Project Management

by Alan Harpham, Tony Kippenberger, Graham Bosman

Closing a project

A project output is the ‘deliverable’ (or in PRINCE2 terminology the ‘product’) delivered by the project. Once tried and tested in operation, this is usually the end of the project manager’s responsibility and it generally becomes either the responsibility of the user, operational manager or a business change manager to put the deliverable (or product) to work and to achieve the project outcome that was defined in the original Business case.

This may, of course, be some time after handover of the asset, deliverable or product from the project manager to the operational manager. However, the project sponsor is responsible for both – in other words, the output (via the project manager) and the outcome (via the operational manager).

What else needs to be done?

The need to capture (and re-use) lessons learned

There is a long history in project management of people failing to learn lessons from past projects. This maybe because we can only learn from our own mistakes! But it is a good idea for project managers to discuss their new project with project managers who have undertaken similar projects in the past, to see what they learned from their experience. One way for the organisation to do this is to capture the lessons learned from the outgoing project manager and keep these in a format readily available to new or incoming project managers.

While saving this information in written form – in printed reports or on an intranet – guarantees its longevity, it does not mean that it will be read. It also does not guarantee that the real issues will come out and be recorded. Increasingly organisations are turning to facilitated workshops, where team members are motivated to openly discuss what happened as a way of sharing and absorbing valuable lessons.

Managing the team’s break up!

In the Teambuilding topic, the fifth stage of team development is defined as adjourning. Sometimes it is called mourning.

If it’s been a short project, with a very temporary team, this may seem exaggerated, but if it’s been a gruelling project that has involved a close-knit team over a considerable period, then closing a project can feel very sad.

Among suggestions to consider are these:

  • Hold a close out party or arrange a party at a later date
  • Have a formal handover ceremony (perhaps with party attached/included)
  • Help leaving team members return to their old positions or find new ones
  • Ask for formal outplacement services to be provided, where necessary
  • Possibly provide training to help people to transfer to new opportunities
  • Stay in touch/contact to help each other find their next project position.

And, what do I do next?

That very much depends on circumstances. Were you temporarily seconded or was it a full-time move? Do you want to carry on being a project manager or would you rather return to line management and ‘business as usual’? If you are wise, you’ll have started thinking about these issues some time before the project ended. Discuss options with colleagues – and maybe your family – and, if you have developed a good relationship with the project sponsor, talk to them too. Don’t be afraid to seek help and advice on what you want to do next... And good luck!