Everything has an end. Also every project. At least it should. And in such a way that everyone knows it and that as many people as possible are satisfied with it. In order to achieve a clean project completion, a lot of activities are necessary, which do not happen by themselves, but have to be planned and controlled just like everything else.
Project closure is as much a part of the project as any other project phase. As with project start, closing activities must be planned and controlled. In the best case, they are firmly integrated into the project planning. In this phase, the project manager has the last chance to actively influence his project. Anything that comes after this is beyond his power.
With a professional project closure, the project is remembered positively by both the client and the employees, which further increases the success of the project. Basically, the completion of a project can be divided into three aspects: content, form and social.
If projects are not completed correctly, they lead to “Never Ending Stories”!
Table of contents
The completion of the project in terms of content
Residual activities in the project
In order to guarantee the completion of the project, it is of utmost importance to transfer the remaining activities – no matter how small and insignificant they may seem – into a to-do list, which is sent to the project client including deadlines and responsibilities.
The so-called project follow-up must not disappear into company nirvana even after the official end of the project. It is often precisely through these activities that the project benefit is anchored in the line in the long term.
According to Albert Einstein: “No project is useless, it can still serve as a bad example”. No matter how positive or negative a project is, you can always learn something from it and gain experience for follow-up projects.
A lessons learned or review workshop is conducted by the entire project team and usually results in a SWOT analysis. What went well, what went badly, where were the problem areas, what can be used as an opportunity. The decisive factor here is a structured safeguarding of the results of the lessons learned event in order to make the information generated usable for follow-up projects.
A project is not finished until everyone knows it!
The formal completion of the project
Completing project documentation is the first part of formal project completion. Everyone knows the vast amount of documents produced during a project, not to mention the dizzying amount of electronic files. The countless protocols, plans, presentations, result reports, etc. must be archived in such a way that they are still available for subsequent activities and, above all, can be used.
Sorting out obsolete documents
Many documents have become obsolete or have never been completed during the course of the project. These “corpses” have to be sorted out and destroyed to facilitate the overview of the actually valuable information. This also prevents false or incomplete information from being circulated, which only creates unnecessary confusion after the project.
Pensible naming and labeling
Do not forget that persons not familiar with the project must also find their way around the final documentation. Therefore, make sure that the names and inscriptions of the folders (both electronic and physical) are as meticulous as possible. In some cases it may be necessary to archive obsolete documents in order to reconstruct the course of the project. Then it is particularly important to version the individual documents and to clearly mark the last and thus valid version as such.
Subdirectories and separators
Use subdirectories or separator sheets. Anyone who needs a certain piece of information from a certain meeting afterwards will be grateful if they don’t have to struggle through a mega-folder called “Meetings”, but have “Meetings” – “Review Board meetings” – “2008-05-01 to 2008-05-31” nicely structured in front of them.
Final report and presentation
The final report is the balance of the project and the formal act to officially announce the end of the project. Ideally, the final report should be prepared by the project team. The final report is presented at a project closing meeting.
The target group for this final presentation is primarily the project client. For larger projects, the presence of the steering committee with all important stakeholders is also recommended. The client is responsible for the exact composition of the audience at the final presentation.
Contents of the final project report
The content of the final report is primarily the result of the project. How was the project objective formulated in the project mandate achieved, what benefits were generated by the project, what costs were incurred, what were the difficulties in general and how were they solved? One should not go into too much detail, a rough overview for general understanding is sufficient. If the agreed goals were not achieved, a detailed explanation of the reasons is necessary.
Project acceptance and discharge of the project manager
The goal of the final presentation is a successful project acceptance as soon as possible and the discharge of the project manager by the project client. Of course, the client will not jump up at the end of the presentation and shout a happy “Accepted! He will take his time to check the results again and compare them with the project order. However, as the project manager, make an appointment when you can expect an official acceptance.
The process of acceptance varies from project to project and is usually defined in the planning phase of the project. In principle, the project is accepted with the signature of the client on the final project report. In this way, the client officially confirms that the project manager and the project team have completed their assignment.
The final presentation as a marketing instrument
The final presentation is not only used for internal project approval but is also a marketing instrument within the company and beyond. A poorly prepared final project presentation can greatly reduce the value of an outstandingly executed project.
Conversely, a project that has not gone so well can of course also be put in a better light by an outstanding final presentation. Therefore, keep not only the presentation itself but also other relevant information about the project ready at the closing event in order to be prepared for any critical questions.
Contents of the final project report
- Project objectives and their achievement
- Reflection on the course of the project
- Difficulties encountered and their solutions
- Planned and actual dates
- Planned and actual costs
- follow-up activities
- Line manager after end of project
- Recommendations for further action
The social end of the project
Since a project is – or was – associated with hard work, one should celebrate its successful conclusion in a proper way – in the course of a closing event.
Project Closure Event
The setting of this event should be in proportion to the size of the project and can range from a cosy round of the project team at the Heurigen to a small company party or a real party in a gourmet temple. Who participates is to be decided on a case-by-case basis. Only the project team and the client, or the steering committee and the stakeholders, or everyone who worked on the content of the project and made it a success. It makes sense to include the closing event in the project budget right from the start.
If no budget can be made available for a closing event, then the minimum is to make a short finish together – even if only for coffee, water and biscuits. Usually, however, in such a case the project client will “sponsor” something out of his pocket (or the line budget).
Closing ceremony with pepp
Make sure that the closing event is not dismissed as a boring project closing party, where you only meet the people you’ve had so much to do with lately that you can’t smell them anymore. Send an upbeat invitation, choose an original location and promise an atmospheric farewell to the project.
Appreciation for the project team
In addition to celebrating “that it is done”, the recognition of the work done should not be neglected. An address by the project client, in which he thanks the project team, distinguishes a good client. The presence of the project client is in any case the minimum.
Emotional project conclusion
The closure event also gives the project team the opportunity to socially conclude the project. In many cases the cooperation and thus also the contact between the project team members is terminated at the end of the project from one day to the next and through the joint work one or the other friendly bond is formed. The final event offers the project team the chance to get emotionally away from the project work and the team members.
A symbolic act (e.g. handing over the keys, gong stroke – creativity is required here), with which the project is finally declared completed, supports the emotional conclusion of all participants.
The ideal time for the closing event
The time of the closing event should not be too long after the end of the project. First of all, most employees as well as project managers and clients will be busy with the next activities and won’t have a head for partying anymore and secondly, the relationship to the completed work will be lost. Also the closing event should be found as an activity on the project plan and should be scheduled early.
A correct project completion is just as important as THE planning and execution!
The importance of the project completion phase is underestimated in many projects. Therefore, take enough time for the project completion activities and do not let the argument that everything is already over apply when discussing follow-up activities. Do not give up the project until the final completion and finish it properly.
Project completion in terms of content – transfer to the line
- Creation of a list of all project activities whose completion is still open (remaining activities).
- For each remaining activity, it must be agreed who will be responsible for its completion and by when it will be completed.
- It may be necessary to initiate follow-up activities or projects. The list of remaining activities and any follow-up activities/projects must be coordinated with the project client.
- In order to collect lessons learned (what went well, what needs to be optimized), planning and conducting a review workshop is highly recommended. Structured documentation guarantees the security of know-how and experience.
Formal and administrative project completion
- Archiving of the relevant project documents, both electronically and on paper. Outdated or irrelevant project documents are destroyed.
- If “obsolete” documents are needed to reconstruct the project, they must always be versioned.
- The preparation of a formal project completion report – quasi the “project balance sheet” – represents the official written project completion.
- In the course of an official project completion meeting, the project completion report is presented to the project client and the relevant stakeholders.
- The formal acceptance of the final report by the project client represents the official discharge of the project manager. This acceptance must be documented in writing (e.g. by means of a protocol).
Social Project Completion – Project Completion Event
- A budget for a joint project completion event with the project team – after successful project implementation – should be planned from the start.
- The location for the event – as well as the program – should be appropriate for the event. From a joint dinner at the Heurigen to a 5-course menu in the gourmet restaurant with supporting programme, there are many variations. A sure instinct is necessary here.
- It is essential to invite the project team and the project client. In addition, the members of the steering committee, important suppliers or customers can also be invited.
- Important: The project manager and the project client should thank the team for their commitment and the successful result. The recognition of the work done is of enormous value! Praise can also be generously distributed here.
- It makes sense to hold the final event only after the formal completion of the project, when the project result has been accepted by the client.
We recommend the following articles for further reading:
- Work breakdown structure – 6 steps
- Work package
- Milestone Plan
- Time scheduling – Gantt chart
- Project order
- Project Client – role and tasks
- Project controlling – effective project monitoring
- Project reporting – meaningful project reports
- Social competence – a must-have for project managers?
- 9 Stages of Conflict Escalation according to Friedrich Glasl
- 4 Sides Model of Communication