I’m sure some of you have led projects where everything appeared to be going swimmingly right up to the finish line only to find that you had somehow stepped into the project equivalent of the Hotel California. Everyone has a desire to wrap things up and move on to whatever is next but transition seems like it will never end.
While there might have been some reasons late in the life of the project as to why this unfortunate situation occurred, in most cases, problems with ending projects cleanly can be traced back to something that was missed early in the life of the project. This is why Stephen Covey’s second Habit “Begin with the end in mind” is so apropos. Not only does this encourage key stakeholders to share their understanding of the project’s outcomes to help in crafting the project charter, it also reminds the project manager to start to ask important questions of how the end of the project will be handled including:
- Who will be taking ownership for each of the key deliverables? If a RACI chart or similar staff assignment matrix is being used, an additional identifier could be added to indicate this.
- Who is responsible for ongoing monitoring and reporting of benefits realization and when will they be engaged?
- What are the expectations around “warranty” support for completed deliverables?
Transition activities can be identified and planned based on the answers to these questions.
When major changes occur or a significant milestone has been achieved, the impact on these transition activities should be considered. For example, if a deliverable has significantly changed or a new one introduced, ownership of that deliverable, impacts on benefits tracking and support needs might have also changed.
It is also a good idea to know when enough is enough and to articulate that up front too. I’ve seen some projects drag on for too long till someone finally shows the leadership to put them out of their misery.
I’ve been a fan of the fantasy TV series Doctor Who dating back to my distant childhood memories of hiding behind our living room sofa when Daleks threatened the Earth. While each of the actors (and now actresses) who have portrayed the titular character have been memorable, Tom Baker will always be THE Doctor to me. When it was his time to hand over the mantle to his successor, Peter Davison, his final line from the episode was particularly meaningful as he regenerates into the Fifth Doctor: “It’s the end…but the moment has been prepared for.”
Has the end of your project been prepared for?