The Project Is Done!
Finally, the project is completed. For large projects, it can feel like the end of an infinitely long journey. So many tasks done, so many challenges and issues resolved! As a project manager, you are no longer talking in the future tense about the next tasks or milestones to reach. It is now time to celebrate. And after that, you quickly move to your next project, which you hope will be just as interesting as the one you leave behind.
Sometimes, we even move very quickly, without celebrating the achievements. Often, the project is just closed by default, meaning that closing the project is a passive thing that just happens. Too many times, it means that nobody is working anymore on it. Everybody disappears, and we are no longer talking about the project.
However, there is a final step that is rarely done, and I would like to see it more often. It is the presentation of a project closure report.
The Project Closure Report
This report doesn’t have to be too long and complex. It should definitely be designed based on the size and complexity of the project. Here is what I like to see in a project closure report:
- Results achieved
- Performance measures
- Next step to enhance the benefits
- Lessons learned for similar projects
The report should inform the project sponsor, governance bodies, and any key stakeholders on the results achieved by the project. It should provide a formal summary of the project. I find that often everybody has been so involved in the project that they lose perspective on it. For many weeks or months, the focus has been on progress and issues, and tasks, and next steps. It is too easy to forget all that was accomplished.
The project sponsor and the steering committee are often surprised by a list of results achieved. After all, they participated in the project and managed various issues and risks along with the project team. From experience, I can say that reporting on the results achieved can inspire interesting conversations.
The second element would be performance measures. We know the concept of evaluating based on scope, time, and cost. There is a need for that information. Did we accomplish what we were supposed to do? How much did it cost? How long did it take to finish it? It is time to measure performance. We will need to compare with a baseline target.
However, this view is still limited. It is important to look beyond tasks, money, and calendar. We should also report on the benefits achieved. I think this is the ultimate measure of performance.
This section can be a good learning experience, in the planning of your next project.
A project has a start and an end date. It is a key element of the definition of a project. However, the results of the project often last longer than the project. Some elements were out of scope and can be addressed as next steps. Business change management should not be underestimated. Maximizing the benefits may require other actions.
For some projects, there may be no next step at all. However, to be honest, I find this section applies to almost all projects. We provide strategic value to our clients by thinking beyond the project.
Let’s not forget the famous lessons learned. Ideally, you integrated them into your project as you were progressing; it is far more useful to do “learning lessons” than “lessons learned.” It is helpful to repeat in the project closure report the key lessons learned. It can include recommendations to management, helping them in managing future similar projects.
The project closure report is a great opportunity. It should not be viewed as an administrative task. It is a strategic step that will influence the value of the project and the evaluation of its success by the stakeholders. Their evaluation will be based on the usual elements: deliverables, cost, time, and quality. It will also be based on the benefits they can achieve with these deliverables, the way forward, and what was learned during the project.
The measure of success for a project should be more strategic than the simple completion of tasks on time and budget. The project closure report can be a tool that assists you in achieving that goal.
For more brilliant insights, check out Michel’s website: Project-Aria