For the project manager, the closing process includes a set of important activities that are organizational, and these activities typically are not foremost in the minds of most project team members. Most of these organizational activities are procedural such as transitioning the project deliverable or closing procurements. Nonetheless, I think it’s important for all project stakeholders to apprise themselves of the closing processes to ensure that they constructively contribute to the transition process and transfer of knowledge. Several activities, however, I think are particularly important for all team members to participate in; these are lessons learned, celebration, and transfer of knowledge.
For me, lessons learned are also introspective. As I reflect on a project’s activity, I take into account how the activity affected me or how it can or did change me. This process has allowed me to accumulate useful experiences that I can take into future projects. It’s important to note that lessons learned is more than sharpening your technical skills; it also includes improving your ability to interact with people who have diverse interests. One of my largest and earliest failures taught me about the importance of measuring benefit from the client’s perspective.
My first foray into computer consulting occurred at the time IBM entered into the personal computer market. At that time, my attitudes about computers were heavily biased by my background in computer sciences. This bias prevented me from seeing the potential of the PC that was obvious to the business world. My opinion about PCs was strictly technical, and I rated PCs by performance. The first IBM PCs were grossly deficient in the technical aspects that mattered to me such as processor speed, memory, disk storage, and OS. In my opinion, the first PCs, which included IBM, Apple, and a host of other machines, were woefully inadequate to suit my perception. With metrics thoroughly researched, I made my first computer purchase based on optimal performance specs. The cost of this computer exceeded the price of an IBM PC by five times. Furthermore, this purchase consumed a major portion of my investment into my new company. I struggled for nearly a year trying to create a business around a technically superior computer, but I did not succeed. The crucial lesson I learned was to view the benefits of technology from the customer’s perspective and not only from my own. The business professional saw a huge potential in the IBM PC that greatly overshadowed its technical weaknesses. The potential become the driving force that made the IBM PC extremely successful, and I’m sure that I would have had better outcomes with my business had I understood the potential in those early IBM PCs.
Do not expect lessons learned to come to you as a series of epiphanies immediately at the end of project. A good practice is to maintain a written “what went right and what went wrong” log all during project execution. This log becomes invaluable at closing and after you have moved onto a new project.
Another closing activity that you should definitely perform is celebration. I believe that it’s important to celebrate your efforts without consideration of success or failure. Recall the unfortunate event I mentioned in my previous blog post. In spite of the troubles and delays the IDE project experienced, the project sponsor still believed that all its stakeholders deserved a celebratory event. Even though my participation was short, they included me. This celebration is particularly memorable because it was a black tie affair at a swanky club. The project sponsor hosted the event, and made the effort to recognize the contributions of the team members by including an awards ceremony. During my time with that company, I learned that their long term success was in great part due to upper management’s appreciation towards their employees.
Lastly, and from my perspective, the most important aspect of closing is the transfer of knowledge. The transfer of knowledge is crucial to the success of a project that becomes an operation within a company. The transfer of knowledge is also important even if the project is not integrated or added to a company’s operations. Knowledge is indeed an asset to an organization, so be proactive in ensuring that the knowledge gained from a project is added to the organization’s archive of knowledge.