You’ve got your deliverables delivered before the deadline and within the budget. Everyone is slapping each other on the back for a job well done. But the project isn’t over until it’s over.
The end of a project is the final phase of the project, and like all project phases, it requires attention to process. That procedure is called a project closure checklist. Yes, a list. Lists are, after all, the security blanket of project management. So here’s what you need to know.
Project Closure, Defined
Yeah, what’s the point of extending the project beyond what it was designed to do? Well, that’s true. You’ve brought in a successful project, but there are loose administrative ends that need tying up or you can find yourself stuck putting out fires when you should be moving on to planning your next project.
This part of the project is when you must get all the myriad documents you created signed and finalized. There are reports that must be filed. People need to get paid. Contracts need resolving. It might just seem like paperwork, but this is as crucial a phase as any other, and deserves the same level of professionalism you have given to all the other parts of the project life cycle.
Besides the financial and administrative duties you have to address during this final period of the project, ending the project formally is a great way to move into the next project. You get transition support, which helps you move from one project to another. This means you formally release your resources, so they’re available for another project of yours or other leaders in the organization, and archive your documents to create a historical record, and finally celebrate the success.
See, it’s not all tedious labor. But to make sure you’ve not missed any vital steps, here’s a complete checklist of all the steps you need to take to achieve a successful project closure.
Naturally, a project can’t begin to end until its deliverables have been delivered. You want to hand them over and get that process signed off by the stakeholder or client. This is what is traditionally thought of as the end of the project, but it’s just the beginning of the end.
You’ve made a lot of documents over the course of the project. Now you must get them organized. Each document needs an ID, an owner and issue date. You also want to record the last time that document was saved, so you know it’s the most updated one. Of course, the document needs a name. All this creates a way to find the documents if you need them as reference.
Now you need to record the history of each of these documents. How have they changed over the course of the project? Note the person in the project who approved the change and the date in which they changed it. You’ll also want to have a space to explain those changes. Things always change over the course of a project, and this is how you can keep track of those changes.
Once you’ve assembled this whirlwind of paper into an organized file, you’ll want to get the final signoff on the documents. You can look back at the work you’ve already done in collecting and organizing the documents. Who is the person responsible for a document, from the project manager to the project review group or whomever? They are the person who needs to sign off on the document. Get their signature and the date of their signing, only after that can you say the document is complete.
You’ve budgeted a certain amount of money for the project and now you must close any open contracts and invoices. This includes any commissions, feels or bonuses promised during the project. Once these payments have been sent off you can start closing the contracts, and finally put your ledger book aside.
You’ve been reporting over the course of the project, either in general terms to your stakeholders or more detailed and task-oriented ones to help your team. Finalizing your reports is part of how to close a project.
This not only completes this part of the project process, but allows you an opportunity to look back over the life cycle of the project and determine what had worked and what didn’t. This provides valuable lessons that can be applied to the next project you lead.
This is also where you can evaluate the performance of your team.
5. Transition Support
Whatever your project was conceived to accomplish, whether that is a service or product, you’re going to have to assign someone to manage or support it after the project is complete. This is then that part of the project closure where you determine who that person is going to be and how they will attend to that responsibility.
Your resources can be anything from equipment to the site you used to work on the project. Resources are also people, such as your team. These resources might be part of your organization, in which case you’re going to release them, so they can be assigned to another internal project.
If they’re external resources, you want to release in a formally manner. That way they are no longer tied to the project in any financial way, and they can also move onto getting contracted to other jobs.
What seems like the most frivolous part of the project closure checklist is one of the most important. True, celebrating success isn’t as practical as balancing the books and closing out contracts, paying people for their work and releasing them to work elsewhere. However, there’s a benefit to this act that is less easily measured. In fact, it might be the most important step you take in closing a project.
That’s because it has an emotional impact. People want acknowledgement for what they do. By rewarding your team, you’re creating good morale, which is an aspect of the project you can’t fix by resource allocation or task management. You’re also getting buy-in for future projects. These people are going to go the extra-mile for you when you’re working together again.
A happy team is a productive team, so give them a party or something to note the milestone of another successful project completed. You could probably use a bit of celebrating yourself.
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