanding payments. You want to make sure that all invoices, commissions, fees, bonus, what have you, are paid. Complete all the costs involved with the project. It’s not done, if it’s not paid for.
3. Release Resources
You assemble a team for the project, and now you must cut them loose. It’s a formal process, and a crucial one, which frees them for the next project. Each team is brought together for the mix of skills and experience they bring to a project. The project determines the team members you’ll want to work with, and each project is going to be a little bit different, which will be reflected in the team hired to execute it.
This is true for internal as well as external resources. The external ones might be more obvious, as you contracted with them, and that contract is going to have a duration. When it’s over, make sure they’re all paid in full so they can sign off and leave. But internal resources remain, so you have to remind yourself that their time on the project is also limited, and you might be blocking other team’s projects if you don’t release your resources once the project is done.
4. Archive Documents
There are lessons to be learned from old projects, which is why you meet with your team regularly during the project and look back on the process afterwards. However, if you don’t have an archive in which to pull the old records, then whatever knowledge you gain is lost because of poor organization and management. You worked hard to have great project documentation, don’t lose it.
Before you close a project, archive all the documents and any notes and data that could prove useful. Even if you never access it, there’s a need to keep a paper trail of the work done on any project for other people in the organization. This might include legal teams, or HR teams, or even your successor. You never know when someone might have to go back and respond to a question or want to learn how an old issue was resolved. Consider it like putting away provisions for the winter.
5. Celebrate Success
If it sounds silly to you, then you’re not doing your job. There’s nothing silly about rewarding your team to acknowledge a job well done. It creates closure, which is what this part of the project is all about, but it also plants a seed that will bloom in later projects when you work with members of the old team.
That’s because when you note a job well done you’re building morale. It makes team members feel better. You might have been a hard task master in the project, but you give them their due for a job well done. That creates loyalty, and they’re going to work even harder for you the next time. And there will be a next time, because a happy team is a team that you retain. Why would you want to close a project and lose the very resources that made it a success? Loosen up!
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