Last Friday, I completed an assignment I have been working on for a year.
It felt strange to leave an initiative that has monopolized my waking and sleeping hours for so long. One minute I'm attending meetings and completing tasks and the next I'm not.
The ending of an assignment is my least favourite phase of a project because:
- Any end date seems premature; there is always more to do to embed a change
- The pace moves from fast and dynamic to slow and methodical
- There's a sense of loss just before saying goodbye to a team and goal you care about
Transition planning is important for success. As someone once advised me, "people only remember beginnings and endings; everything else is grey". Unless something has gone very wrong in the middle, the beginning and end define the perceived success of an initiative.
Not everyone follows this advice. I have observed leaders who have quickly exited a project, motivated by the prospects of a new role. Invariably, this impacts people's views on the level of success and how the project was managed.
So here are 10 ways to end a project well:
- Ensure everything has a new home—tasks without an owner won't get done
- Create a list of future actions that will increase the project's success—what would you do if you were still on the project?
- Offer your availability for quick calls or emails to give advice or answer questions—it only takes a few minutes to share your knowledge and add value
- Document lessons learned—what worked well and what didn't, what insights did you gain from the project, what will you do differently next time?
- Create an archive of the project—include business case, outcomes, plan, implementation modifications, results and key documents
- Say goodbye to your team members—sharing your appreciation of them and their support is a must
- Say thank you to the leader who brought you onto the assignment—showing appreciation for the opportunity is also a must.
- Delete any future assignment meetings on your calendar—if not, you will continue to be mentally engaged
- Take a moment to celebrate the successes you contributed to—it helps reinforce your learning and acknowledge your hard work
- Plan to do something completely different the week after you exit—a vacation, different project work or personal or business commitments break your routine and focus your thoughts on other things
How you end a project has significant impact on its and your success. Doing so with the same commitment and rigour as you had at the beginning (and middle) phases ensures that you will transition well. It also prepares you for a new beginning.