Imagine you’re running a marathon – you’ve trained hard, your pace is great, and you’re feeling good. Finally, after many miles, you spot the finish line. Is that when you pump the brakes and lose focus?
Of course not! You’d keep pushing through to the very end – you’ve come this far, you’re way too close to slow down now. Your full attention is on getting to that finish line.
As a project manager, reaching project closure is a similar scenario. The project team has done great work up until now, and it’s time to stay dialed in, finish strong, and impress your client to the very end.
But where do you start?
Try out these (6) helpful tips to ensure that your next project close-out is successful, effective, and painless:
1. Create a Plan in Advance
About a month before the project ends, start talking through what hand-off items are needed for the client team, and create a plan on how to complete them. Do they need any environment credentials? Are they expecting further project reports / documentation?
This gives the project team enough time to finish the expected hand-off items, and a buffer if any extra hand-off tasks come up. Make sure to communicate out a completed list of hand-off items to your project team and the client team for tracking.
2. Confirm Project Needs with Internal Finance / Business Coordinators
It’s important to make sure the project is on track to complete all necessary contractual and financial obligations before it has closed. You can do so by checking with your finance & coordination teams to confirm that those project affairs are in order. If there is anything you need to check with the client, it’s much easier to bring up during the project, when you have daily communication.
3. Double-check the Offboarding Requirements
If any members of your project team are set-up within your client’s environment, it’s a good idea to confirm that both parties are aware of the offboarding needs when the project wraps up. Make sure you know how to return any client equipment, and communicate out the offboarding process / needed action items with the whole team for awareness.
4. Assess Project Risks for Closure Prior to Project End
Maintaining a list of project risks is a best practice for any project, and closing the risks before project end is preferred. Keep monitoring the open risks and add mitigation steps to make sure they will be closed before the project is finished. If you aren’t seeing movement on a risk, what can the team be doing now to change that? Push for consistent updates / escalation where needed to close the risks and end the project in good standing.
5. Obtain Project Close-out Agreement in Writing – If Needed
Many project contracts include an agreed-upon method of closing out the project – be it documentation, an official report, etc. However, if yours doesn’t, you may need to start that conversation with project leadership – having a written agreement that the project is ending and the client’s expectations have been met is a great way to indicate an official end to the project – this can be as formal or informal as the client chooses.
6. Schedule a “Project Close-out Meeting”
Within a week of your scheduled project end date, host a “Project Close-out Meeting” to officially mark the close of the project with the full team. This is usually an upbeat, low-stress call, where all team members can be invited to participate. The close-out meeting should be a celebration of the great work completed and a finalization of any needed hand-over items for the client team.
A typical project close-out meeting agenda includes:
- Welcome & Project Message (from delivery directors / leadership)
- Project Metrics / Summary
- Team “Kudos” & Recognition
- Lessons Learned – what went well? What needs improving?
Project closure can look a bit different for every project team; the most important part is making sure you have a plan in place and know how to execute it. Use these 6 steps as a guideline for ensuring that your close-out is as high-quality as the rest of your project.
Remember to keep those shoe-laces tight, and keep running to the very end!