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Closing a Project or Phase

Closing is one of the most neglected activities in project management. Project managers are often assigned the next project or ready to move to the next phase of a project and just can’t take the time to properly verify all the activities of the phase or do everything to close down the phase or project. So it is important to actually plan closing into your project schedule, and set up the verification and measurement deliverables around the closing activities. Closing means closing a phase or a project, not just closing the project down. In this exercise, we will explore closing for both processes.

Closing a Phase
First, for closing of project phases, a closing process ensures you have performed all activities for the phase. You might pass through a phase gate, a stage gate, or a kill point according to your industry practices. After the work of the phase is complete, and measurements have been reviewed, a group of decision makers decides to move on to the next phase, possibly make some corrections to the current phase, and sometimes, cancel the project entirely if warranted. You may have moved onto the next phase already, because the team needed to get started on the next phase, but you still need to close out this phase. At this point, you might also conduct a lessons learned to explore what you could have done better. This information can be used for another project going through the same type of project phase. Completing one phase of a project is also a good place to celebrate with the team. Here are some specific steps you can take to close a phase in a project:

Make sure you understand all of the deliverables and quality audits that must be passed to move out of a phase. The deliverables should be in your project plan.

Gather measurements and reports that describe project or phase performance.

Create a checklist based on the deliverables and associated measurements completed showing their success. Prove completion or provide justification why the deliverable was not needed.

Receive approval from the customer or sponsor for the end of the phase and to move on to the next phase.

Store the documents from the phase in your project files. If they are to be changed, make sure you have a good process and justification for the changes.

Hold lessons learned as soon after the phase completion as possible. Try to get participation from as many stakeholders as possible.

Document the lessons learned in a nonjudgmental way, and share with the rest of your organization. Try and implement as many improvements in other projects as possible.