Project Planning, Scheduling & Control–Chapter 16: Closing Out the Project


Dr. James Lewis does not consider a project complete until a final lessons-learned review has been conducted and documented.  There are two kinds of organizations–those that are getting better and those that are dying.  Or as Woody Allen once said in Annie Hall, “A relationship, I think, is like a shark.  It has to constantly move forward or it dies.  I think what we’ve got on our hands is … a dead shark.”

Chapter 13 covered the subject of various types of project reviews, including lessons learned reviews at the end of the project.   The purpose of this chapter is to reiterate the importance of this type of project review, and to go over the other formalities of project closure that are very important for the continued growth of an organization.

1.  Administrative Closure

Here’s a summary of the various types of administrative closure that need to be done at the end of a project.

  • Collection and archiving of all project documents (final costs, schedule data, risk register, issue log, etc.).
  • Update records and product specifications to reflect what was actually achieved, so that this can be compared to the specifications in the original plan.
  • Revising employee records to reflect the skills they developed or enhanced during the project–this will help the organization anticipate future training needs.
  • Preparation of a final project report that summarizes the history of the project and describes the final product of the project.
  • Final lessons-learned review conducted with all stakeholders (not just with members of the project team)

2.  Lessons-Learned Review

As described in Chapter 13, the lessons-learned review needs to be completed with all team members present, but it should not be limited in its scope to all team members:   shareholders need to be interviewed as well.

Knowing what has not worked is obviously important because the organization won’t repeat mistakes in the future that were made during the project.    But it is equally important to know what has worked, so that these “best practices” can be replicated in the future as well.

3.  Personnel issues

Since projects are temporary endeavors, there may be apprehension on the part of some team members as to what their future with the organization will be, if any.   Project managers should do whatever they can to protect the jobs of team members and let them know that their jobs are secure.   In a matrix organization, where the hiring and firing of employees is under the control of the functional manager, and not the project manager, there is only so much the project manager can do.

There may be strong feelings associated with disbanding project teams, as strong as the feelings generated by the sense of camaraderie that has developed during the project itself.    The project manager should try to manage not just the paperwork, but the emotions involved with the end of a project.    True project closure involves emotional closure as well.

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