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Keys To Successful Postmortems – Part I: Setting Up the Meeting

Keys To Successful Postmortems – Part I: Setting Up the Meeting
By Mark Calabrese

Part of closing out any project, outage, service restoration team effort or any initiative whether successful or otherwise (and it’s even more critical on the “or otherwise”) is the postmortem. Too often, this milestone in the ‘Closing’ phase of a project is either ignored or not fully exploited. I’d like to share some guidelines on conducting a successful postmortem that net useable results.

Note that the guidelines below are not meant to be all-inclusive. Use your judgement on what to add, modify or ignore. In Part I, we’ll focus on the meeting itself (timing, participants, etc.):

  • Setting Expectations: Make it known either at the start of a project, early in the SRT (service restoration team) effort during an outage or just as a general principle of your management style that you will hold a postmortem after project or issue closure.
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How a Project Manager Should Handle Project Closing Stage Conflicts

How a Project Manager Should Handle Project Closing Stage Conflicts
By Larry Gunter

Given that leadership conflicts are taking place during the project’s closing stages, here are a few recommended leadership actions. One action that is important is project evaluation (Kloppenborg, Shriberg, & Venkatraman, 2003, p. 86). The project post – launch assessment is important to determine the resource and cost constraints and containment within the project budgets. If there were shortages on personnel then human resources may be in conflict with department leaders. If there were cost overruns then the finance leaders may be in conflict with project teams. The best action is to create an objective report that summarizes the utilization of resources and finances throughout the project schedule.

Another action that is recommended is terminating a project that does not need to continue (Kloppenborg, Shriberg, & Venkatraman, 2003, p. 87). This requires the project sponsors, the project manager and core team to conclude that continuation of the project is not necessary. Read the Complete Article

Project Closeout

Project Closeout
By Merrie Barron and Andrew R. Barron

Every project needs to end and that’s what project closeout is all about in the last phase of the project lifecycle. The whole point of the project is that you need to deliver what you promised. By making sure you delivered everything you said you would, you make sure that all stakeholders are satisfied and all acceptance criteria has been met. Once that happens, your project can finish (Figure 1).

I finished the project on time and on budget!

Figure 1: The potential unwanted consequences of finishing a project on time and within budget!

Project closeout is often the most often neglected phase of all the project lifecycle. Once the project is over, it’s easy to pack things up, throw some files in a drawer, and start moving right into the initiation phase of the next project. Hold on! You’re not done yet!

The key activity in project closeout is gathering project records and disseminating information to formalize acceptance of the product, service or project as well as to perform project closure. Read the Complete Article

A Complete Guide to Closing Projects

A Complete Guide to Closing Projects
By Michael L Young

Forget seagull management or the never-ending story – your project needs closure!

Organizations characterized by a lot of project activity often finish them as quickly as possible, wash their hands of them and rush headlong into the next job at hand. Some are just left to eventually fade out. Team members gradually disappear, move onto the next shiny, new assignment or just keep hanging around finishing stuff off. In both cases it’s unlikely they adopt valuable, formal ‘close out’ processes.

Why ‘Close’?

By definition, a project has a start and an end. So it’s vital that each of those key milestones is properly planned and managed to achieve optimum success. With the project management industry growing rapidly and on a steep learning curve, it’s more important than ever to pay attention to how assignments end. Many organizations don’t manage closures well. Read the Complete Article

Project Post Mortem Review Questions

Project Post Mortem Review Questions
By Michael Greer


It’s important for project managers and team members to take stock at the end of a project and develop a list of lessons learned so that they don’t repeat their mistakes in the next project. Typically such reviews are called post-project reviews or “post mortems.” I recommend a two step process for conducting these reviews:

  1. First, prepare and circulate a whole bunch of specific questions about the project and give team members time to think about them and prepare their responses individually.
  2. Next, hold a meeting and discuss the team’s responses to the questions. The result of this discussion is often a list of “Lessons Learned.”

The benefit of the first step, done individually by team members, is that it allows the quieter, more analytical people to develop their responses to the questions without being interrupted by the more outgoing, vocal types who might otherwise dominate in the face-to-face meeting. Read the Complete Article

Project Closure: Planning the End

Project Closure: Planning the End
By Brian EganGlobal Knowledge

Closing a project is, in itself, a project. Everything has to be ‘finalized’ in some way – every deliverable, every expectation. A recent client of mine was not really understanding the closure idea. This person was sure (s)he could just hand the product over to the client, and that was the end. But, you should use a formal process every time!

The end requires a process; a set of procedures that close out all the elements of the project. If there is software for example, there must be some way for the client to acknowledge that the product meets the requirements. So, an acceptance test plan needs to be created.

The closure process also requires a formal meeting that specifies the end is near and establishes a processes to finalize the handover or ‘go live’ of the software. At this point, you also obtain the final authorization signatures that signify the project is closed. Read the Complete Article

Closing a Project – Lessons Learned

Closing a Project – Lessons Learned (#38 in the Hut Introduction to Project Management)
By JISC infoNet

All projects should document their lessons learned. In considering what types of lessons may be learned projects tend to fall into two types:

  • the project that is expected to achieve an outcome – the achievement being the reason the project is started
  • the project that is started to enable the organisation, or the external funder, or similar organisations to learn – a feasibility project, proof of concept, or a project where a methodology is being tested

The success of the first type of project is dependent upon the outcome being achieved. If it is forecast that the outcome cannot be achieved to an acceptable quality there is little point in continuing to expend resource on it.

The success of the second type of project is the learning that comes out of it. If the end outcome cannot be achieved the project can still be a success if it shows why the outcome cannot be achieved or, that the outcome cannot be achieved in the way that the project was attempting to achieve it. Read the Complete Article

How to Capture Lessons Learned

How to Capture Lessons Learned
By Gina Abudi

Do you capture your lessons learned? If you do, how effectively do you capture them?

There are many reasons why lessons learned are not captured, or, if they are captured, not used, including:

  • Lack of time
  • Lack of management support
  • Lack of resources
  • Lack of clear guidelines around collecting the information
  • Lack of processes to capture information
  • Lack of knowledge base to store and search information captured for future use

We all have good intentions to do so, but often don’t get around to effectively capturing lessons learned from projects. Often, if we do try to capture lessons learned, we do so at the very end of the project – getting the team together to try to remember what worked and what didn’t. With short projects – maybe just a few weeks in duration – this might work well some of the time. Read the Complete Article

Old Projects Never Die – They Just Fade Away

Old Projects Never Die – They Just Fade Away
By Kiron D. Bondale

You thought that this day would never come – the scope of your project has been delivered and you are ready to close out the project. Your team breathes a sigh of relief and looks forward to some well earned time off. Unfortunately, the project closeout phase can sometimes cause more grief than all the other project phases combined.

Here are some tips on how to drain your project swamp before your team becomes mired in closeout quicksand.

  1. Avoid closeout criteria confusion. Before you and your customer sign off (formally or informally depending on your project management governance practices) on your project plan, make sure that there is a clear definition of acceptance conditions that should be met for the project to be closed out. Then, re-check those conditions and make sure that you and your customer have the same understanding of them.
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The Final Project Report

The Final Project Report (#7 in the series How to Close Out a Project)
By Michael D. Taylor

This series discloses important aspects of closing out a project by describing the following aspects:

The purpose of the final project report is to document the history of the project in such a way that others can benefit from knowing its strengths and weaknesses.

The following key aspects1 should be included in this report:

  • Overall success of the project: If a success model or success criteria were used, how successful was this project? This judgment can be very subjective unless a quantifiable model was established.
  • Organization of the project. How effective was the organization of the project, and was it altered as the project progressed? What recommended changes might be offered for other similar projects?

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