How to Actually Close a Project


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If you are like most project managers, you are managing several projects. And when you finish one, you are anxious to start your next assignment. However, I encourage you to actually close each project before moving to the next one. There are many benefits.

Closed sign

As your project comes to an end, here are some steps that you can take to close out the project:

  • Evaluate the project
  • Review the risk register
  • Archive the documentation
  • Pay the invoices
  • Thank the team
  • Reassign the human resources

Let's look at each of the activities in more detail.

Evaluate the Project

Facilitate a team meeting to evaluate the project. Review the project in light of the project charter and the project plan. 

How well did the project remain in alignment with the original intent of the project? How much variance was there from the schedule and budget? What caused these variances?

What went well and what went poorly? If you were doing the project again, what would you do differently? Capture your answers in a Lessons Learned document for future reference.

Review the Risk Register

At project closure, the project manager should review and update every risk in the risk register with information such as:

  • Did not occur
  • Occurred and impacted the project schedule, budget, or quality
  • Occurred and the contingency plan was executed

Archive the Documentation

Be sure to archive the project documentation such as the project charter, project plan, requirements document or backlog, design documents, lessons learned, risk register, and final evaluation.

Pay the Invoices

If you used an external vendor or purchased goods, be sure that all the financial matters are taken care of including the payment of invoices and the financial reporting.

Thank the Team

One of the most important things you can do is to formally thank the team. There are several ways to say thank you. One of my favorites is to take the team out for lunch. After the meal, take a few minutes to share your thoughts about the project, acknowledging the good work of each team member.

Reassign the Human Resources

Team members should be released from the project and be made available for other projects. If you have a resource manager, work with the manager to ensure a smooth reassignment of the resources. Everyone should be clear about when their current responsibilities end and when the new responsibilities begin.

What About Canceled Projects?

Some projects may be canceled and brought to an abrupt close.

Your team has worked hard. Out of respect and honor for the team, call a meeting as soon as possible to communicate the decision to close the project. You don't want your team members finding out about the decision through the grapevine.

It's best if the project sponsor is present at the meeting and makes the announcement. This allows the team members to ask questions and get feedback directly from the sponsor who best understands the reasons for the project closure.

Close Your Next Project

When your next project comes to an end, use the article as a checklist and actually close out the project. When you do, you will reduce stress for yourself and your team members. Your team members will leave your current project with motivation for the next one. Plus, you and others will be able to refer to the archived documentation when needed.

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