Project Management Closeout Tools & Techniques
Project Closeout is the process or activities associated with finalizing
the hand off of the project deliverables to the business team and completing the administrative aspects of
closing the project. Most of the project management activities at this time are administrative and are unique
to the organization. They involve gaining stakeholder acceptance of the project deliverables, integrating project
resources back into the organizations pool of resources, and capturing any lessons learned from the project for
use on future projects.
There are four techniques that I have found useful when managing the Project Closeout. This first technique,
which I call Closeout Approach, is an organizing principle for guiding the administrative
closeout activities. The second technique is a Stakeholder Acceptance meeting. The third
technique is the development of a Punch List to drive project closure and prevent scope creep.
The final technique is the conduct of a Lessons Learned assessment on the project.
The Closeout Approach considers the method that the project deliverables are
being hand off to stakeholders and changes the administrative activity accordingly. In all cases, any
supplier contracts must be closed with the procurement department. However, the internal closeout process
of ohter activities will vary.
Project Inclusion - This form of closeout is the simplest from an administrative standpoint.
The project team, who has developed the project deliverables, now become the primary users/
maintainers of the deliverables. The team essentially hands off the project deliverables to itself. In
this case, the project management team needs to close any administrative accounts or files that are
associated with development and reopen them for operational deployment of the deliverables. The
transition is virtually seamless and administrative in nature.
Project Extinction - This form of closeout is also straight forward. The project activities are
immediately terminated. Resources are either redeployed in the organization or they are released.
This condition may be created because of problems within the project, or it may be because of
conditions that are completely outside of the control of the project team. For instance, I worked
with a team closing a project in this fashion because an unexpected ruling by a government
regulatory body eliminated the need for the project deliverables.
Project Integration - This form of closeout is the most difficult. The project deliverables are
completed and the project team believes that they meet the project objective. However, the project team
must ensure that the portion of the organization that is to make use of the deliverables is prepared to
embrace them and apply them appropriately to achieve the business benefit. At times there is significant
resistance to accepting the deliverables. When a project team is facing this type of closeout they need to
ensure that appropriate change management activities are being conducted at the same time they are performing
the administrative closeout activities. When the change management is likely to be a significant issue for
the project, I include a transition phase to the project that has pilot runs, beta tests, or other transition
activities to enhance acceptance by stakeholders.
Stakeholder Acceptance Meeting
A Stakeholder Acceptance meeting is exactly what the name implies. The project
team meets with project stakeholders to review the deliverables of the project and ensure that the deliverables
are acceptable to the stakeholders. I strongly recommend that this meeting be held by Program Managers with all
sub-project teams on Complex programs. I have also found this useful when doing projects under contract to
ensure that there is a clear endpoint to the project and that the final invoice can be submitted. The format of
this meeting often is based upon the Project Charter. The deliverable for each item of the Charter is presented
and explained to the stakeholders.
Project Punch List
The Punch List is a technique borrowed from construction projects. When conducting
Stakeholder Meetings, gaps are often identified between what the stakeholders wanted from the deliverables and what
is being supplied by the project team. The Punch List is used to manage the closure of those gaps. As a deliverables
is presented - whether in a Stakeholder Meeting, pilot run, or Beta test - any gaps or deviations are listed and placed
upon the Punch List. The project team then identifes the cost and schedule impact of completing the Punch List items
and they come to an agreement with the stakeholders concerning which items they must complete and the end point of
those new tasks. Both the stakeholders and the project team manage the effort to the Punch List. Stakeholders cannot
continue to add items and the Project Team must complete all the items on the list. This technique will quickly drive
the project to closure.
The Lessons Learned process is usually tailored to the organization. If the organization
has a PMO the Lessons Learned process is nomrally a formal part of project closeout. When there
is no PMO, often any Lessons Learned activities are done informally if at all. When I conduct Lessons Learned sessions,
I follow a four step process.
Evaluate the Business Case - The first question I ask is whether the project created the
business benefit that was used to justify approving the project. This question is less about how
well the project team did and is much more focused on senior management and the project selection and
approval process. The lessons learned at this point improve the ability of the organization to
select projects and to establish realistic project charters.
Evaluate the Project Plan - This question addresses how well the project manager and project
management team planned the project. It concerns topics like: a) identification of required activities,
b) cost and schedule estimates, c) risk factors, and d) team integration and communication.
Evaluate the Project Management Methodology - This question addresses whether the organization's
procedures and systems were beneficial for the project or not. It includes asking questions like:
a) Are procedures current and relevant? b) Are checklists and templates current and relevant? c)
Are the mandated reviews and control points appropriate? and d) Is the PMIS useful?
Evaluate Team and Personal Performance - The team then considers how well they executed the plan and followed
the methodology. This is normally a self-assessment by the team and can be aided with techniques such as 360 reviews.
With respect to formal personal performance appraisals, I recommend that this be done for the core team members on all
large projects. The method for conducting the performance appraisal must be accomplished in
accordance with local Human Resource practices.