Ending Well !

Updated: Sep 13, 2020


How to close out your project with confidence.

Project Closure or Phase Closure: The process of finalizing all activities to formally complete a project, or a phase of a project.

It has been said that the most difficult part about a project is getting it started; and that the next most difficult part is getting it stopped. Why is this? Well, for those who live in a northern climate it is a little bit like getting a snowball to roll down hill. Just like that snowball you had to put a lot of time and energy into getting your project started. You had to pack the snow and making sure the conditions were right you had to give it a big push to get it starting to move. Sometimes it stopped and you had to push it again to get it started. Eventually, just like your project, it took on a life of its own and began to go down the hill faster and faster getting bigger and bigger. Now, as it gets to the end, you have to stop it. This is the time to clean up, close the files, and say "Good Bye."

Question: How do you know when it’s time to close the project?

Answer: When any of these occur:

1. The project Objective has been obtained.

2. The Product being developed is saleable.

3. The System is debugged.

4. The essential Support is withdrawn from the project.

A few special obstacles face us as we reach the end of a project’s Life Cycle. Have you ever encountered any of these?

i) The picture is so big that people lose focus on the small amount of work

remaining to be done.

ii) Team members lose motivation because most of the challenge is gone

iii) Team members “drag on” the work because they don’t want the project to


iv) Your project has become the “slush fund” against which everyone charges

their miscellaneous time and expenses.

v ) Everyone wants to be involved; especially those who were never on the


vi) You try to close out the project only to find that the Client says you’re not


vii) The client wants to run the plant (or other project deliverable) on your project costs.

viii) You built it but no one knows how to use it.

ix) You’re getting pressure from your boss to start another large project.

The KEY to closing your project or phase successfully is to start a mini-project of

the few remaining things to be done, and close the original main project as much as possible.

  • Creating a mini-project of the few things remaining to be done, lets us focus in on that much smaller scope.

To manage your mini-project well, there are 7 simple steps to follow. They are:

          1. Make a deficiencies list. This is the mini-project's Scope

          2. List the goals to be completed

          3. Make plan for the mini-project's Scope and Time

          4. Set a budget for the mini-project

          5. Plan the Human and Physical Resources needed for the mini-project

          6. Monitor and Control the outcome of the mini-project

          7. Get a sign-off of completion of the mini-project.

Follow these steps and you will end your project with confidence. 

          Explanations for these 6 steps are shown below:

1. Make a Deficiencies List (sometimes called a “Punch List”) to identify the

    Perceived Needs of the remaining work. This list of work that remains to be done

    becomes the "What" (Scope) of your mini-project. Be sure to include Key

    Stakeholders and get their input for this step. Get a signed agreement from your

    sponsor that this will be the end! Period!

  • Be cautious at this step not to invite scope creep.  The original project scope is still the approved mandate. Zero in on what was originally agreed to. Clearly identify what is included and what is not included in your mini-project.

  • ​Be sure to define a clear cut-off to the end of your mini-project. Be able to say, "When these things are done, our whole project is finished."

2. List the Goals for the completion of your mini-project. From Step 1 (above) you

    already have "What" to do (the Scope), so now list "When" you want this finished

    (the time) and "How Much" it is to cost (the Cost). Remember to make goals


3. Make the Scope and Time Plan for your mini-project. The planning will be similar

    to your original project plan but can now be more detailed and accurate based

    upon how much more you now know about this specific project. Write out these plans

for your mini-project, which will contain:

                   -the remaining work to be done

                   -training plans (if applicable)

                   -requirements for manuals and other documentation (if applicable)

                   -a schedule of the remaining work to be done. Set a final end date

                   -verifications needed

                   -start-up procedures

                   -performance parameters, quality measurables

                   -methods to be used for measurements

                   -steps for turning over the project to the owner, or sponsor, or client

4. Set a budget for this mini-project. Ensure that the funds are allocated and you

    have approval to spend.

5. Plan the Human and Physical Resources needed for your mini-project project.

    Select the team for getting this mini-project done. Sometimes this means new

    people on the team or a whole new team. On a construction project there may be

    an entire new team that does commissioning and start-up, for example. Confirm

    that the needed resources are available.

Remember to arrange for the disposition of un-required team members. Help displaced team members to find other work.  If they cannot be useful on one of your projects, talk to other Project Managers about their good performance. If their performance was not good, release them as fast as your project allows. This simple act helps build your reputation as a Professional Project Manager and motivates other people to want to be on one of your teams.

For physical resources remember to dispose of un-required tools, supplies, and equipment. Rentals can be very expensive so return them if not required. Tools and supplies may be useable for another project so return them for others to use.

6. Monitor and Control the execution of your mini-project just like any other project. 

    This smaller project will be much simpler to control than the larger original project

    you started with. Put control mechanisms in place such as new procedures if

    required. Develop and use monitoring and controlling tools that are 'right sized' to

    your new mini-project, such as

  • Logs

  • Field Reports

  • an Organizational Chart

  • a Project Charter

7.  Get a sign – off of completion. Also, assertively advocate for a sign off of partial

     completion whenever you can. This way you can concentrate on a smaller and

     smaller scope to be completed.

          -Anyone who has the power to accept or reject the deliverables must be 

           required to examine and approve them after they are built.

           -If it is not appropriate for the client to give you a sign off, then you send a

            confirmation letter or memo. When you send it, assume the “default position”

            that it is completed.

Your mini-project is now complete and so is you whole (main) project. Do you see how the mini-project approach

solves the obstacles you can encounter in closure? Let's review these:  CLICK HERE, then come back to read on!


The very last thing you will do in your project is the Clean Up. You can read

A Word About Schedules, below, then click on this CLEAN UP LINK to see that page


QUESTION: What type of schedule would you use at the closure phase of your project ?

ANSWER: Probably a Gantt Chart of the remaining things to be done (your mini-project).

QUESTION: Why would a Gantt Chart be the appropriate tool at this phase ?


a) Gantt Chart is probably sufficient for the low remaining level of complexity.

b) It is an easy schedule to produce with minimum effort

b) Only a few items remain in the Scope of your mini-project. Your Gantt chart might fit on one page

c) It is very easy to track progress on a Gantt chart

In your Gantt chart for your mini-project REMEMBER to include

-milestones as control points

- the final closure date

-time to write reports such as

-“end of project” report

-“lessons learned” report

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