The project closure marks the final stage of the project management process, and it’s a crucial step to conclude a project formally. Successful project closure ensures that all the work has been completed, goals have been achieved, documents have been compiled and provided, and all project-related resources have been appropriately released. In my previous blog post, I discussed how a well-planned kickoff meeting could align team members and establish a strong foundation for the project’s success. In this article, we will examine the four major steps of successful project completion.

1.    Sign-off and closure

This includes agreements related to the undone work, the dissolving of the relationships concerning the project itself and most importantly, the acceptance by the project client. The result of the project closure should include the following:

· To-do lists for remaining tasks: Begin by revisiting the project objectives and deliverables. Ensure that everything has been completed as originally planned. Then address any unfinished tasks or deliverables. Ensure all project work is finished, and no loose ends are left. Assign the remaining open tasks to specific people and give them a deadline.

· Closing reports: All project management documentation should be prepared as agreed. Compile documentation by gathering and organizing all project documentation, including project plans, schedules, budgets, and other relevant records. This documentation is crucial for future reference and audits.

· Release Resources: Release project team members and resources, returning them to their respective roles or other assignments. Ensure that contracts with external vendors or consultants are closed properly.

2.    Evaluation of the project

An evaluation needs to be concluded for the project and the project team about content and process. This can be done in individual sessions, in a group setting or in workshops, depending on what is to be evaluated based on how the project went. In general, holding a final project review meeting or workshop with all team members to assess the project’s overall success and to gather feedback from team members and stakeholders is enough. At least these two topics should be covered:

  • Final Project Evaluation: Compare the results with the project’s original goals and objectives. Identify areas where the project exceeded expectations or fell short.
  • Review and verification of quality: Verify that the project work meets the quality standards and requirements outlined in the project plan. Perform any necessary quality assurance and quality control checks.

3.   Project Completion Documentation

The final documentation showcases the project results, the evaluation of the realization of project goals and the reflection on the project experiences.

  • Ensure that all project deliverables are handed over to the appropriate parties, both internally and externally.
  • Review and reconcile the project budget. Close out any open financial items, such as expense reports and invoices.
  • If the project involves external contractors or suppliers, close their contracts by the agreed terms. Ensure that all contracts, agreements, or warranties related to the project are formally closed out, and any outstanding obligations are met.
  • Communicate the project closure to all relevant stakeholders. This includes sharing the final project report, lessons learned, and a summary of the project’s success.
  • Archive Project Records: Store all project documentation and records in a secure and easily accessible archive for future reference. There might be company-wide rules or even some legal requirements (e.g. retention periods) that need to be adhered to when storing documents.

4.   Lessons Learned

Lessons learned need to be gathered at the end to ensure the transfer of knowledge and experience to the organization as a whole. Mistakes made can serve as a learning tool in a constructive environment. Information gathered for a specific project or project type needs to be documented well so that future projects can use it.

  • Knowledge Transfer: Ensure that knowledge transfer occurs. Document any critical project information, lessons learned, and best practices that can be useful for future projects.
  • Debrief and Lessons Learned: Conduct a post-project review to gather insights and lessons learned. Document what worked well and what could be improved for future projects.
  • Feedback and Continuous Improvement: Use the lessons learned and feedback gathered during the project closure process to improve future project management processes and practices.

Keep in mind that running a project comes at a certain cost and it would be wise to get the most out of it. Lessons learned could in some ways be regarded as the most important part as it will help future projects and lessen the total costs for any similar endeavor coming up. The expertise and the knowledge that has been built up during a project by dealing with a certain type of project for the first time or solving issues arising while it is running should be salvaged for the future. This is often neglected, and a project is regarded as closed when the deliverables have been sent and paid for and everyone is off to the next project. Not everyone takes the time to reflect on the project, but they should.

+1 And last: don’t forget to celebrate the project’s success!

Acknowledge the achievements and success of the project team. Celebrate milestones and achievements in a way that reinforces team spirit and morale. Celebration can be anything from recognitions at regular project team meetings, highlighting reached milestones, hosting an event such as a game night at a certain milestone, to a party – a champagne moment – when all has been successfully completed. There are no limits to celebrating a project’s success but celebrated it should be.