It can be so tempting to ignore project closure. After all, we’re through. The client seems pleased. The team has moved on to other things and we’re ready to move on too. In some cases, we may be mourning the end of a totally fun experience, and in other cases, we may be exceedingly grateful that it’s finally over. Good or bad, we may be simply ready for some new challenges or new people in our work lives. Whoa there! Don’t stop…. There are some important steps that need to be taken to properly close out your project. Here are seven steps you don’t want to forget as you head into project closure.
Assess the project using the metrics you defined in the charter.
Remember eons ago when you started the project. You said you were going to accomplish certain objectives. You said that you were going to measure your success with specific metrics. Have you done that? Don’t assume your project was successful because everyone is glad to be through and the client seems reasonably happy.
Go back and look at what you said constituted success. Were you successful? Try to identify why you were successful or not. You will learn much from that experience that will inform the way you manage future projects, the way you bid on future projects, and the kinds of projects that you take on.
Close out procurement contracts.
Contracts are legal documents and failing to close them out can open you up to some serious legal liability. This is the time to review the contract, ensure that all of the contract requirements were met, and that the other party is notified that the engagement is over. Make any final payments due under the contract.
Suppose your contract is for leased meeting space or temporary staff. Don’t get stuck paying for another month of rent or labor costs because you didn’t properly give notice or cancel your contract.
Have a face-to-face retrospective meeting with your customer.
To prepare for this meeting, read over the contract with your customer and identify talking points. Did you actually thank your customer for the work? What did you originally promise to do for your client? Did you meet your objectives? Don’t assume. Confirm that the quality you delivered met your customer’s needs. Did you meet your proposed timeline of scheduled deliverables?
After you have confirmed that you successfully met your objectives and pleased your customer, find out if you have actually received all of the payments from your customer. Not all customers pay on time. If you haven’t received the payments, this would be a good time to ask for your money.
Produce final accounting.
Talk about learning experiences…. There is no substitute for following the money. Where did you underestimate project activities? Are there people on your team who consistently over or under estimate? Were there places where you could have saved money?
Review and release team members.
Don’t just leave your team wondering what happened. If your project was done in a corporate environment, make sure that HR knows that you are no longer using these people and that they can be assigned to other projects. That said, a highly functioning team can be a huge resource and if you’ve spent months building one, do everything you can to keep the team intact.
Write a performance appraisal on each team member and discuss it. Put it in their personnel file, particularly if you can make some complimentary remarks. If you had a bad experience with a member of the team, consult with your HR department before documenting anything. If appropriate, write a review on LinkedIn, and/or a testimonial that the team member can use on his or her own marketing site. In this project world we live in, we all count on our project leaders to support us as move on to our next projects. Remember reciprocity.
Document any lessons learned.
After you have taken the time to go through the process of identifying lessons that you’ve learned, where are you going to document them? Do you have a lessons learned catalog? This is especially important for corporate and non-profit projects. No one likes to make the same mistakes over and over again and that is guaranteed to happen if you don’t really analyze what happened and document what you learned in some kind of searchable, usable format.
The end of a project is a great time to celebrate. This may be a great time to produce a simple video or slide show that shows how successful you were in meeting your project objectives. If most of your team hasn’t met the client, consider putting pictures of your happy client in your video. Or, perhaps you might invite the client to your celebration?
Life in the business world doesn’t have to always be about work. Sometimes, we should take time out to celebrate accomplishments, enjoy our friends, and lift our glasses high.
Does your project team need some coaching from an outsider? I can help. Check out my coaching packages here.