The following is adapted from The Irreverent Guide to Project Management.
It may seem that when a project is at an end, the work of a project manager is done.
Well, not quite…
The closure phase is a crucial part of the process. It’s the transitional moment when the manager finishes a project and ensures that it’s properly handed over, so the customer can take on the ongoing maintenance. There’s an art to that transition. If it’s done poorly, all the work that you put in might be undone, you might have to field constant calls—How do we do that? Who was supposed to do that? What does this mean?—or, more crucially, the client might be really unhappy, and you’re going to lose future business or referrals.
In order to bring a project to a truly successful close, it’s important that the transition goes smoothly. You want to leave a legacy that will last, even after you’ve moved on. That’s easier said than done, especially when you only have five days to pull everything together, but here are some best practices that can help you end any project in a clean, efficient way.
Prepare the Deliverables
The Closure Document summarizes the project accomplishments and lists whatever tasks remain open at project close, as well as the responsible parties. This is the place where you get to show just how well the project aligned with the objectives and benefits that you outlined at the beginning of the process, and while it’s a highly functional document, it’s also a place to take pride in everything that you’ve achieved.
In addition to the Closure Document, you will need to prepare the Final Project Status and Budget Reports, both of which are essential to smoothing the turnover of the project back to the client.
Here’s the big thing to remember: These documents are going to be necessary for review during the five-day closure phase, so you need to have them ready in advance. Similarly, you need to schedule all of the meetings in advance, so there are no unnecessary delays in the process. If you wait, you’ll be late!
Meetings, Meetings, Meetings
A number of meetings must occur during the five-day closure phase. On the first day, the Project Manager has to meet with the Project Owner to go over the Closure Document, determine the disposition of any tasks likely to be open at project close, and identify anything additional that the Project Owner would like to have completed or communicated during the project’s closure phase.
The Review Meeting is then followed by an Approval Meeting, where the Executive Stakeholders get in on the action. You will also go over the Budget Report, and get the official signatures of acceptance and approval.
Next, you will have a Turnover Meeting, where you will use the Closure Document to go over any remaining tasks and to answer any questions about the turnover process. You want to make sure that everyone is clear on their tasks and that all your hard work is going to be maintained, even after you’ve left the building. Finally, you will have a Final Project Review, where you approve all the project documentation.
Of course, all of this is very checklist-sounding, but it’s important to remember that meetings aren’t about getting signatures or handing over paperwork. They are about communication and relationships. Meetings ensure that everyone involved with the project leaves content, satisfied, and ready to keep things moving forward.
Finalize and Publish
Once project work has been completed, the Project Manager updates and finalizes the Budget Report files and prepares and publishes the Final Budget Report, as well as the Final Status Report.
But you’re not done yet! Make sure that you also update your resume and LinkedIn profile. Recruiters and clients will want to see up-to-date work that you’ve done, and you also want to show off all your management skills.
The more streamlined you’ve been throughout the process, the easier these final steps will be. Many of these documents follow the same processes that you will have used throughout the life of the project, so the more organized you’ve been, the easier this step will be. In essence, ever since the project was conceived, you’ve been working toward closure. Keeping that in mind throughout the process will ease this transition.
The Real Takeaway
Some of this is technical, and some of it seems obvious if you’ve been in project management for a while. But the big takeaway from this information is that even when you think you’re done with a project, there’s still more to do.
As a Project Manager, your projects are your legacy. They live on, even after you’ve moved on to the next project. They take on a life of their own, and teams maintain all the progress that you’ve made. The closure phase is really just a different kind of beginning, and hopefully, it marks a new phase in the life of the company.
For more advice on project closure, you can find The Irreverent Guide to Project Management on Amazon.
From the start of his career spent jumping out of helicopters as a rescue swimmer in the United States Navy, J. Scott has a long history of leadership, servanthood, and bearing witness to the transformative power of getting shit done. Since starting 120VC he's personally overseen the global transformational efforts within organizations such as DirecTV, Trader Joe's, Blizzard Entertainment, Sony Pictures, Mattel, and others. His team's unique, irreverent approach to change has generated breakthrough results and created meaningful jobs. In addition to being a successful entrepreneur, J. Scott is a devoted husband and father and author of "It's Never Just Business: It's About People," and "The Irreverent Guide to Project Management," both available on Amazon.com.