Chapter 19 - Project Close-out¶
What must be done at the end of a project?¶
Every project has to be formally concluded. After the completion of the project work you have to
- get customer approval of work or services performed,
- calculate the cost of the project and wind up commercial controlling,
- document knowledge for the next project,
- check if your project has autonomous management structures, if yes, you have to officially dissolve the project team and relinquish your authority.
In practice, the systematic conclusion of a project is extremely significant. Tasks and problems associated with the conclusion of a project are allocated to
- an objective level and
- a relationship level.
Although the tasks associated with the objective level are not generally linked to problems, but it is essential that they are performed.
It is a good idea to create a regularly updated to-do list to monitor the punctual and complete performance of outstanding work. You and your team should also ask yourselves the following questions:
|Acceptance procedures, tests and reviews||Have all the necessary acceptance procedures, tests and reviews been performed?
→ Acceptance can be performed by an external body or be based on the results of internal tests and inspections. The customer's approval of standard operation can depend on a positive answer to this question.
|Performed and outstanding services||
→ In each case, you and the customer must check whether the services are actually necessary, how much time they are likely to take and what costs will be incurred as a result. Sometimes, the customer will agree to dispense with specific services if a price discount is granted in return. Checklists can be helpful when analysing the services to be performed. They are prepared in conjunction with the evaluation of concluded projects and archived within the scope of project learning.
|Dissolution of key relationships with project stakeholders|
|Cost, profit and financial situation||
→ It is the project controller's responsibility to analyse the cost, profit and financial situation. He does this by determining which instalments the customer still has to pay and which payments the contractor still has to make to suppliers. On the cost side, he has to check if the project costs have been charged to the correct cost centres, the project personnel have charged costs to the correct work packages and whether double charges have been made, e.g. the same costs being charged to two different work packages.
Social psychologists have closely studied the process of a group break-up.
The process can be difficult and stressful, when intense group dynamic and interpersonal relationships were carried out over a long period of time.
The dissolution of project teams is often even more difficult because the conclusion of a project can be associated with major concerns.
Project team members may not know
- whether they will be assigned to a follow-up project,
- whether they are at risk of losing their job in the organisation.
This situation can be very stressful and project teams often demonstrate a special defence reaction: they implicitly prolong the project work.
|Common problems on the relationship level include:|
→ This process is exacerbated if team members who are no longer required to work on the project leave the team before the project concludes.
|Sometimes, the project team continues to work on a project for longer than necessary because its members believe that they have no other prospects in the organisation. In many cases, they are not sure what they will be doing when the project ends. Further motives for unnecessarily extending project work include:
|Team members voluntarily leave the project shortly before its conclusion. In practice, there are various reasons for this phenomenon:
You should be aware of problems that occur on the relationship level when a project team is dissolved and develop an understanding for this type of behaviour. The personnel in question should be offered a specific new position. For example, many problems can be avoided if necessary personnel transfers are planned meticulously in advance by the personnel department and the employees being reassigned. This nips concerns about the future in the bud.
It is important to end the project with a joint experience involving all team members. Various separation rituals and ceremonies exist that are suitable for concluding a project on the relationship level. For example, a close-out party should be held and appropriate tribute paid to the project team - a representative of the organisation's senior management could attend. Organisational psychologists suggest that awards should be presented to project personnel. You should inform your project team about the planned event well in advance.
Project closure meeting and project learning¶
The project closure meeting and the report detailing its results are the counterpart to the project start-up meeting. The people attending the meeting analyse and evaluate the
- project results,
- project processes and
- consequences for the post-project phase.
They also document the experience gained in the project and assign the tasks that still have to be performed.
Unfortunately, these recommendations are difficult to follow, especially in problematic projects. It is never easy to talk about failures. This is why it is possible that the project will not be analysed objectively and that the team members will blame each other for the project's failure. Project closure meetings should therefore be prepared carefully.
At the project closure meeting, the steering committee generally discharges the project manager and his team from their responsibilities, i.e. they approve all the performed activities of the project manager and his team (declaration of acceptance by senior management).
The following issues should be discussed at the project closure meeting:
- Summing up the project by the project manager:
- What objectives were attained/not attained?
- Feedback round - each participant is given the opportunity to speak:
- What went well (e.g. strengths)?
- What didn't go well (scope for improvement)?
- Discussion of the feedback round
- Project learning - safeguarding knowledge for future projects:
- What can the team and the entire organisation learn from the project?
- What measures have been implemented to prevent the repetition of mistakes?
- Information about the conclusion of the project:
- Who will receive the final report?
- Who will only receive brief information about the conclusion of the project?
- Assignment of remaining tasks (e.g. drafting of the final report)
- Celebration of the project's conclusion
Project management literature provides numerous suggestions about how to structure final reports. However, there isn't the one and only structure that is appropriate in all circumstances. The content of the final report depends on the type and scope of the project. Bearing this in mind, the following sections only refer to content that is absolutely essential:
- Information about
- quality objectives planned at the outset and those that were actually achieved,
- originally planned and actual close-out date,
- estimated budget and actually incurred costs.
→ It may be appropriate to provide reasons for any deviations in all three parameters.
- The issues of
- what went particularly well in the team and in relationships with project stakeholders,
- what didn't go that well.
- Information about
- Consequences for future projects that are derived from deviations,
- tasks that still have to be performed.
|Calculation of historical costs|
|Project cost databases||
→ Systematically evaluates the costs of concluded projects on a relatively frequent basis.
|Performance indicators and performance indicator systems||
→ makes it essential to survey this stakeholder group, so a customer survey should be established.
→ In cases of doubt, it is therefore advisable to survey the satisfaction of several target groups.
Comparison: Objective and relationship levels¶
|Project personnel questionnaire||
|Project experience databases|
How the story ends…¶
Dr. Rogers comes to an end with his lesson. John seems satisfied with the contents, since he learned a lot of new things. "Last but not least, John, I want to ask you one question of which the answer is important for every future project manager: which two aspects are the key to a successful project conclusion?" "Since you took me under your wing, I've realised the importance of communication. So, I would say that one key to success is definitely communication", replies John. Dr. Rogers is proud of his colleague who learned many things during the internship: "Yes, that's it! It is important that formal communication is properly organised. The second aspect is connected with the project manager's authority. The stronger the formal position of the project manager, the better he can influence the project."
John and Carl have their drinks and talk a while longer - about project management in general and the hay fever medication in particular. John talks about how his university studies will continue after his internship and what his future plans are.
Dr. Rogers asks how John liked the internship and John tells him what he liked most and where the challenges have been.
All in all, John is very satisfied with the internship - he learned a lot, got a taste of a "real" project and now he definitely knows that he wants to work in project management after finishing his studies.