The ‘lessons learned’ from a completed project should be archived and serve as a knowledge center for future projects and project teams.
As we’ve already established in our blog post on the project management life cycle, a project needs a clear beginning, middle – and end. It’s important to establish a formal project closure to get the final acceptance from the client, and it also serves as an indication to the project team that the project is officially over. You should also use the project closure to get as well as give feedback.
In most projects, there will be two close-outs: the administrative close-out and the contract close-out. The administrative closure includes activities such as collecting and analyzing project documents, assessing the scope and the deliverables, analyzing the project’s success, and creating a final project report. The contract closure includes making sure that all criteria for a project closure are met, i.e. that the final product or service was delivered and is to the client’s satisfaction, i.e. verifying that the deliverable meets the contract terms.
Checklist Close-out Meeting
- To retain and transfer knowledge
- To assess review the project and identify the lessons learned
- To get customers official acceptance of the final deliverable
- To officially close the project
- To make sure that any potential outstanding activities and tasks are assigned to the right people
- There should be a final project report, or close-out report, at the end of the meeting
- The report should capture: what went well, what were the challenges, the lessons learned, recommended future actions, and any information you think would be helpful to future projects and teams.
- Project manager
- Project team
- Project sponsor
- Important project stakeholders (e.g. the client)
- Not obligatory, but a good addition: moderator/facilitator who is not directly involved in the project. This will ensure a structured meeting procedure and also the necessary objectivity to lead the meeting effectively.
Before the meeting
- The close-out meeting should be planned right from the beginning, or at least early on. It should even be included as part of the project deliverables.
- It’s important to hold the meeting very soon after the team has finished the deliverables.
- Make sure to set the date of the meeting around the main attendees’ schedules
- Create a meeting agenda: get input from the participants and add agenda to the meeting minutes before the meeting
- Send agenda to participants beforehand so they can prepare for the meeting
- Prepare visualization such as presentations or flipcharts
- Prepare important project materials, e.g. project plan, project scope and requirements specification statements, relevant data analyses, budget reports etc.
- Prepare discussion questions, here are some example questions:
- What went really well?
- How can we replicate the successes in future projects?
- What challenges did we meet and how did we manage the challenges?
- How could we have managed the challenges better?
- Did we stay on budget, scope and time? How much did it deviate from the project plan?
- Did everyone know exactly what their responsibilities and role was?
- Did we assess and manage risks effectively?
- What risks and changes did we fail to anticipate?
- How can we assess unforeseen events better?
- How can we used the gained experience and knowledge for future projects?
- What recommendations can we give future projects, managers and teams?
During the meeting
- Team identifies, discusses and documents project successes,
- Identify areas for improvement, lessons learned, recommendations for future projects etc.
- Discuss the next steps and any possible outstanding project actions
- Follow the meeting agenda to keep meeting focused
- Meeting agenda:
- Explanation of the purpose of the meeting
- Introduction of participants that are not known to everyone (e.g. the outside moderator or external stakeholders)
- Introduction of the project
- Evaluation of project
- Identifying lessons learned
- Next steps
- Official project closure
- Evaluation of project success: by looking at planned and actual deliverables, comparing achievements with the project’s objective, indicators such as quality and ROI.
- Lessons learned:
- What went right and what went wrong
- What can be improved, e.g. processes, methods, strategies, productivity etc.
- Recommendations for future projects
- Feedback: request and give feedback to project team
- Discuss next steps:
- Outstanding tasks or project follow-up activities
- Creating final close-out report
- Make project documentation, including close-out report, available to future projects and teams, i.e. retain knowledge
- Officially close project:
- Officially mark project as “Finished”
- Acknowledge team’s achievement
- Celebrate successful project completion
After the meeting
- Immediately write up meeting minutes including important decisions and action items
- Get approval for the meeting minutes and send it to participants
- Create close-out report
- Project manager reviews report
- Send close-out report to project team, project sponsor and other meeting attendees
- Add close-out report to project folder and archive it
- Make folder accessible to future project teams
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