Project Closure – Is the project complete or successful?

Each week for the last month or so, I have discussed the phases in a Project Management Framework and some of their critical activities.  I realize that some of you would add some additional activities or have some differing opinion on the phases/activities, but this is my blog and I get to be the boss.  LOL!!  I am kidding.  I would love to hear your input and suggestions on the framework as a whole or any of the templates, activities, etc shared along the way.

This week, I will close out the discussion on PMF with Project Closure.  I find in funny that the PMI says risks goes down at this point of the project, yet my blood pressure seems to go up at this time (always within a healthy range)!  All those months/years of planning, tracking progress, motivating team members, managing conflict/changes, etc are coming to a close.  Your team has told you that everything is done and it is time to go-live.  So what else needs to be done to call this complete?  And is complete the same as success?

Before we get into another installment of Kelly’s Contemplation, each week I share a video or song…so here you go.  If this song is the theme song for your project (especially at Closure) then you may be in a lot of trouble.  So, if you need a little inspiration or that last song did hit close to home, then check this video clip out, get focused, and bring it home strong!  I Hope you enjoyed those, now let’s get into it…

Some of the key things you need to do in this phase include:

  1. Trust but verify – You have worked with your team for a while now, so you should know who you trust and who needs a little extra review.  Your name is going into the records as the PM on the project and this is your last chance to make sure that the deliverables meet the expectations of your client.
  2. Perform a Project Close-Out Report – This doesn’t have to be a long, drawn out document.  Give an executive summary statement of the problem/project charter to get everyone on the same page.  (i.e. – Project XYZ was chartered on Month/Year to develop a solution to customer problem x) Then get into bullet point mode…the target completion date was this, the actual completion date was x.  The target budget was $1 and the actual Spend was $1.  The following list includes those deliverables chartered for this project or amended via the formal change management process.  The last page is a sign-off block in which the project manager, project sponsor, and customer representative will sign stating they accept the project as complete and satifactory.
  3. Perform Lessons Learned – All too often, this is either done with less then full attention or skipped altogether.  I know you may move on to another client, your team is being disbanded, or other projects are being moved onto your plate…but you must resist the temptation to skip past this one.  It will help you personally grow as a project manager, help team members grow, and the organization will have better historical reference for the next project (hopefully you are called back to lead that one).  I have some links below to lessons learned templates and blogs.
  4. Archive the Project Documents – Project Management is a discipline that is constantly evolving, both as a profession and within specific organizations.  It is through review of similar projects that we are able to better improve process or leverage historical data for more accurate budgets, resource planning, and duration estimates.  You have spent a lot of time selecting the appropriate templates, driving team members for input, etc.  Don’t let it all go to waste.  Make sure the documents are labeled, dated, and organized appropriately so future PMs can benefit and learn from your efforts easily.  Then make sure you get them into a shared, accessible, and maintained location with your client.
  5. Conduct a Survey – I think this is huge for personal growth.  Provide an outlet for anonymous feedback and truly reflect on the responses…you will see tremendous growth in just a few projects.  Leverage a Survey Monkey or something similar.  Ask the team things like: Was the vision communicated well? Did you understand how this fit with corp strategy? Were the tools and templates useful?  Did you feel a part of the team? How was project communication?  Did you develop any new relationships while on this project? etc etc etc

One thing to keep in mind throughout the project closure phase…are you simply completing the project or was this project a real success?  Project Management is characterized by repeatable processes (one of many characteristics) and there continues to be a lot of focus on PMOs, templates, reports, checklists, etc.  Unfortunately, too many project managers are so focused on checking off the boxes that they are not really Managing the project.  Yes, a project may have delivered on all the requirements and technically be a success, but there is more (really).  How did your management of the project influence the organization’s perceived value of the profession?  Do your people want to be a part of the next big project or will they run for the hills?  Did you enhance the projects processes?  Did you see areas for improvement, opportunity for further scalability? Were you able to find waste in the project process? Did you develop relationships with your project team members?

There is a difference between a project being complete and a project being a success…I want to be a successful project manager!

As with the song/video of the week (above), I also provide you with links to great resources from my PM peers (Thanks to all of you!)

Project Closure Resources:

  1. Template – Project Close Out Report & Lessons Learned @ The PM Hut
  2. Template – Project Closure Report & Lessons Learned @ (many more templates as well)
  3. Blog Post – Will We Ever Learn From Project Failure? by John Lawlor
  4. Blog Post – Lessons Learned from Voices on Project Management via PMI
  5. Another View of Project Closure Phase w/workflows, templates, etc – Project End @

4 thoughts on “Project Closure – Is the project complete or successful?

  1. I think I have evolved in my lessons learned skills…in the first few years I don’t think I ever did them, then I did a few years of lessons learned in m own mind, and then at the end of the project with an entire team and a template I got from the internet. Not until the last year or so have I implemented lessons learned into each phase exit.

    Keeping a lessons learned ‘register’ similar to issues is a nice add-on, thank you!

  2. Project closeouts are hard to do, mainly because we are all anxious to move on to our new, and potentially more exciting, assignment, rather than wrapping up a “done” project.

    Regarding the Lessons Learned: I find this increasingly difficult to do at the end. I am trying out a new idea I read about on Reforming Project Management: doing the Lessons Learned throughout the project. In other words, as soon as the Lesson is learned, take note of it somewhere in your project information system.

    A project blog is ideal for this, but it can be as simple as an Excel spreadsheet. As soon as someone says: “Next time we should…”, take note of it right away.

    Trying to remember and note the Lessons at the end of the project is difficult: everyone has moved on.


  3. Paul:

    First off, thank you so much for visiting and taking the time to comment…very much appreciated.

    I think there is a difference between being relaxed (clueless) and relaxed (busy, but confident). If you are too relaxed, you may not be as connected to the team and therefore are actually clueless to the work being done in that last week or so. However, if you have been engaged, developed trust with your team and know there is a lot of work to go…you can still be relaxed, because you know your teams capabilities and track record to date. You know they will get it done.


  4. I remember once a new-be project manager told me he needed some training on stress management. I asked him when his project was going live. He said next week. I would be worried if he was feeling relaxed with a week to go.

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