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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. Sometimes there are individuals who recommend strongly to close a project and cause conflicts within the project team. The best approach to terminate a project is to create a true business case with hard facts and figures as to why the project should not continue. One example of handing termination of a project is to cut the losses and simply pay up on the outstanding debts without incurring any further debts (Sims, 2010).

Another action that is recommended to minimize leadership conflicts during the closing stage is to summarize through simple verbal sharing or by survey. The project team can capture lessons learned throughout the project(Kloppenborg, Shriberg, & Venkatraman, 2003, p. 89). Lessons learned should be shared throughout the project life cycle. This is not just a cumulative report, but an ongoing revisiting of best practices along the way. Cooperative leaders can give each other a missing piece to the project requirements by sharing best practices along the way. A simple blank board can take competing leaders and redirect their energy towards brainstorming what best practices to capture.

Another action is releasing and rewarding project members to move on to other projects (Kloppenborg, Shriberg, & Venkatraman, 2003, pp. 90-91). The benefit of allowing members to move on is that it can re-charge the member and the project manager can reward the member by offering a strong recommendation of this member to the next project manager. Some rewards are monetary or public, some are just a quick call or personal note. This reassignment of personnel also mitigates any personality conflicts that project team members have with each other as the project winds down.

The conclusion is that leaders have to have followers, conflicts usually arise when everyone wants to lead and no one wants to follow. The challenge with individuals on the project who don’t defer decisions to the project manager is that there is usually a missed task or unmanaged risk. The project manager must handle strong personalities one person at a time. Most dominate personalities are putting on a public show for the project team. When the team member is one on one, there is less defensive posturing and more willingness to listen and compromise on a position.

References:

Kloppenborg, T. J., Shriberg, A., & Venkatraman, J. (2003). Project leadership. Vienna, VA: Management Concepts, Inc.
Sims, S. (2010, April 15). Spring Ridge project shuts down.

Larry Gunter, MBA is a Training Development Consultant at Verizon Wireless. You can read more from Larry on his blog, and you can contact him via his LinkedIn profile.

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