Project Closing Phase

project team closing out a project

The time has finally arrived. After weeks, months, or possibly years of working alongside your project sponsor and team members, you have successfully reached project closure. While you can rejoice with your team that the work is done, there are still a few things left before you can consider the project thoroughly complete.

Take a product tour

How to close out a project

It might seem as simple as checking off a project close-out checklist, but there are specific tasks that need to be completed to be truly finished with the project.

First, you must deliver the final product to the project sponsor and stakeholders, and receive their approval that it has been completed according to their expectations and requirements. Once they’ve officially signed off on the finished product, you can continue with your project close out.

Host a post-mortem or lessons learned meeting

Gather your team for a post-mortem meeting, which is held after a project has been completed, with the goal of reviewing the project, inviting feedback from team members, discussing what well and what could be improved, and sharing lessons learned.

This meeting essentially acts as a project wrap-up. Have the original project charter and/or business case on hand, so you can refer back to these documents as you go through your project review, comparing the original goals and objectives against your final results.

Consider handing out a short survey to your team before the meeting, so you can discuss the responses as a group without putting people on the spot. Surveys allow team members to think about their answers beforehand and be more thoughtful and thorough with their feedback.

Make sure to build time into your agenda to discuss lessons learned that can help to improve future projects. Open and honest communication during this post-mortem meeting can lead to the development of new practices. You may come up with ways to effectively streamline your next project, such as using templates to standardize processes, adding shorter and more frequent team meetings to keep everyone aligned, and embracing agile project management practices like working in sprints.

If you used an enterprise work management solution to assist with the organization and execution of your project, utilize this technology to go over your project closure report,  determine how successful you and your team were, and discuss how you can do better next time.

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Archive project records

Save all documents and records from your project; this information is sure to come in handy when you plan projects in the future. Ask team members to save notes, documents, and data gathered from the project to include in the project records. Don’t forget to reach out to your project sponsor, stakeholders, as well as any financial or business experts who were involved in the project, to see what they have to contribute, as well.

Your project records should be able to answer any questions or concerns someone may have about your project in the coming days, weeks, months, or years. And if you ever need to reference or recreate the project, you’ll have everything you need on hand.

Celebrate team achievement

The project could not have come together without a group of dedicated team members working toward a common goal. A process is just a process without people to see it through. So make sure to celebrate your team when you reach the finish line by acknowledging their success and thanking them publicly for a job well done. In addition, taking time to personally recognize and thank individual team members for their efforts is a great way to boost employee morale and motivation.

Cap off your celebration with a catered lunch, group dinner, concert or sporting event, which helps build team culture in addition to expressing gratitude. You may even want to purchase small tokens of appreciation, such as gift cards, bottles of wine or champagne, gourmet chocolates, or similar.

Officially release the team

The final step of the closing phase of project management is to officially release team members from the project. This includes everyone who played a role—the project team, sponsors and stakeholders, contractors, and any product suppliers. Confirm that deliverables have been delivered, payment has been completed, and they're now free to join other project teams or work on other job tasks and assignments.

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Close out your project

The project closing phase has given you an opportunity to review and reflect on each of the components that made up your project. You and your team have completed the work to your project sponsor’s specifications, you’ve archived all relevant information about the project, and you’ve celebrated your success. Now, you can apply the lessons you’ve learned to your next project, and the one after that.