Co-workers arranging sticky notes on a board in the office

Finding closure

The start of a project is always exciting. Your team are motivated, your goals are set, you’re aligned and ready to surge forward … but how does a project finish? 

Is it done yet?

Putting that final full stop on your last report, or submitting a final accounts sheet for a project can feel really satisfying. It is tempting to dust off your jacket and invite your team to the pub. But hold up, it’s not quite done yet.  

Closing a project down properly is a critical last phase. It ensures that you’ve done everything you said you’d do, met the brief, and will give stakeholders and clients confidence in your work. It makes you and your organisation look professional and really is essential. 

We discuss the four common steps to closing off a project. 

The Autopsy

Arguably, this is the most important step as it is the place for ongoing learning. Gather your team and dissect each stage of the project against the original brief. Talk about what worked and what didn’t. Where you met the criteria spot on and where you had to adapt. Discuss ideas to improve processes in the future. Finally, check that you’ve met all the required deliverables and have them ready for handover.    

Cross the ‘I’s and dot the ‘T’s

You will have a lot of associated paperwork with your project. Although you may feel like having a celebratory bin fire, that is not the solution.   

Firstly, you need to get the key documents signed off by stakeholders as part of the deliverables handover. This creates an indisputable record of project completion. As part of this, you will need to make sure that you sign off any completed work by third party contractors. Work with your accounts team to make sure everyone has been paid, or that disputed invoices are being worked on within company guidelines.  

This work can be delegated, but it is probably best to use a centralised system or software to catalogue documents effectively and mark off when completion on each section has occurred.  

Handover

Now you have evaluated your project and tidied up all the paperwork, you are ready to handover to the client. Once the deliverables have changed hands you have to reassign resources. 

Whether you are using contractors, internal team members or a mixture of both, make sure you are ready to handover to them. If you don’t need your contractor resources for your next project but may want to use them in future, make sure they are aware of your plans. If possible, outline dates for them so they can make sure they will fit your schedule.

Internal resources need to be reassigned immediately, either to your next project or handed over to another manager to assist with theirs. If you’re in a fallow period, make sure you’ve communicated this to the rest of the organisation – someone, somewhere will need assistance. Everyone should walk away from that final meeting understanding what is next. 

Do the filing

Archive all the documentation to make sure you have a clear record of the project – including what was said during the autopsy. This could be useful going forward if you come across similar problems or need to reflect on decisions made. A robust document filing system is essential for this work. If your organisation doesn’t have one already it is time to get something sorted.  

Now you are done – time to celebrate! 
Want to brush up on your project closure skills? IMNZ’s Project Management Fundamentals course has everything you need.  

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