Years ago, I worked with a company who was considering implementing a project management office. This was a company that built things for their clients. During stakeholder interviews, I inquired specifically about the closing processes. “So how do you close down your projects,” I asked. I remember the response vividly. A gentleman who had worked in the environment for years said “Well, we don’t really have any closing processes. We just stop working on it, and, if no one complains, we assume we’re done.”
After further investigation, we learned that the after-project pain associated with NOT closing projects was incredibly high. Clients would come back six or eight months after project work had ceased, when resources and team members had been allocated and assigned to new and different projects, asking for work and expecting the same level of service they had experienced during the active project state. The costs associated with re-assembling the team, dusting off documentation that was never properly closed, and completing work that may or may not have been part of an approved change request were nearly as high as the costs of the active projects themselves.
Closing only amounts to 1%-5% of the total project effort, but it’s a valuable little piece of the pie!
In PMBOK Guide 3.7 “Closing Process Group” we learn the key concepts of the Closing Process Group. While sometimes, closing seems like little more than a formality that is too often overlooked, the reality is, closing does some pretty key things for us as Project Managers.
1 Let’s hone in on just a couple of words, including how, specifically, and tactically to tackle them.It’s in closing that we “conclude all activities”. That’s a wrap, folks. We wind it all up, shut it down, and finish all the things that need to be finished to accomplish the project. For projects that seem to have gone on too long, or those projects we couldn’t wait to finish, closing is where we get to finish the very last activity.
ACTION TIP: Has this project been going on for a while? Find some of the energy you had back in Planning, and pull out all those lists of to do’s, and close them out. Review the scope and make sure that all activities related to scope are buttoned up. Now review the change related activities. Are all change requests approved and executed or rejected and closed? Now review the risk and issue related activities. Are all risk and issue related activities done? And finally, take a look at the process improvement and continuous improvement related activities that resulted from your project. Make sure you can say they’re all “done”.
2 It’s in closing that we can feel confident that we’ve done what we said we would do, because the closing process are those in which the project manager “Verifies that the defined processes are complete”
ACTION TIP: Are some of your deliverables no longer a priority for the business? Are some issues unresolved? Are some risks still lingering out there? Complete the necessary change requests, update the risk logs, get the approvals you need to feel confident that the right work is done right. Take a few moments to really verify that what you said you’d do is done. Go back to your plans, row by row, and verify that tasks are complete, that approved changes are implemented, that deliverables are delivered to the appropriate level of quality, that quality assurance processes are executed and updated, and that every single stakeholder is aware that this project is closing.
3 It’s in closing that we “formally complete” the obligations. That’s where, especially in situations with vendors, clients, purchasing agents, contracting agents, departments providing services to other departments within the same business – this is where we return to the level of formality and say “contractually” and “formally”, both sides agree we’re done.
ACTION TIP: Are there any contractual components to your project? Pull them out, dust them off, and execute the formal function of closing or completing the contractual obligations. Get signatures, approvals, pay the final fees, whatever it is that your project requires to formally be considered closed, do that.
BONUS TIP: And while you’re doing that, take a moment to formally close the project with your team. Thank them for their contributions and the results they produced. Provide documentation and take corrective action where appropriate, and document the learnings from the project.
One more thought – the Closing Process Group is also the set of levers you can pull to “formally establish the premature closing of a project”. Why might a project close prematurely? Because the business need changed, the economy or environment changed, the anticipated cost of the project exceeded the business benefit, some critical or calamitous or otherwise major situation arose that prevented the project from continuing. Taking a moment, even in crisis, to conclude activities, verify the final state of doneness, and formally close obligations is the right thing to do.
ACTION TIP: Then, with the exception of what we’ve learned or the new leaf we’ve turned, let’s put it behind us. Let’s formally step away from this project and start referring to it in the past tense (preferably that favorable past tense that lets us learn from past successes and challenges!)
How about you? What are your favorite aspects of the closing process? Join the conversation on any of our social media platforms!
Want more on the PMBOK Process Groups read our previous blogs initiating, planning, executing, and monitoring & controlling.