Final Phase Responsibilities
Okay, so what do you have to do to properly end the project? The following checklist will get you on track for closing the books.
Make sure all unfinished project activities are completed. Many project managers drop the ball at this point, assuming everything is done because most tasks are completed. Assume nothing — do a thorough review. Sometimes people cut corners to move on to their next project or operations. Don't let this happen to you. Set up a task list of final items and review it to ensure that everything is completed and the quality of the work is satisfactory.
Have a team meeting to evaluate the project. You may do one meeting with your team to prepare a wrap-up presentation for stakeholders. Determine how you got where you are, and what you might do differently in the future. Review your documentation to be sure it's complete for the next project team. Include a thorough review of the budget, your resources, and barriers. Share what you learned the hard way to save the next team time and money.
Meet with stakeholders, sponsors, and anyone else who needs to approve or sign off on the project. Make sure that everyone with final authority agrees that the project has concluded.
Finish off all accounting procedures including paying final bills and fulfilling all contracts. Make sure all bookkeeping is up to date and all information for team members is accessible, including personal information needed for 1099s or other tax-related documents. Your goal is to close the books on the project before shutting off the lights.
Make sure all documentation lands in the hands of those who will need it in the future. If you have created a new product or started a new service that the sales team will now be selling, make sure the sales force has all the information (such as product specifications, user tools, or plans for future development) they require.
Meet with team members and thank them for their efforts. Let them know that the stakeholder, sponsors, and others are pleased with the job they have done. Also, thank vendors and others who were integral to the success of your project. Make sure everyone knows the project is indeed officially over, for better or worse.
Reassign team members. If you own your own business and the team was made up of employees, you will need to either assign them to a new project, move them into operations resulting from the project, or have them return to doing their original jobs. Let people know what they should do next.
Return all tools, equipment, or anything you borrowed to its rightful owner. If you purchased equipment for the project, decide what to do with it. Often, when people leave a project, a lot of “stuff” is left behind. You need to clean up the mess and determine what is necessary for project maintenance and standard operations, and what was part of the project phase only. Can this equipment be used on future projects? On occasion, tools and equipment have been known to “grow legs” as the project winds down — keep tabs on resources and equipment. If you do have some dispensable goods, give them away to team members.
If the project was a success, celebrate! Sometimes, even a failed project is cause for celebration, recognition, and appreciation.
Successful and unsuccessful projects need to shut down in a similar manner; however, on projects that have failed, there are a few additional considerations:
You may have a hard time convincing stakeholders that the project is indeed over. Many hopeless projects linger on indefinitely because one or more of the stakeholders do not want to accept that the end has come.
You will have less celebrating and more consoling to do, since team members may feel frustrated or disappointed. You need to encourage team members to focus on how much was accomplished and what everyone learned. Do not rehash mistakes or lay blame; acknowledge that sometimes that's the way things work out.
It may take longer to close the books, since there may be outstanding or irreconcilable bills. Set up a time frame in which to try to close the books.
Depending on the project and the attitude of the team members, you may need to pay special attention to security issues.
A project may fail for many reasons. It is important that at some point the project failure is realized and accepted, and there is an official shutdown. This can take a long time if there are legal entanglements, but in most projects there is a need to acknowledge that, at some point, it may indeed be over, even if you believe in your heart it shouldn't be.
Be sure to get necessary information from temporary or contracted team members, including their computer passwords and file locations. If team members will no longer be around after the project ends, don't forget company badges, security cards, and office keys. If you don't have a formal exit interview process, arrange an informal meeting to give and receive feedback and collect company property.
And then there are projects that end while you're still going strong. All appears to be going well, but management, for whatever reason, decides to pull the plug. Team members are especially let down when a project ends abruptly, because it means the rug is pulled out from under them. Sometimes there are warning signs, but not always. Businesses move quickly and changes are made in the course of a few days or even a few hours.
A sudden shutdown is never easy, and sometimes the only way to deal with it is to pick yourself up as soon as possible and move on. Console and comfort others who are likely as shocked and angered as you are. Even in this scenario, you are often expected to tidy up a bit. The team will be gone, but as a leader, you may have to straighten out loose ends. If you are no longer on the payroll, you are in a good position to negotiate a deal to do whatever is asked of you at this point, but be sure to get it in writing.