Closing a project is not always as easy as it sounds, in fact sometimes it can be incredibly difficult. Here are some tips to help ease your pain as a project manager when you try to get that (at times) elusive project close.
Most project managers will wait until the end of a project to start thinking about closure. But why couldn’t you start this activity mid-project? During the execution of your project, there should be some (if not total) stability when it comes to deliverables and acceptance criteria, so why not start putting focus to those and make sure that your project plan is driving towards acceptance of those deliverables and meeting that acceptance criteria. Nothing will sink morale of a project team (not to mention cause you headaches as a PM) more than a missed deliverable or misunderstood acceptance criteria. By having these conversations early, it will enable you to pivot direction as needed when the cost of pivoting is cheaper rather than at the very tail end of the project.
Be Respectfully Persistent
Most customers will be responsive to proactive measures taken to ensure a successful project close but there are those who may not value the significance of getting in front of this (not to mention those customers who may try to extend the project for their own gain). It’s crucial that the project manager apply gentle persistence to ensure that either acceptance is provided or commentary on why acceptance cannot be provided. Don’t badger your customer but don’t let them off the hook either. Regular touch-points prior to having these discussions is a great way to knock down the barrier of silence when it comes to discussing project acceptance. Radio silence should not be an acceptable option.
Like any other activity, being prepared is the key to success. Doing the legwork and paperwork required to move forward with a project acceptance and close is vital. As a project sponsor, even the most forthright of people will ask for proof that you’ve delivered what you said you would. Having deliverable signoff combined with the terms of the contract is an ironclad approach to preparing yourself and your customer for project close. Nothing will inspire confusion and concern in a client than a project manager asking for project acceptance with nothing to back it up.
Closing a project off is often an overlooked activity, something that the project manager ‘just does’ at the end of the project. It is however, critical to the proper execution of a project to get proper acceptance and closure. By being proactive, persistent and prepared you can get ahead of the game when it comes to project closure.
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