By Laura Bamberg - Global Sales Administrator
For project managers, one of their favorite processes is closing out their project. This can involve some celebration, especially if the road has been long and laden with pitfalls successfully navigated!
However, at the close of a project, how often do you get to say it was finished on time, on budget, with no scope creep or numerous changes? If I were to poll all of you, I would bet that doesn't happen often. Instead, it seems that simply closing a project within a few months of its planned closing date constitutes a success. So how can you make the project closeout phase help improve the success of future projects?
STUDY YOUR LESSONS
My first piece of advice is to study this scenario before you get to it, in the form of lessons learned or previous project audits. What happened with a similar project that led to problems with closing on time and budget? What could be done differently? If the same factors that negatively influenced that last project are immutable, what kind of work-around can be constructed?
Let's say one of the main issues with a previous, similar project was the failure of managing stakeholder expectations, in that the stakeholders wanted something that was impossible to provide, so they ended up taking what they could get, but only after compromising the project schedule. If you're working with the same stakeholders, chances are they are going to be just as challenging this time around.
Who could go to bat for you? A trusted member of either your company or someone in the client's company, to explain the project needs in a way the stakeholders can understand, or at least advise you on how to do it? Did you provide enough information previously, or did you present it in a way that alienated them to some degree? Review what happened and institute better ways of managing stakeholders.
CLOSE PERTINENT DOCUMENTS
Michael D. Taylor wrote a recent blog post about closing contracts that project managers should read if they use the procurements process. I was reminded that some project managers fear contracted work because they fear the legal complexities involved. But I'm also reminded that this is the reason why their lawyers are involved to begin with. A brief meeting to ensure the contract is ready for closure is a good idea.
Taylor also wrote that a project's close involves releasing personnel to other tasks. However, if you do so without performance evaluations, you are missing a golden opportunity. Take this chance to re-evaluate who was used for what work. You may find that you made the wrong choice when you see how another team member could have done it better. Remind yourself to monitor performance next time in a case like this. Are you utilizing your team's talent correctly?
DOCUMENT YOUR LESSONS
Do you document lessons learned? If not, is it because it's not expected of you because your company, as a general rule, doesn't value them? Are they completed as rote? If so, take some time at the close of your project to run through it, start to finish, in your mind. Take this responsibility seriously.
It may be frustrating after months of documentation, and you may be ready to pop the champagne cork already, but lessons learned are valuable to you and to your team, as well as your company. If you want to present a better case to those stakeholders, there's nothing like a black and white reminder of why the project could have ended better! Future projects will go better when projects are closed effectively.