5 Keys to Project Closure Success

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Projects don’t last forever, and the project manager’s role doesn’t either. Both are temporary endeavors with a beginning and an end. While initiating projects can be a challenge, closing or transitioning a project can be extremely difficult. A major obstacle to closing successfully is the transition of ownership from the PM to the business owner(s). The business owner is the person or team that will own the process or product after implementation. What makes the transfer of ‘ownership’ such a challenge for PMs? The culprit usually lies in the way the project was initiated. How can we ensure a smooth transition when the project ends? Here are 5 things PMs can do to make it happen:

  1. Begin with the end in mind by defining success upfront. When you ask the question, “What is Success”, you will surprised at the number of unique perspectives depending on who you ask. While you may not build consensus 100%, the key is to ensure a common understanding of your destination. More importantly, the definitions should be supported by metrics that you can measure in the end.
  2. Clarify roles, responsibilities and expectations early. The best way to accomplish this task is through a candid conversation. Avoid PM jargon and textbook definitions. This is your  opportunity to educate your business owner in case this is a new role for him or her.
  3. Incorporate ownership transition as part of the project plan. Be specific and outline the tasks in explicit terms. Lessons learned meetings alone will not ensure closure. The future state requires a plan, which will include business processes, support and change management, all of which business owners need to be concerned about.
  4. Keep business owners engaged throughout the project. Status reports and recurring meetings are always important to keep engagement high. However, these do not always guarantee alignment. Therefore, you need to develop a relationship based on trust and communication. Plan to meet informally from time to time, to ensure that you are aligned along the way. Engage early and often!

How you start a project will dictate how the project ends.  Start strong and you will finish strong!

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