Seven Steps to Successfully Closing a Project

Shutting a project down successfully isn't easy. Some projects never seem to end and drift on and on, whereas others close in a heated mess of confusion as we strive to meet a deadline. Here are seven tips that can help you successfully close your projects.

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  1. Hold a final product review. As the project draws to a close, the final products should be finished. In a well-run project, these products will have been reviewed, tested and analyzed multiple times as they have been built to ensure their quality is correct and that they meet user requirements. It is still important though to have a final product review between the project delivery, the clients and the users and also maybe an operations and maintenance team who will look after the projects during their operational life.
  2. Hold a project closure meeting. Just as in the beginning of a project it is important to hold a project kick off meeting, at the end of the project there should be a closure meeting attended by all the key project stakeholders. During this meeting the initial aims of the project can be reviewed against the results of the initiative.
  3. Plan post project benefit reviews. It is quite often the case that at the end of a project the initiative's products have been delivered, but the value forecast to be gained from using these products has yet to be fully realized. For example a project might deliver a new IT system, but the cost reductions from using it might not occur until the system becomes fully operational after the project. So the project team needs to plan any activities required to embed the project's products into the operational environment and plan benefit reviews to see if the products are delivering the forecast value.
  4. Hold a lessons learned meeting. There is always a lot to learn from every project so holding a lessons learned meeting with the project team helps ensure this experience isn't lost. Keep these meetings balanced by not only discussing what has gone badly, but also reviewing what has worked well. Avoid blaming individuals or their characters.
  5. Finish and archive all the project documentation. Project documentation can be very useful for future similar projects. Completed project plans can help with future estimating, completed issues and risk logs can help spot potential problems in future initiatives.
  6. If the project is finishing earlier than anticipated, review any potential extra work that could be done before the project is closed. Maybe senior management has decided to shut the project early, but before downing tools, it might be useful to do a little extra work to finish off useful interim deliverables.
  7. Celebrate the end of the project. The project is finishing and people have worked hard, we need to recognize what has been achieved. Maybe not all the initial objectives have been fulfilled, but even so some sort of celebration really helps to motivate people ready for the next project that comes along.