The goal of the project closeout activities is to end the project in a way that reflects favorably upon the team, the team leader and the organization. This phase requires the completion of the seven activities. It is fortuitous that comprehensive planning makes the closeout phase rather straight forward.
- Perform project closeout
- Perform client closeout
- Perform organizational closeout
- Conduct subcontractor closeout
- Perform final risk assessment
- Write project final report or briefing
- Conduct team closeout
Purpose of the Closeout Phase and the Role of the Project Manager
The purpose of the closeout phase is to conclude all facets of the project to the satisfaction of upper management before the team members start to leave the team. Treating the seven activities listed above as ordinary work packages makes this phase a continuation of the execution phase.
The project manager’s role in the closeout phase is to assure that all aspects of the project are properly concluded. At the end of the project, team members often lose their focus; they lose some of their discipline for showing up on time, for concentrating on the task at hand, etc. It is the project manager’s responsibility to help the team retain its focus during the last activities.
Each of the seven activities will produce a memo to the project manager stating the results of the activity. The capstone output of this phase is the project final report, written by the project manager, which summaries the results of the seven activities.
Problems During the Closeout Phase
A number of things can go wrong during project closeout:
- The team failed to plan out the closeout phase and is attempting to plan and execute the closeout at the same time. The resources of people, money and time have not been planned so it is a haphazard effort at best with key closeout activities being missed or truncated. The solution is to plan the closeout activities at the same time the rest of the WBS is developed. Include the closeout work packages (activities) in the budget, schedule, WBS, etc. Include the closeout activities in the resource plan so each team members knows his or her responsibilities during closeout.
- Team members start to leave the team before the closeout phase is completed because they do not understand all that has to be done and their roles in the closeout. The project manager should tell the team early in the project that the closeout phase consists of activities that include all team members. The project manager should build a sense of team cohesion so individual members don’t consider leaving the team early.
- Functional managers start to withdraw their team members before the closeout is complete. In the interim briefing to upper management, the project manager should indicate that the project closeout consists of a number of important closeout activities which will require the full team to perform — with the request that functional managers not take team members back until released by the project manager.
- The team surfaces a number of unresolved issues, or uncompleted work packages or unacceptable deliverables. This means the project is not finished. The project manager will have to remain on the team (perhaps with a small staff) after the team disbands to resolve the problems. One preventive solution: the project manager communicates frequently with the customer especially when it is time to get the customer’s approval (in writing if possible) of work performed, deliverables submitted or problems resolved. Don’t wait until the end of the project to resolve issues in the hope that they will have gone away by then. A memo for record is a good way to document that something happened. If it is inappropriate to ask a customer or stakeholder or upper manager to sign a document, use the memo for record. In the absence of a negative response from the upper manager, we conclude the action, deliverable, etc is acceptable. A statement of the following kind might help clarify this: “In the absence of any feedback within the next 10 business day, we will conclude that this action, deliverable, etc is acceptable.”
This work package has as its purpose to determine that all the requirements have been satisfied. Assign one or two team members to perform the following subtasks of this work package:
- Validate and document that all the work packages listed on the WBS have been completed. If any work package is not complete for some legitimate reason, document the reason.
- Review the business case definition and charter to assure and document that all requirements on these documents have been completed or resolved.
- Review the contract, if there is one, to determine that all requirements have been met.
- Conduct the final project evaluation. Each subtask should conclude with a memo to the project manager indicating the findings and conclusions. Memos should be short, simple and direct.
Activity 2: Perform Client Closeout
The purposes of the client closeout are to:
- Assure that the client has accepted the deliverables
- Measure the degree to which the client is satisfied.
Subtask (a) requires someone to interview the client and determine that all deliverables have been received and accepted. A memo to the project manager is how this subtask is documented. Subtask (b) is greatly facilitated by using a customer satisfaction. The question of whom to survey is important. Get survey information from all the important stakeholders in the customer organization.
The output of this work package is a memo to the project manager indicating the results of each subtask.
The aim of this work package is to conclude the team’s use of organizational resources and to make a final resolution of the remaining resources. Select a team member to complete the four subtasks in this work package:
- The first subtask requires the writing of a memo to the facilities management office stating that the project room will be vacated on a certain date. A copy of this memo is sent to the project manager along with the report on the entire work package.
- Releasing all borrowed or rented equipment is the second subtask. (The team member will write a memo to the technical support office if the equipment had been borrowed from that office or a letter or telephone call followed up by a letter to the rental company from whom the equipment was rented.) The memo or letter will need to include an inventory of equipment being returned. This subtask includes reconciling any differences between the original inventory and the return equipment inventory. A copy of the closure memo will be provided to the project manager.
- Finalizing financial records and funds is the third subtask in this work package. The person doing this subtask will reconcile the original project budget against monies spent and outstanding invoices and expected incoming invoices plus the balance that will remain after all invoices are paid. The process and documentation must be acceptable to the finance department; the financial records are not reconciled until the finance department concurs.
- Preparing memos of appreciation to functional managers and other stakeholders is a subtask of this work package. In each memo, try to identify a unique contribution or help the team received for which the team is grateful. Write a memo to the project manager stating the results of Activity 3.
Activity 4: Conduct Subcontractor Closeout
The purpose of this work package is to reconcile all subcontractor matters. The three subtasks are:
- Determine that the subcontractors have completed all the work for which they are responsible. Include the results of this investigation in the memo to the project manager.
- Reconcile the amount of monies due the subcontractors. Coordinate with the procurement department on this. Include the results of this reconciliation in the memo to the project manager.
- Prepare subcontractor letters of appreciation for each firm which performed well. Write the letters for the project manager’s signature and send a copy to the Procurement Department.
Write a memo to the project manager stating the results of this activity.
The purpose of this work package is to identify any threats or opportunities that are relevant to the end of the project. This work package will require a small group of people to perform the following risk assessment activities:
- Identify risks
- Estimate probability and impact
- Stratify risks
- Develop strategies
The following ten categories of risks should be investigated and discussed:
- Residual risks
- Deliverable transference
- Improper operation
- Cash flow
- Organizational politics
- Constituency acceptance
- Legal risks
Use a small group generating process from Activity 2 to identify threats and opportunities under each of the ten categories.
This work package requires a Final Risk Assessment Report, which is presented to the project manager for discussion and dissemination. The report consists of the documents listed above plus a cover memo summarizing the findings.
Activity 6: Write the Project Final Report
The final report summarizes all the closeout activities. Its purposes are to:
- Demonstrate to upper management that the project is indeed complete
- Present the final status of the project
The report will include the following topics:
- Project Closeout Activities
- Client Closeout Activities
- Organizational Closeout Activities
- Subcontractor Closeout Activities
- Final Risk Assessment
- Team Closeout Activities
- The report closing statement
The person writing the report has the closeout memos for the activities.
This work package contains five tasks:
- Conduct the final lessons learned session. A lesson learned is a piece of experience that may be used to improve performance or repeat good performance. Something that the team did that worked should be retained as a lesson learned because the next time the team is faced with a similar problem, it will want to use the action that was successful in the past. Something we did that did not “work out” or something we did not do that caused a subsequent problem need to be retained as lessons learned.Do not wait till the end of the project to conduct the lessons learned session. If you do so, many lessons will have been forgotten and the information will not be available to help on the current project because the present project is concluding. A better strategy is to conduct this session after the team has been together for about a month. Instead of asking “What went well?” ask “What is going well?”
Use the lessons learned session every two or three months to get a sense of the team’s morale, gather lessons learned and to shape behavior. The result of these sessions will be to highlight desired behavior, reward desired behavior and clarify desired behavior. Rewarding behavior increases the probability of getting the same behavior again. The net result is that the team becomes more cohesive and committed to the project.
- Write letters of appreciation for team members. It is the project manager’s responsibility to write letters of appreciation for high-performing team members. Some organizations allow the team leader to submit the recommendation for a cash award.
- Write letters of appreciation for functional managers. This task is politically motivated. Writing letters of appreciation to functional managers who have lent their people to your project is rewarding them for doing so. When you reward behavior, you increase the probability of getting that behavior again in a similar situation. The letter of appreciation will have a positive effect the next time you need to borrow a person from a functional manager.
- Release the team members. The project manager may release the team verbally but another way is to include the release date in the letter of appreciation for the team member. Give each team member a copy at the team party and send a copy to the team member’s supervisor.
- Celebrate. Every project should conclude with a party. The cost, time, activities and place must be acceptable and within the norms of the organization. A catered lunch is one way. Pizza and beer at a local restaurant is another. The project manager should pay if the organization will not pay for the celebration. Paying for a few pizzas and beers will not cause any lasting damage to the project manager’s financial status and it shows class!