Beth Slaninka

You submitted the final deliverable to your client and the project is over, right? Not quite. There are a few closing steps that every project should go through. This important part of project management is often overlooked or skipped because the next project may have already started.

Properly closing out a project is not only good project management practice, it can help identify improvements and/or best practices to apply to future projects, ensure project documents are properly filed, and recognize team members for their hard work. Below are four steps to go through at the end of a project:

  1. Verify final delivery is complete. After submitting the final deliverable, you should follow up with your customer to confirm they received it. Are they happy with the final product? Are there any follow-up tasks required? Confirm receipt of the official acceptance or approval, if it is required, and follow up with your customer if you haven’t received it. As part of this step, review the project charter, which should include the original goals and the business case for the project. Did the final deliverable meet these goals or solve the intended problems? Taking this step can provide helpful insights into how the project achieved its original goals or evolved over time.
  2. Hold a closeout meeting. The closeout meeting with the entire team who worked on the project serves two purposes: to identify and share lessons learned and to celebrate the successful end of the project. For lessons learned, what worked well on this project that should be replicated on future projects? What should be done differently next time? It’s important to hear from all members involved in the project since they each have their own unique perspective. These lessons learned should be captured and shared as part of your company’s internal knowledge management process. The closeout meeting should also be a time to thank everyone involved for their hard work and celebrate team and individual successes.
  3. Release your team and materials for other work. This may happen throughout the project as tasks are finished. However, when you reach the end of the project, it’s important to let team members know they can move onto other projects and the work is complete. This is also an excellent opportunity to pass along feedback on project team members to their managers, so managers are aware of any extraordinary work on the project or areas of professional improvement. This is also when you should release any equipment or other resources for others to use.
  4. Ensure project documents are properly filed. Some contracts may include requirements for storing or destroying files at the end of a project. Your company may also have its own internal requirements for knowledge management that should be followed. Even if your company doesn’t have a formal process in place, it is important to make sure project documents are filed. This allows the documents to be retrieved if needed or for others to learn from the work that was completed. This step may also involve making sure your contracts manager is aware that the project has ended so he or she can send out the final invoice or close out any additional contractual paperwork.

At the end of a project it’s easy to shift focus, energy, and resources to the next project. But going through the steps to properly close out the project helps a team come together to celebrate its accomplishments, learn from the overall experience, and make improvements so the next project can be even more successful.