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No Close Down Plan Or Post Mortem For Ending A Project – Project Management Mistake # 14 (#14 in the series 15 Deadly Project Management Mistakes Government Agencies Make Which Cost Them Revenue, Time & Efficiency)
By Keith MathisPM Expert Live

One of the great strengths of having your project team trained is how they handle the close down and post mortem of the project. Our trainers have asked countless attendees during each course how many of them utilize a close down plan and a post mortem for ending a project. Ninety-nine percent indicate their agency and project teams bypass this process.

Project managers in the position of deciding how to close down a project properly and to conduct a post mortem are hindering the future development that can be learned by not including these two pieces in their planning. The close down plan brings the project to an effective close while handing it off to the customer without any gaps in service, quality, or communication. During the post mortem section of the project, the project team recognizes, analyzes, and documents what has gone right with the project as well as what has gone wrong.

Why use a close down plan

Closing a project down properly can assist the project team in the following two ways. First, it allows the project team to pass the project off to the customer in a structured and orderly manner. This allows time for the customer to receive the project and to make sure that there are no gaps in service and to educate the customer in ways to maintain the project at its highest level of quality. Second, without clear close down plans, the project team and the project manager might inadvertently leave bills and portions of the project undone. The project close down plan guarantees that the project team is functioning in a structured manner and that they are driving the project to its needed end. It reinforces meeting all objectives and deliverables of the project.

Reasons for a post mortem

It is rather confusing why many organizations are neglecting to participate in the process of conducting a post mortem at the end of a project. It appears they are very much unaware that a post mortem can assist in being able to create the best practices while also modernizing many of their processes and techniques for future projects. Sometimes project sponsors feel that the advancement of new processes and techniques does not justify the time it takes to conduct a thorough post mortem.

It is clear that this level of thinking is more of a myth and is distorting the overall process and success rate of projects. Unless project sponsors buy into the fact that post mortems are effective and that they must be included to determine the success or failure rate of a project, they will not be followed by the project team. Post mortems create concrete data that allow all parties to make decisions that will change the course of future projects and will move everyone away from generalities of measurement to a more precise manner.

Post mortems do not need to take a large period of time. Post mortems can take place in a streamlined fashion in which the project team, along with the project manager, conduct a brainstorming activity and analysis of the good, the bad, and areas they would change on future projects. This streamlined fashion of conducting a post mortem will increase the effectiveness of future teams in a quantitative manner. Just for the record, one common change based on this level of data can increase the effectiveness of future projects anywhere from 5% to as much as 33%. This alone justifies the inclusion of it.

As a result of conducting post mortems, each team is building the necessary data to create the best practices which will streamline the process in a future project while increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of everyone. This level of understanding reduces the need of trial and error and allows project teams to function using proven processes that have already produced success.

Dr. Keith Mathis, founder and CEO of The Mathis Group, specializes in Project Management, Management Leadership, and Marketing training for private businesses and government agencies of all kinds. He offers 33 Project Management courses, is a Project Management Professional, is certified by the Project Management Institute and will customize every training session to your individual company’s needs. The Mathis Group also sponsors www.pmexpertlive.com, which is a powerful project management resource with free reports, podcasts, videos, and a monthly newsletter. He also offers customized management training and coaching on any subject with prolific communication and professionalism.

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