The end of your project is (hopefully) a cause for celebration. You’ve delivered what you said you were going to do, and it’s a time to wrap up the work and see the team off to new initiatives.
However, the last deliverable doesn’t truly signal the end of the project. There’s a whole phase of closure tasks that you should do as a project manager to make sure you finish the work in the right way.
Here are 5 essentials for closing out your project professionally.
1. Make sure your schedule is up to date
Your project schedule should show that all the tasks are complete. All the final timesheets for work should be submitted. If you use a task management app for tracking progress, there should be nothing showing as outstanding.
This might sound like common sense but in the run up to the final days of the project it’s tempting to stop closing out tasks. After all, no one is looking at the schedule now except you, so what’s the point?
The point is that you should leave everything in a good and tidy state, because someone else might need that information in the future.
Beyond that, if you use enterprise project management software and a central resource pool, you’ll need the data to be accurate to close off timesheets and to make sure reports are up to date.
2. Update the risk log
Go back to your project risk log and check if everything on there has passed or been realised. You’ll find that most of the risks aren’t relevant any longer and can be closed. However, there might be one or two that carry on, for example, risks that related to the product itself, not the project to deliver it.
If that’s the case, you should pass these risks on to the team who are receiving the handover. They should manage the risks as they see fit, and put them on the appropriate departmental risk log. You won’t be there to manage them, so make sure you hand over all the relevant information to the people who need to know.
Everything else – close out.
3. Hold your post-project review
Hopefully, you’ve been talking to the team about what worked and what didn’t go so well all the way through the project. Lessons learned aren’t something to keep for the post—project review. You can benefit from them at any time.
Even so, hold a final retrospective or lessons learned session. Document the output and share it with the team, so that everyone understands what lessons can be carried forward into their future projects.
If you haven’t been actively capturing and discussing lessons throughout the project, then think about how you are going to approach the review. People might be reluctant to share ideas, so it could be beneficial to have a few sessions with smaller groups – in general, people are more willing to talk when they are sharing ideas with their peers and people they feel confident being around.
4. Tidy your project records
That folder called ‘My important files’ might makes sense to you, but when someone else comes to look through your archives, they won’t know what’s inside.
Go through your project network drive, shared folders or online document storage system and make sure everything is labelled accurately and available. Make sure there is nothing related to the project in your personal laptop where it can’t be accessed. Save any email attachments relating to the project.
Finally, check who has access to the project shared workspace. Remove access from people who no longer need to see those files.
If you have a project management system, make sure it shows that the project has the status of ‘closed’. That will ensure it doesn’t show up in reporting at the program or portfolio level.
5. Thank the team and celebrate!
You’ve reached the end of the project! The work part is finished, but there is still something left to do: celebrate what you have achieved.
Get the team together and thank everyone for their efforts. If you can meet up, try to organize going out somewhere for a quick drink, or a lunch – it’s even better if the company’s budget can fund your outing!
It’s really important to take time to celebrate a job well done, because it helps people reflect on their achievements. Saying thanks is part of the process to embed the change, and a recognition that something is now different because of what the project did.
People often worry that saying thank you and celebrating project successes has to cost a lot of money, and many project teams and companies don’t budget for nice to haves like that. You might be pleasantly surprised. If your project was significant and strategic, ask your sponsor. They might have funds they can draw on to support a small celebration, even if that is simply buying everyone a drink at the bar.
Closing out your project is a fun time, because you can see the result of your hard work over the previous months. You’ll also be able to see how much individuals have grown and developed on the team, as a result of what you as the project manager did to support them.
Finish your close out activities, then you can move on to the next project with a clear head and being ready to start something new.
This article was written by Elizabeth Harrin.
Elizabeth Harrin is the creator of A Girl’s Guide to Project Management, which she started in 2006. She has won a number of awards for her internationally popular blog: "A Girl's Guide To Project Management." She also authors two additional blogs, regularly featuring interviews she conducts with industry experts: "Talking Work," and "The Money Files," on Gantthead.