How to Close a Surprise TKO Project


Have you ever experienced surprise TKO (Technical Knockout) project? You never saw it coming. There was no countdown. Bam! Your project was over.

How to Close a Surprise TKO Project
Photo courtesy of Adobe Stock (edited in Canva)

Imagine a marketing project. You and the team had been charged with implementing a fresh marketing program for a long-time product. Furthermore, you’ve been asked to deliver the program in record time.

The team had been working overtime for four months. Blood, sweat, and tears. You weren’t sure if you could make the deadline or not, but you were trying every trick of the trade.

Little did you know that senior management had been discussing the possibility of killing the project for the past month. Why? The senior team had discovered that a competitor would soon roll out a far superior product requiring your company to divert its resources into product development.

Then the day came. Your project sponsor called you to her office and told you that the party is over — close the project. As you left her office, you wanted to crawl in a hole.

Where does a project manager go from here?

How to Close the Project

Lead the Team

businesswoman_silhouette_book_400_clr_15027It’s easy to lead when everything is going right. But it takes character to lead when the chips are down. How you lead in these situations tells others a lot about what you’re made of.

When you face trials and life challenges, ask yourself, “What does this experience make possible?” Here’s your opportunity to lead and influence. First, empathize with your team members and acknowledge their good work (more on this in a minute). Second, be clear about the steps you will take to close the project.

Gather the Troops

Please don’t miss this point. 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.

Evaluate the Project

Give your team a few days to absorb the announcement. Schedule 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

transfer_files_computer_400_clr_8364Archive 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 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.

About the author 

Harry Hall

My name is Harry Hall and I'm the guy behind the and the author of The Purpose Driven Project Manager. Risks can derail projects, resulting in challenged and sometimes failed projects. I make project risk management easy to understand and practical to apply, putting project managers in drivers seat.

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