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Pre-Planning the End of Your Project
Before you begin work on any project, the first thing you need to map out are the goals and limitations of your project. These will serve not only as a guide to get you through your project, but also to give your project a solid beginning and end.
Setting your project close-out requirements in stone will give you a clear point where the project is able to close properly. It may seem like a silly thing to define the end of a project but without it, it's easy to lose sight of your main goals if new opportunities present themselves throughout your original project's lifespan.
One of the downfalls of not setting goals and limits is that the project may suffer from project drifting. Project drift is a term that is used when a project has created one or several more projects over its lifespan, oftentimes without actually formally ending. This will lead to budgets being overdrawn and morale being lowered as more work is piled onto employees with seemingly no end in sight.
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Meeting Your Final Obligations
Before a project can officially close you should create a list of outstanding obligations that need to be met. Ensure that you work with your financial and legal teams to make certain no outstanding debts or contracts are left unfufilled. Ignoring these obligations will create a lot of legal and financial trouble, so it's very important that accounting for the project is done thoroughly.
Collect feedback from your team to see what their thoughts are, through their eyes, on how the project went. Doing so will give you valuable insight from the people putting in the legwork to make sure the project was a success and will create a better, more efficient work environment for them in the future.
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Know Your Project's Limits
Be it slippage, lack of funds, or an act of nature, sometimes your project will fall short of its obligations. It's important to set limits on how far a project is able to go before it's a lost cause--because it's difficult to admit failure. The inability to admit defeat has the potential to create a lot of headaches in the financial and morale departments. Workplaces become inhospitable, budgets way over limit, and future relationships with stakeholders sundered.
If you do end up having to close your project before it meets its goals it's still important to take the failure as a learning experience. As you write your project review, carefully reflect over what could have gone better so that it's preventable in the future.
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Project Report and Review
As your project comes to an end, you will want to start putting together a report of the project. This report needs to detail the project from start to finish. A good example of where to begin is to define the project's original goals and whether or not they was met and whether or not any deliverables were produced. The report should finalize and update any files that require it. Once you've completed your report you need to work it into your project review.
The project review will then be presented to stakeholders for their consideration. It's important to put a lot of careful thought into your project review since this is likely going to determine their future with you and your projects. Show them what you've learned, where things could be improved, and how well your project did or didn't do. Don't be afraid to show them that you've failed because every failure is a success if you show them that you recognize your mistakes and you are proactive about fixing them.
Briefing your project's employees is a great way to share the overall experience with them. You can let them know where they are doing well as well as their shortcomings. Every project is a learning experience that needs to carry over into every future project to ensure successful endeavors in the future.
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Rewarding Your Team
Your team will have stuck with you and your project through better or worse. It was their hard work, and hours spent on your project represent something that shouldn't be ignored. Even if the project was a flop your people still dedicated a portion of their time and energy to something; and that's worthy on its own for a reward.
Send a written letter to each of the team supervisors explaining how important their personal contributions to the project were.
Leave some room in the budget for when your project comes to a close. You want to be able to treat your co-workers to something nice--a nice dinner, a relaxing daytime activity, or just an office pizza or ice cream party to show your appreciation for their hard work.
Rewarding your team even when a project closes on a sour note will show that even though the project may have failed, their work was not unrecognized. This gesture will boost morale coming off a failure. In the future, this gesture will show that the work they are doing is appreciated, and they will be more likely to make the next project succeed as a result.
- San Diego State University - Executing, Monitoring & Controlling, and Closing a Project at http://www.ces.sdsu.edu/Pages/Engine.aspx?id=337
Images from Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution license or Attribution-Share Alike license
Mr. Russel Wiggins, photographed by Wonderlane of Flickr.com
Carnegie Mellon - Project Closing at http://www.cmu.edu/computing/ppmo/project-management/life-cycle/closing/index.html