A project has to end, one way or another. It may take years to achieve its purpose, but once a project completes its life cycle (or fails to do so), it must be closed, extended, or transitioned. The stage where you formally terminate a project is called project close out, and here is a checklist for perfect closure.
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.
Business requirements, product specs, approvals, and other documentation constitute a significant chunk of project management, making it a rather daunting career for professionals who cringe at any hint of paperwork. But as the project draws to a close, much of the paperwork that remains will be mostly sign-offs for completed deliverables.
As a project nears completion, many stakeholders will have been freed of pressing tasks and will likely lose focus. Unless these talent resources have been formally released earlier, a project manager should ensure they remain focused, disciplined, and productive across the project lifecycle.
A close out checklist will help you address loopholes such as minor bugs and unfulfilled items on a wishlist through quick workarounds or adept management of expectations. A final review of the project scope and business requirements will help confirm the completeness of the team’s efforts.
Use the closeout phase to properly handover the project to its subsequent owner (such as the marketing department for a website, the homeowner for a newly constructed house, or the sales department for an online retail store).
Executing an excellent project close out shows that you are a diligent professional from start to finish and customers can rely on your project management experience 100%. Otherwise, failure to perform a satisfactory close out will portray your personal brand, team, and organization in a bad light and may tag you as an incompetent or mediocre practitioner.
Via a post mortem process, you can revisit the project, identify roadblocks, and determine which solutions, team structure, or workflows performed most efficiently. Regardless of whether the project lived up to, surpassed, or missed expectations, generate value by gathering insights and deriving practical lessons from the project.
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 closing all contracts you might have made with internal partners or vendors or any other resources you contracted with.
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.