What do you do, when redeployments, crises and lockdowns force your project to close early?
As project manager, you have to be prepared for a little bit of everything. Including, that priorities can shift, schedules can change and that your project can be terminated practically overnight. I experienced this last summer, when I, in the wake of Covid-19, was told to close a project in 6 days. Based on the experiences I gained from this, I can now give you some tips for how project closure can be executed.
Sometimes it has to be quick
Imagine, that you for around 16 months have been leading an IT-development project for a customer. 2 months earlier, the project had had its investment decision approved and you are only a few weeks away from publishing a tender. But on short notice, it is decided that a number projects (including yours) have to be paused, and a reprioritization of the project portfolio has to be carried out. This gives you around a week to close down the entire project with everything that that entails, including cancelations, stakeholder-involvement and archiving of all documentation. Oh right, you also have an unavoidable family-vacation, taking up your whole weekend. In other words: You are in a hurry!
Remember to prioritize
With close to 100 tasks and only 6 days to complete them, it is important to prioritize. And it is not unimportant, what you prioritize in a project closure. Depending on whether you will potentially be returning to the project later, or maybe never be working on it again, there are a number of things you have to consider. In my case, the most important things were:
- Ensuring that the project participants were given a proper conclusion to the process, so they understood the decision and were motivated to participate again, if the project were to be resumed.
- Ensuring high quality handover and documentation, so it was easy to make sense of the project’s contents and status for the managers tasked with the reprioritization.
- That I acted in a professional manner, even though it was strange having to end a project I cared about, on such short notice.
Closure in under 50 hours
First and foremost: A project closure is challenging. So, if you ever find yourself in a similar situation, my experience might be able to function as a guide for you – both when it comes to tasks, but also the total time consumption.
So, what did I learn?
It might sound simple, but first and foremost it is important to be know, that a fast closing of your project can happen at any time. Second lesson – especially with public projects – is to never get too far behind on updating and archiving your project documentation. I was challenged by the project assistant having gone on vacation, so I myself had to handle a lot of archiving. It was only made possible, because we just beforehand had passed a gate, so the project documentation was fully updated and archived properly.
The third and perhaps most important lesson, is that it is okay to be affected by having to close a project you care about, but that it is possible to do it in a professional way.