How to Sunset a Project and Help Your Team Move Forward

If your team completes projects, you’re familiar with the project life cycle. But one phase that is often overlooked is project close out. Often, when a project has finally been completed, team members just breathe a collective sigh of relief and then move on to the next project.

But it’s important to take a bit of time and officially close out your project to ensure you’ve dotted all the I’s and crossed all the Ts (and made your customer happy!)

Here’s what you need to do before you move on to the next challenge.

  • Confirm project deliverables. Verify that the customer got what they thought they were going to get. You should have a checklist of products or services you delivered that you’ve been keeping track of throughout the project lifecycle. You should tidy this up into a professional format for delivery to the customer.
  • Package deliverables professionally. If your project deliverables included files, documentation, or programs, make sure you put these items in a nice tidy package for your customer. Check in with them on the format. If hard copies are required, make sure you put a nice package together. Soft copies are pretty much a must these days, so load up a CD or USB stick that the customer can keep.
  • Make sure the customer is happy. Sure — you’ve been communicating with them all along and you know they’re happy, but it’s still worthwhile to conduct a customer feedback survey when you are all done. This can be accomplished with a survey instrument or in a face-to-face meeting.
  • Conduct an after action review. Every project your team is involved in should include a “lessons learned” component whether you finish it or not.  An after action review gives your team an opportunity to talk through what happened on the project, why it happened and how they can leverage the strengths of what went wrong or mitigate the weaknesses that were revealed.
  • Compile a project history file. Gather all information about your project. You’ll want information like planned and actual project duration and labor hours spent along with any changes that were made to your project plan as the project progressed. it would also be helpful to archive meeting minutes, problem logs, and any other project docs that were created. This project history will help you or another team leader the next time a similar project is undertaken.
  • Put together a final project report. This should be a recap of what happened during the project — things like the overall success, organization of the project, special techniques used, any strengths and weaknesses along with a list of improvements or ideas that were the result of your after action review.
  • Celebrate success. This final step will offer team members the opportunity to officially close out the project. It also gives you the chance to reward and recognize outstanding performance and communicate appreciation for team member participation.

Whew! Sounds like a lot of work to do just to end a project, doesn’t it? It will take a bit of effort on your part, but will pay off down the road on future projects.

What do you think? Do you have other suggestions? Please share your ideas by leaving a comment.

Denise O'Berry

Denise O’Berry — aka the Team Doc — has been working with teams and team leadership in the public, non profit and private sectors for over twenty years. Follow her @askteamdoc.

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