People First Project Management

20 Questions to Ask When Closing a Project

Project closeout is a reason to cheer

I found a similar sentiment in an article by entrepreneur Faisal Hoque, “There’s an old Chinese saying that when you’ve made it 90% down the path, you’re halfway to your destination.” (Hoque, 2013)

Now be honest, Project Managers, how many of you have had similar thoughts as you approached the finish lines of your projects?

I can honestly say that every project I worked on during my four decades seemed to fit this pattern. However, it was never due to a lack of enthusiasm or excitement as the project neared completion. In fact, excitement typically heightened as we approached implementation.

In my opinion, it was that last 10% composed of the not-so-fun tasks to tie up loose ends, check off contract terms and conditions, and validate results against the client’s original project objectives were completed.

Perhaps that is why so few IT projects ever really close well. My observation is that even the most disciplined and experienced IT providers or corporate IT departments do not provide adequate closings to benefit future projects. When the last deliverable is accepted and signed off, the last payment made, and the system turned over to operations, the project is marked complete and the team disbursed to various new projects.

From a pure dollars and cents (and in my opinion, myopic) perspective it is argued that there is no immediate benefit to allocating the effort and resources to do a thorough closeout. For the external IT provider, this would require a higher initial bid amount to price in this task. Such additional cost would risk overpricing the procurement. Unless the client required a closeout task in its Request for Proposal, few IT firms would add the full cost of a thorough closeout.

Even if the client requests a formal closeout, they are typically only interested in a subset of what a project close should entail. The client may request something like an accounting of deliverable acceptances and required updates, a final report assessing project results against the initial business case, a review of how well client objectives were met, and a transfer of knowledge and responsibility to operations. This may satisfy the client, but it should not satisfy IT.

If the IT provider or corporate IT department wishes to keep improving their processes and project success rates, they should go much deeper in the closeout. However, to do so requires time, effort, and resources. Most IT organizations are anxious to move their staff to the next projects, rather than take the “downtime” that this level of post-project analysis would require.

I have been part of such organizations. Project closeouts were paid mere lip service. Oh, we might complete a Post-Implementation Evaluation Report (PIER). I personally produced my fair share of these. However, I never felt that the PIER really got to the heart of how successfully the project was executed. Our conclusions were mostly surface-level, gut-feel observations rather than deep analytical reviews.

The result was that when we then needed objective information from the project for a bid response or a project issue, such information was lacking. Instead, we would have to rely on the Project Manager’s (undoubtedly biased and fading) recollections of the lessons learned, which were often no longer useful. And the same mistakes were repeated on the next project, and the next project, and the next …

But what if it could be shown that extensive project closure of this nature could pay for itself many times over in future project deliveries?

  • potential liability was avoided by a thorough review (and mitigation, if necessary) of all project closure requirements?
  • future project risk could be averted?
  • client satisfaction improved, which then generated follow-on or new business?
  • future profitability improved as less money was left on the table due to poor practices?
  • there were fewer and fewer project failures?
  • the IT organization’s reputation was enhanced with each successful project completion?
  • the IT Project Manager’s reputation was enhanced with each successful project completion?

I believe each of these positive results is possible as the IT organization becomes more adept at analyzing its own performance. Additionally, much time and effort could be saved at the end of the project if similar analyses were performed at each phase-gate review. In my mind, the Closing Process is as important to the overall project management process as are any of the other process groups.

Project closing appears to be straightforward, at least at a high level, and should answer the following questions. Many of these are relevant to the client organization itself, but all are certainly relevant for the IT project delivery organization:

  • have all deliverables been completed, validated, and signed off by the client? have they been indexed and archived?
  • was the system transitioned fully to ongoing maintenance and operations (including transfer of knowledge and associated documentation)?
  • was final client project sign-off obtained?
  • were all project management processes completed? (for one such horror story, refer to my article, “The Lesson of the Quarterly Status Report” );
  • were project governance processes executed per the client organization’s requirements?
  • have all final invoices been submitted for payment?
  • have vendor and sub-contractor products and services invoices been received? Have they been paid?
  • were project objectives met per the project charter, scope delivered according to the project scope statement, and benefits realized per the benefits management plan?
  • was the Lessons Learned repository updated?
  • were stakeholder satisfaction surveys/interviews completed and analyzed?
  • were variance analyses performed to assess actual spending against budget, and actual milestone dates against scheduled dates?
  • were project management practices, team management practices, and client management practices conducted effectively?
  • was an audit of successes and failures conducted and results documented?
  • were assumptions and constraints reviewed in light of project execution?
  • was quality of the deliverables and the final product assessed against standards?
  • were risks and issues reviewed in terms of how each was handled, and how effectively they were managed?
  • was project staff involved in the closeout assessments to get a broader, less biased view of what was done well and what areas require improvement?
  • was a final project closeout report prepared?
  • were excess project material and surplus equipment reallocated for other uses?
  • were team member performance reviews completed and staff reassigned?

As the project is closed out, the Project Manager must also provide a way for her team and the client team to celebrate their accomplishments. Team members who had left the project in earlier phases should be included in the festivities.

No matter how well the process aspects of project delivery were executed, the project was delivered by people . People initiated the project. People executed the project. People should celebrate and be celebrated.

Hoque, Faisal (2013, August 20). Taming the Last 10%: Lessons for Finishing Meaningful Work. Fast Company, Leadership Now.

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Project Management

11 minute read

The Ultimate Project Close Out Checklist

Joseph Mapue

Joseph Mapue

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A project has to end, one way or another. It may take years to achieve its purpose, but once a project completes its life cycle (or fails to do so), it must be closed, extended, or transitioned. The stage where you formally terminate a project is called project close out, and many successful project managers swear by their project close out checklist

Want to close your project out right?

Download the ultimate project close out checklist!

What is a project?

Formally defined, a project is a unique and temporary undertaking specified by a set of parameters that includes its scope, objectives, component tasks, milestones, quality standards, budget, and schedule .

The terms “temporary” and “schedule” clearly differentiate a project from “normal”, “as usual”, or “ongoing” business operations such as corporate accounting, marketing, or human resources which all tend to run as open-ended functions or units of an organization. In contrast, projects such as house construction, website development, and wedding ceremonies obviously have start and end dates. In many ways, all projects are races against time, where you launch efforts at some point until you reach the finish line.

Much has been said about the hassles of starting a project, with many experts claiming it to be the most difficult part . Starting from scratch and mapping out how to get all the resources you need to achieve a project’s exacting goals can indeed be overwhelming. That is why conducting a successful kickoff meeting can really boost a project’s momentum as well as the stakeholders’ morale at the onset.

But formally closing a project the right way is equally important and requires the same level of attention project managers typically reserve for rolling out and running a new project.  


Why you need a closure strategy and a project close out checklist

You finally managed to reach the milestones in your Gantt chart, complete all deliverables, and quality-check the final product. As project manager, you might think it’s time to pat yourself on the back, reward the team for their efforts, and make plans for the next project.

STOP. There’s still much to be done and there’ll be time to celebrate later. Remember, neglecting to execute a closure strategy and to tick off a project close out checklist can, at the best of times, cause you to overlook valuable lessons from the project; or worse, prevent you from tying up loose ends, which can dampen your customers’ satisfaction and dent your rep as project manager.  

Crucial Tip : To nurture client trust and/or the confidence of upper management, always view the project from the vantage point of the customer before assessing it as a team insider.

There are many reasons why you should include a formal closure as a critical element in your project management workflow. A properly executed project closeout will help you to:

Complete all necessary paperwork

Business requirements, product specs, approvals, and other documentation constitute a significant chunk of project management, making it a rather daunting career for professionals who cringe at any hint of paperwork. But as the project draws to a close, much of the paperwork that remains will be mostly sign-offs for completed deliverables. A project closeout phase enables you to re-engage stakeholders, customers, and/or upper management executives authorized to a) review the relevant work requirements, b) check whether there are still pending tasks to be done, and c) sign off on completed deliverables. A final approval document establishes consensus and serves as legal proof that you and your team have duly performed your job and that your work is complete.

Keep team members focused

As a project nears completion, many stakeholders will have been freed of pressing tasks and will likely lose focus. Unless these talent resources have been formally released earlier, a project manager should ensure they remain focused, disciplined, and productive across the project lifecycle. A project close out meeting should help gain feedback from team insiders about their experiences and their thoughts on how to improve process. Some team members may also require non-salaried payments (as in the case of third-party contractors or freelancers) and these should be settled promptly to ensure they’ll be more than willing to get on board the next project.

Tie up loose ends

A close out checklist will help you address loopholes such as minor bugs and unfulfilled items on a wishlist through quick workarounds or adept management of expectations. A final review of the project scope and business requirements will help confirm the completeness of the team’s efforts.    

Clarify and ease transitions

Use the closeout phase to properly handover the project to its subsequent owner (such as the marketing department for a website, the homeowner for a newly constructed house, or the sales department for an online retail store). For corporate environments, this ensures that the finished project will be owned by the team most qualified to manage it. Project closure will also help release and transition talent resources promptly to their next assignments so that their participation in other projects will not be delayed unnecessarily.         

Conform with best practices

Project management is a standards-intensive field and the close out phase constitutes an important part of the practice. Neglecting to perform the necessary steps in this stage — even when you think you have completed all deliverables — sends a signal that you are not adopting best practices. Customers or senior executives who are familiar with the process will a) give you a lower performance score/feedback than you would have otherwise earned had you adhered, and b) likely pass you over for a more standards-compliant team for their next project.  

Enhance your project management credentials

Executing an excellent project close out shows that you are a diligent professional from start to finish and customers can rely on your project management experience 100%. Otherwise, failure to perform a satisfactory close out will portray your personal brand, team, and organization in a bad light and may tag you as an incompetent or mediocre practitioner.

Learn from wins and losses

Via a post mortem process , you can revisit the project, identify roadblocks, and determine which solutions, team structure, or workflows performed most efficiently. Regardless of whether the project lived up to, surpassed, or missed expectations, generate value by gathering insights and deriving practical lessons from the project. The next time you encounter a similar project, you’ll have another ace up your sleeve.        

Celebrate success

A project well done is worth celebrating. But there’s a caveat: celebrating before executing a proper close out process can backfire (what if there were still loose ends in the project that you missed out and the customer suddenly crashed your party to demand you fulfill your side of the bargain?). Otherwise, go ahead. Acknowledge everyone’s contributions, reward exceptional achievements, and seize inspiration for the next project.


Basic project closure steps you can use

Merely submitting deliverables constitutes a bad closure strategy. The close out phase entails several steps and a close out checklist for properly wrapping up all facets of a project.

Here are the key steps for formally closing a project:

  • Revisit the project scope, requirements, and final feature checklist. Make sure everything has been met 100%.
  • Secure approvals and signatures. Ensure full stakeholder approval or customer satisfaction about your work by getting them to sign off on relevant deliverables. Close all outstanding contracts and agreements with internal partners or third-party vendors.
  • Settle payments. Process outstanding invoices, commissions, fees, or bonuses. Build positive relationships by being prompt on payments. Note down variances , cost efficiencies, and other financial information that will help you optimize the budget for the next project.
  • Identify and document lessons learned. Conduct a thorough post mortem process. Gather feedback from all stakeholders. Highlight important issues and lessons learned that will help improve the quality, value, workflow, speed of completion, cost-efficiency, and team synergy of the next project.  
  • Finalize reports . Depending on your industry and organization, finalize all required reports for closing a project. Focus on insight-generating reports that will help improve the delivery of succeeding projects.
  • Index/archive project documentation. Archive relevant documents that were used in the project from start to finish, including business requirements, project plans, meeting minutes, financial documents, contracts, agreements, and other materials into your organization’s knowledge base. This will help improve corporate data analytics and provide relevant insight for subsequent projects.
  • Release project resources. Free up team members and resources (field equipment, technology tools, software , hardware, etc.) that are scheduled for inclusion in other projects. 
  • Handover project ownership. Officially transfer management of the completed project to the new owner. 
  • Conduct a project closeout meeting. Whenever possible , conduct a final project meeting involving all team members, stakeholders, and the new project owners to a) officially transition the project, b) explore issues, lessons, and opportunities, c) acknowledge outstanding efforts, and --
  • Celebrate. Letting your team and stakeholders chill and relax within an atmosphere of celebration and camaraderie can help energize and inspire them for the next major project.  


End your projects with a promise

A completed project deserves a well-executed close out. That is because formally closing a project leaves everyone with a clear promise: the next project will be as good or better than the last.

When project closing is part of the process, you have the perfect channel for the team to let out a sigh of relief, convey top-notch diligence, reinforce lessons learned, and celebrate success.

Want to improve your project management skills? Learn how to run a project from start to finish with the  Project Management for Business Professionals  course, or prep for your certification with the  PMP Certification Training Course .

This is the sixth article in our six-part How to be a Successful Project Manager series. Want to learn more? Check out the previous chapters in the series here:

1. How to kickoff a project the right way

2. How to have effective project communication

3. How to manage conflict during an engagement

4. How to create a workable project budget

5. How to manage changes during a project

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Joseph Mapue

Joseph Mapue wears his writer's hat wherever he goes, crafting top-notch content on business, technology, creativity, and innovation. He is also a dreamer, builder, father, and gamer.

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Project management

The 7-step project closure checklist to end on a high note

Alex York - Writer - Author

Starting a project is easy. Set your objectives, create a plan, and execute.

But what about project closure?

Too often, projects are never formally put to bed. They’re just “sort-of” closed. Small issues are left unresolved, which can come up later as big problems.

Don’t worry. We’re not going to let that happen to you.

Keep reading to get our 7-step checklist for closing a project the right way (and impressing your boss while you’re at it).

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What is project closure?

Project closure is the process of finalizing and finishing a project. It includes any task that will help wrap up lingering issues and archive project documents and files. 

If you’ve never done a formal project closure, you may wonder why it’s so important. The project’s done, right? Can’t we just clear our desks and move on?

You’d think so, but there are good reasons to properly close a project:

Validate : You met the expectations for the project, resolved all issues, and got the approvals needed to formally close the project.

Learn : Ensure you won’t repeat mistakes on future projects.

Grow : Allow yourself to improve your processes over time.

Measure : Provide proper reporting, so if an issue ever arises, it’s easy to see where the failure occurred. 

Update : Alert everyone involved that you're no longer working on the project or if the responsibilities have changed to a new owner.

Project closure usually happens at the end of a project, but it can also be done at the end of any phase of a project. For instance, if you're working on a website project , you'll likely have four phases:

Project closure

Instead of waiting until the site goes live to do a formal closure, you may decide to wrap up each phase of the project before moving to the next. Think of it as a "mini" project closure, sometimes known as phase review or handoff. 

But regardless of when you do it, you’ll use the same closure checklist to ensure everything is closed properly.

What happens if you don't close your project?

Three scenarios tend to happen when a project isn’t closed correctly. Maybe you’ve experienced one of them already.

Scenario 1: The blame game

Issues come up even after a project’s been closed. If an investigation is needed, good documentation is a lifesaver.

Instead of taking the blame for any issues or mistakes, you’ll have documentation of everything that happened. That includes management and client approvals throughout the project, why changes were made, who requested them, and other vital information. 

Auditing the project is easy when it was formally closed. And it’s good insurance for everyone, especially for your client retention strategy as an agency. Keeping clients happy is a lot easier when you've documented every request.

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Scenario 2: The project that never ends

An important part of project closure is the client hand-off. That’s when you transfer responsibility for ongoing maintenance and operations to the client.

And yes, you’d think that communicates that the project is done. But if you haven’t formally closed the project, people may assume that you still have ownership. They may continue to call you when an issue comes up. 

By doing a proper handoff and getting sign-off from your clients and stakeholders, everyone understands the project is closed, that the project management team is no longer accountable for results.

Scenario 3: The orphan project

Let’s say you don’t do a formal hand-off. The client isn’t trained and equipped to take ownership of the project. You just give them the keys and wave farewell.

When this happens, the project doesn’t get the care it needs. It doesn’t get properly maintained. Customers don’t get the support they need. 

It’s essentially orphaned.

And sadly, it will likely end up getting retired. Without clear ownership, a project can’t thrive. To avoid any of these scenarios, let’s look at a simple step-by-step process for closing your projects.

The 7-step project closure checklist

As a project manager, it’s your job to ensure that objectives have been met and the project is ready to be closed.  Once you’re sure of that, you’ll need to complete this 7-step checklist:

7-step project closure checklist

1. Formal hand-off

Goal : Transfer ownership to the client.

The first step in closing the project is to give the client all project deliverables. As mentioned above, you shouldn’t just hand them the keys.

Train the new owners to operate and maintain the product or get the results they expect. Give them some project management best practices and suggest ways to integrate into their existing workflow.

After the hand-off, get confirmation from the client that you’ve delivered as promised.

Train users and answer all their questions.

Let the client know about any unresolved issues and problems they may run into.

Fix any issues that arise in the hand-off. 

Get sign-off from the client that all deliverables have been completed and handed off.

2. Closeout all contracts and documentation

Goal : Finalize and close project documents, accounts, and contracts.

Every project has countless documents associated with them. Some were drafted to kick off the project. Others were updated throughout the project.

Before you can close the project, you need to review these documents. Is the information up-to-date? Have you consistently logged issues and milestones? Have you explained variances between expected and actual results?

Here are a few of the project documents you’ll need to review:

Assumption log - A record of all assumptions and constraints that guide the specs, estimates, schedule, and risks.

Requirements document - A list of requirements for the project. Be sure to include evidence that you complied with each item on the list.

Basis of estimates - A comparison of your estimates for time, costs, and resources versus the actual results.

Change log - A record of all change requests throughout the project.

Issue log - A record of all issues that arose throughout the project and how they were resolved.

Milestone list - A summary of each milestone of the project, with completion dates for each.

Project communication - A log of all project emails, meetings, and other communications.

Quality control measurements - Tests and assessments that show compliance with the project’s quality requirements.

Quality reports - Quality assurance issues that were handled throughout the project, with recommendations for improvement.

Risk register - Risks that you’ve identified or experienced throughout the project.

Risk report - A log of how risks have been addressed, with the current risk status.

Now is the time to close out your contracts and project accounts. Make sure all contractors have been paid for their work and that there are no outstanding invoices.

Update and finalize project documents.

Close contracts and project accounts.

Pay any outstanding invoices.

3. Review lessons learned

Goal : Get feedback from everyone who worked on the project.

It’s easy to get excited that the project is complete and resist a post-mortem meeting. But it’s important to carve out time to review the project and record lessons learned.

For team leads, it helps to have a project Planning Overview like the one available in This provides you with a detailed view of where and when your resources (people) are allocated, which is based on estimated time.

Blog post image

You can also view the total number of hours that are allocated over a specific time frame. You can do this by person, project, or even company.

Next, you will want to dig into a few specific areas. First, anything that contributed to the success. Second, what worked and what didn’t. A few questions that can help:

What contributed to the project’s success?

What worked as planned?

What issues need to be addressed?

Did you have the resources and support you needed? 

How can our workflow be improved?

This information helps you identify the areas in your workflow and procedures that could be improved. More importantly, it keeps you from making the same mistakes again.

What to include in your retro meeting

Start with a survey. Then follow up with a meeting. This two-step approach may seem like overkill, but in the long run, it will save everyone time.

Just think back to other brainstorm meetings you’ve attended. Many people draw a blank because they feel pressured to come up with something smart.

It takes time to mentally review the project and recall issues that were resolved (or not). By sending out a survey a few days before your meeting, you’ll give your team a chance to come up with thoughtful answers.

When you then meet, you’ve already got the talking points. Use the meeting for discussion, not brainstorming.

Also, take flawless meeting notes . Make sure there's some collective hub where you can store project notes, like's Spaces . Our hub acts as the de facto space for all things pertaining to a project or the process you've implemented.

Don't lose important notes or documents with endless shared files flying all over the place.

Create a survey to gather lessons learned. Include the questions listed above, or come up with your own questions.

Send it to everyone who worked on the project.

Log the results.

Hold the lessons-learned meeting.

Discuss the items on your list. Prioritize them. Add notes, explanations, and recommendations for improvement.

4. Measure client satisfaction

Goal : Get feedback from the client.

As part of your lessons learned, it can be helpful to get client feedback to answer two questions:

Do the project deliverables meet expectations?

Did the processes meet expectations?

A short survey, like this one from PM Foundations , will give you the information you need.

Blog post image

When creating a survey, make sure you keep it short enough to finish in 5 minutes or less. And provide space for comments to each question to get more helpful feedback.

Create a client feedback survey.

Send it to key individuals in the client organization.

Record the responses.

Add the survey and results to the project documents.

5. Prepare the project closure report

Goal : Summarize the project for senior management, so they can evaluate its impact and improve processes for future projects. 

The last piece of documentation you need to prepare for any project is the project closure report. This report is an overview of the entire project, its objectives and whether you met them, the project timeline , risks, and outcomes.

What goes into a project closure report? 

A summary of the project: Did it successfully meet expectations when the project was created?

Scope objectives: Give evidence that all completion criteria were met. 

Quality objectives: Provide a quick summary of how quality was evaluated. This should include verification that milestones and delivery dates were met, and reasons for any area that doesn’t meet your initial expectations.

Cost objectives: Include the estimated cost range, actual costs, and reasons for any variances.

Schedule objectives: Add analysis of whether the outcomes met the goals for the project. If the goals haven’t been met, how far off are you? 

How the project achieved the business needs: Were these identified in the business plan?

Risks or issues encountered: What came up as a surprise on the project and how they was it addressed.

Lessons learned: What did you learn and what would you recommend for improvement?

Using the template above, write your project closure report.

Turn it into senior management and stakeholders who will sign off on the project.

6. Get sign-off on the project

Goal : Get sign-off from all stakeholders and formally close the project.

Senior management and key stakeholders should review the project closure report to verify that all objectives have been met. In particular:

Success criteria

Quality criteria

Approval requirements

Who signed off on the project

Once you have the proper approvals, you can formally close the project. Make sure your team has the appropriate permissions to close, finalize, or approve projects in your platform.

Blog post image

Don’t forget to announce the project closure. Notify everyone who’s worked on the project: your team, stakeholders, partners, contractors, and suppliers. Let them know they’re released to work on other projects or reallocate their resources.

Note: Make sure you document all approvals. It won’t likely be necessary, but if an issue arises, you may need proof that everyone signed off before the project was closed. Think signatures on deliverables, delivery receipts, and transcripts from meetings.

Follow up with management and stakeholders until you have their sign-off on the project.

Document all approvals.

Send an email announcing the project closure.


Step 7. Archive the project 

Goal : Remove the project from your workflow and preserve its data in case you need it later.

Blog post image

In your project management software , archive the project. Index and file all documents, contracts, and agreements. These should all be part of the project archive.

Having access to your archived projects is essential if you ever need to go back to them. With, we make it easy to view all of your projects, whether they're open, closed, or archived.

Blog post image

Archive the project in your project management software.

Index and fill all documents, contracts, and agreements.

Close any remaining project accounts.

If you haven’t already, reassign personnel, resources, and equipment.

Getting used to the project closure phase

As you can see, a lot goes into project closure. It may even seem overwhelming or unnecessary. But good project management includes a formal closure of the project. Period.

It gives you a single, organized place to look when you have questions about the project. It also helps you optimize processes over time.

And it will help you clean your desk (both physically and mentally) so you can move on to your next project. Use our 7-step checklist the next time you close a project.

You’ll enjoy the closure it gives you. And as a bonus, you’ll impress the socks off your team.


  • Formal hand-off
  • Closeout all contracts and documents
  • Review lessons learned
  • Measure client satisfaction
  • Prepare the project closure report
  • Get sign-offs from stakeholders
  • Archive the project

Alex York - Writer - Author

Alex York is a Content Marketing Manager who is passionate about marketing acquisition and content strategy. He has many years of experience in the Project Management space and loves providing expert advice and tips on how to improve team productivity and efficiency.

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Here Are Five Important Questions to Ask After a Completed Project

A project postmortem is a completed project review session..

A postmortem is essential to make sure that you’ve learned something from the process. And if you’re worked with others on your project, the postmortem is a great forum for knowledge sharing.

The Dictionary of Corporate Bullshit defines the postmortem as:

 1. “a meeting held following the conclusion of a project to discuss its strengths and weaknesses 2. “billed as a constructive forum geared toward improving a process but really a meeting in which everyone sits around trying to blame someone else for anything that went wrong…”

Unfortunately, the second is too often true. You can read here about how to hold a successful postmortem: How to Do a Post-Project Review .

So what do you do with what you’ve learned from your completed project?

Ideally, you will be adjusting your process for the project. Here are some things that you can examine: (You can review my post on project management here: How to Stay on Top of Your Project Management ).

  • Did your project meet expectations? How would adjust those expectations next time?
  • Did you miss any tasks that should have been done?
  • If too optimistic, how will better estimate next time? Build in more buffer? Add more resources? Improve productivity?
  • If too generous, can you commit to an earlier deadline next time?
  • How were your communications? Were they any surprises? Any negative feedback?
  • How happy were you and/or your team with the project?

That last question may be the most important one. This article explains how emotions are crucial to successful projects: Run a Successful Project .

The important lesson from a completed project is always to learn from your mistakes.

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Manage Projects in the Cloud – Some Points That Everyone Ought to Know

Manage Projects in the Cloud – Some Points That Everyone Ought to Know

Here’s an easy way to manage projects using a spreadsheet-based tool

Here’s an easy way to manage projects using a spreadsheet-based tool

Here is a Free Project Management Cloud Tool That’s Easy to Use

Here is a Free Project Management Cloud Tool That’s Easy to Use

How to Stay on Top of Your Project Management Milestones and Deadlines

How to Stay on Top of Your Project Management Milestones and Deadlines

One comment.

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Very helpful article! I definitely needed the reminder to do a post mortem even when I’m the only person on a project.


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Jenna Teague says:

project completion questions

The ultimate project completion checklist (with free templates)

September 26, 2023

project completion

The end of a project life cycle often indicates that the project has been completed and the project completion report has been submitted. 

The project completion report is detailed documentation that gives an overview of the project’s progress, accomplishments, milestones, roadblocks, budgets, and the team’s performance during the project. It’s a vital part of project management.

Besides being used to assess the success of a project, the report also serves as an important tool for identifying best practices , and challenges to improve project management processes for the future. 

In this article, I’ll walk you through how to perform your project completion successfully, and provide a guide on how to write a comprehensive project completion report. 

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What is successful project completion?

In project management, delivering what you agreed on in the scope of the project means that you’ve accomplished your project completion successfully.

In project management, successful completion of the project means you have delivered what you agreed on in the scope of the project. On top of that, you have to make sure you’re meeting all acceptance criteria, satisfying the stakeholders, and fulfilling business objectives. 

The completion report offers a great opportunity to analyze the performance of a project, taking stock of what went well and what could be done differently next time.

What is a project completion plan? – Free project completion checklist to guide your every step 

A project lifecycle can’t end unless everyone meets all the project completion criteria. This is why it’s essential for project managers to always have a project completion checklist to keep the team on the same page and guide them through to the final phase of the project. 

Plus, the project completion checklist ensures that your team is doing meaningful tasks in the project completion stage.

Let’s go through the key stages of the project completion checklist one by one.

1. Compare objectives and reality

At the beginning of every project, a project manager sets objectives and goals for the project team members, which they should achieve by the end of the project. When assessing your project completion plan, the first thing you should evaluate is how reality measures up to the objectives that you laid out at the beginning of the project. 

Have you been able to achieve all your objectives? Did you tweak some objectives to accommodate the reality of undertaking the project? Comparing “what you planned to do” with “what you did” will give you a better understanding of how successful your project was.

2. Confirm project completion with stakeholders

Stakeholders and clients are a vital part of every project, and their input is invaluable. Their opinions are so crucial to the project that it can’t be successfully completed unless the stakeholders are satisfied. 

Project stakeholders need to sign off on any project, to mark its completion. So, ensure they are in the loop and aligned on how your project is progressing. Ask for their input or feedback, and follow through accordingly to get their sign-off. 

Filestage makes it easy to collect feedback from stakeholders on any asset that is created during the project. With this review and approval platform, you can share files within seconds with all relevant stakeholders. 

All your reviewers can leave comments directly on the file, discuss feedback with each other, and approve the final version. This allows project managers and creatives to manage the entire process in one place. 

Filestage dashboard overview

3. Confirm if project is within scope 

In the beginning you’ll probably create a detailed project scope and a formal process, which you’ll then use to guide you to the completion of the project. 

Has the project scope statement been met entirely? If not, is that an issue? This period of reflection can be useful for every stakeholder involved in the project. 

Changes to the scope of the project during the project are quite common. However, as a project manager, you must ensure that change requests to the project scope are well documented, communicated with all team members, and implemented. 

This step is also necessary, as it helps project managers prevent scope creep, which often results in the features and specifications of the final product not meeting the project’s expectations.

4. Clear pending contracts and invoices 

It’s important that all of the relevant costs associated with your project are charged to it. This helps tidy up loose ends, ensures that your organization gets its money, and avoids any potential confusion in the future. Plus it prevents you from dealing with late invoices or bills. 

Additionally, stakeholders will want to know if the project is within budget or not. Starting the contract closure process by clearing all pending contractors and invoices before the project is completed will give you a clear overview of expenses. 

This will also highlight where you underused or exceeded the budget. Also, as a project manager, this will make gathering project records easier and help explain where there may be notable differences in the budget management.

5. Write a post-project report 

A post-project report is a document where you specify details of the overall process and present your results. This report can help you to take key lessons from the project and also identify areas that can be improved for the next round. You should make an effort to share the report within your organization for maximum effectiveness. 

Here are all elements that you should include in your post-project report to make it comprehensive: 

  • A project overview with a summary statement
  • A description of the results and outcomes of the project
  • A comparison of the target vs. actual accomplishments
  • Project milestones and timelines, stating the project duration and schedule variance, if any 
  • A list of risks and issues identified and analyzed, while executing the project
  • Details on how many changes were requested, describing those that were approved and implemented and how they impacted the overall project
  • Details on the project cost, showing the total expenditure for the project’s completion, the difference between the projected budget and the final payments
  • A summary of the essential feedback collected and lessons learned during implementation

6. Archive all documentation

Throughout the project, you probably created a lot of files and versions of deliverables. While they might seem useless at the moment, it’s vital that you properly catalog them in case you or your colleagues need them in the future. 

Archiving all your project documentation ensures that the project manager has credible and extensive resources they can always reference or consult in the future. 

For instance, based on the data collected from past projects, a project manager can make predictions to proactively reduce risks in new projects. This will ensure they get the best project results on time and on budget.

How can you reduce the stress of completing a project? 

The closing phase of a project lifecycle isn’t typically any less tedious than any of the earlier stages. 

Here are some steps that a project manager can take to prioritize their work and reduce stress for themselves and their team members, as they approach a project’s completion.

1. Make the review process simple

Your deliverables are almost ready, but last-minute changes may be requested. You can’t afford to inject confusion into the project at this stage, so it’s essential that the official process for your review is incredibly transparent and clear. 

To make sure that this is the case, you’ll want to provide formal notice of updates to the project team and streamline your review and approval process, with a tool like Filestage .

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2. Take your time

Now that the finish line is in sight, it can be very tempting to rush toward it, with arms outstretched in victory. But now is the time to be methodical and cautious with great quality management practices. 

Slowly work your way through your project completion template and resist the temptation for premature celebration. The project will be wrapped up before you know it!

3. Share feedback

With the project wrapping up, this is the perfect time to share feedback on performance with the rest of your team. This can galvanize and motivate them, making sure that they give this last final push to the project. You can also take this opportunity to excite them for the future and the next big project.

4. Keep your team mentally engaged

Your team knows that the project has almost been completed and they’re ready to breathe a large collective sigh of relief. As the project manager, it’s your job to make sure that every member of your team remains engaged. 

Making the final tweaks and the delivery of materials is a very delicate stage of the project, so you want your team at their best.

5. Enjoy the satisfaction of a job well done

At the end of the project, you should take the time to look back at the project and admire the work that you and your team have accomplished. This can keep you motivated and show you just how far you’ve come which is an important fuel to keep you rocketing through amazing digital projects.

You can even consider sending out a project completion email to your entire team where you’ll congratulate everyone on their efforts and accomplishments and highlight some important aspects of the project.

Free project completion template for reporting

If you need help with writing a project completion report, below are three free templates, designed to keep you organized and save time when creating project reports.

Get Filestage’s free project completion template 

After you’ve completed the project, you’ll want to produce a report for your superiors and the rest of the team. This can help you to assess the positives and negatives that appeared along the way and refine your approach for future projects. 

Here’s a sample completion report template that you can use.

Project completion report template by

Writing a comprehensive project report for a new business and in a way that will be presentable to your stakeholders doesn’t have to be difficult thanks to this template by . 

This template has been designed by business gurus, specifically for project reports for new businesses. It’s fully customizable and can be downloaded and edited in both Microsoft Word and Google Docs.

Project closure report template by Smartsheet 

If you’re drafting your finished project report, then we recommend checking out the free templates for project closeout reports by Smartsheet . 

The templates provide sections for the project summary, roles and responsibilities, deliverables, project costs, schedule, and lessons learned. You can download, edit, and share the templates in Microsoft Word, Excel, and PDF. 

Project completion example 

Writing a report on a completed project is not as difficult as it seems. However, including all steps and details is usually not a walk in the park for project managers. 

Here’s an example of a project completion report, so you have an idea of how to start when drafting your report. 

  • Compare objectives and reality: Does the reality of the final website delivery match the objective?  
  • Get confirmation from stakeholders: Do the stakeholders approve of the completed website? Are there any notes? 
  • Confirm project is within scope: Has the scope of the project been fully met? Were all the resources earmarked for the website creation duly utilized?
  • Clear pending invoices: Have all pending invoices for procurement contracts like web designing and copywriting been cleared? And did all signed contracts end?
  • Post project from and evaluations: This gives details of all the processes that you followed during the project, and all the results your team achieved at different stages of the process. 
  • Archiving all documentation: All documentation related to the project should be stored in an archive, for future reference. 

Important tips while writing a project completion report 

So, how do you go about writing a comprehensive project completion report? 

Here are some tips to get you started. 

Remove ambiguity

Ensure that your report is as clear and concise as possible. Stay honest and factual throughout your report. Tailor your language to suit your target audience, so that there is no ambiguity in your documentation. 

Your project results should be written in such a way that they’re easily understood, leaving no room for guesses, assumptions, or misunderstandings.

Consult with team members and stakeholders

As a project manager, it’s important to work hand in hand with your team members and stakeholders, throughout the project lifecycle. The contract closure process determines how well your team will work together on other projects. 

So, seek out the input of your team members and stakeholders, when you’re performing project closure and writing the final project report. 

It’s critical that the report provides both accurate and complete information, and achieving this could be difficult if the project manager begins closing the contract and writing the report without sending contract closure updates and considering the feedback of other collaborators.

Review all deliverables to make sure nothing is outstanding

Before you begin writing your project completion report, you should review the project goals and objectives that were stated in the project proposal. Did you produce all project deliverables? Are there any outstanding tasks you couldn’t complete within the project timeline? 

Reviewing and sharing project deliverables with stakeholders is critical for the success of a project. Only when all deliverables and assets have been reviewed and approved by stakeholders will your project be completed. 

Follow the process and tips we’ve provided above, to guide your project completion plan. We have also provided a variety of project completion report templates you can use to create your report, including our free template. 

It’s okay if the first draft of the report is not perfect. Remember, the completion report is a summary of all efforts related to the project. You can edit and revise the content as much as you like, until you have a copy that sufficiently describes the life cycle of the completed project.

Muriel Skusa

Muriel Skusa

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Guide to Lessons Learned in Project Management

By Kate Eby | May 6, 2021

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Lessons learned from past projects are tools you can use as a project manager to drive improvement within your team. We’ve compiled expert advice on how to collect, document, and apply lessons learned toward future endeavors. 

In this article, you’ll find a sample lessons learned report , a midproject survey example, and a downloadable report template .

What Are Lessons Learned in Project Management?

The term lessons learned refers to the experience you gain by participating in and completing a project. A team should apply past lessons learned at the beginning of a new venture and compile new findings during and after its completion.

While it is essential to collect lessons learned at the end of a project, it might be beneficial to gather input while in the middle of one as well.

To find out about free project management lessons learned templates for project managers, product managers, project coordinators, moderators, project sponsors, and more, refer to our  Free Project Management Lessons Learned Templates article. 

What Is the Purpose of Lessons Learned?

The purpose of documenting and applying the lessons learned is to encourage improvement in best practices for future projects. The goal is to create a team that learns from its missteps and repeats and improves its successes.

Patti Armanini is a Quality Manager with Festo USA and has more than a decade of experience in management. She encourages project managers to “review past lessons learned to avoid making similar mistakes the next time around. But [it is] just as important to leverage the wins going forward, to help streamline the project, and to help remove impediments before they happen.” 

A successful project manager recognizes the processes that help and hinder a team. They can also implement the lessons they have learned to improve those processes continually. 

Seek input on lessons learned from everyone involved in a project. Team members at all levels within the hierarchy have essential contributions to the discussion, and it is wise to gather as much information from as many people as possible. This process can even be a team-building experience in itself, as everyone makes themselves heard.

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Lessons Learned Process in Project Management

The Project Management Institute (PMI) outlines its Lessons Learned Process in Project Management in five steps.

  • Identify Identify the items you can learn from. This should include areas for improvement, as well as emphasis on what your team has done well. Example: The team identifies that they could not deliver results by the deadline in Phase Two. Results were due two weeks from the receipt of the brief, but were delivered in three weeks.
  • Document Document and create a list of the lessons learned. This list should be a group effort and contain input from all team members. Example: Include the missed deadline on the list, along with the other items brought up by the team.
  • Analyze Analyze the lessons learned, create a report, and share it with team members and other applicable parties. Sometimes, you will need to create multiple reports with the pertinent information for different audiences. Example: More time should have been scheduled for the results to be delivered in Phase Two. (Note: Include this information in the team and management reports, but not the shareholder reports, as it is irrelevant for them because the team completed the job on time.)
  • Store Organize and store these reports in a location that is accessible to all interested parties, usually on a drive or in cloud storage. Example: Catalog these reports on the shared drive using the company’s standard naming process.
  • Retrieve Use keywords when storing your reports to make them easier to search for and retrieve for future projects. Example: When finalizing the schedule for upcoming projects, search keywords like deadline to find references to past lessons learned about realistic timelines for completed projects.

What Is a Lessons Learned Document?

A lessons learned document is the collected results of surveys and team member input throughout the lifecycle of a project. Create a process for gathering input at key points throughout the project, then record and use it to create detailed reports.

It is important to record these initial observations, so you can access them later. This document contains the raw data you will use to write your reports.

How to Document Lessons Learned

A project manager is responsible for documenting and identifying lessons learned throughout the lifecycle of a task or project. A successful project manager will utilize the following strategies:

  • Decide on the metrics you want to document for your reports. These can be expected outcomes vs. results, actionable items, or opportunities for building upon the lessons from previous projects. 
  • Ask the team what went well and what can be improved. Administer a survey or record responses when meeting with the team. 
  • Organize these responses into a document that’s easy to read and reference. These documents should later be used to create your lessons learned report(s). 
  • Collect and store these documents for reference in future projects. These should be stored on a cloud server or a shared drive so that they are accessible for future reference to all members of the team at any time.

You and future teams will use this feedback to learn from your experience. It is important to create processes that streamline the capture and sharing of this information.

How to Capture Lessons Learned in Project Management

A great way to capture lessons learned is by surveying the people working on and observing the project. You might find that you can extract more diverse responses by administering a survey during a project instead of only after it ends. 

One benefit of a midproject survey is that you can identify and correct issues before they become a real problem. Armanini helped create this sample of a midproject survey for project managers:

Midproject Survey Lessons Learned

Another excellent way to capture comments from the team is to hold lessons learned meetings, sometimes called a post-mortem. For more information about post-mortems , read our guide to running a post-mortem and download free post-mortem templates .

How to Run a Lessons Learned Meeting

Lessons learned meetings can occur at any point during a project. During the meeting, your team should share feedback about what went well and what needs improvement. These meetings are also an effective team-building activity, as they are more collaborative than conducting individual surveys. 

Your lessons learned meetings should all follow a similar format and usually begin with a stated agenda. Let your team know what you will cover and what you expect them to contribute. Next, encourage a robust group discussion of the lessons learned during the project, and make sure that you have assigned someone to take the minutes. This discussion should include a critical evaluation of the lessons learned and a plan for how to utilize them in future projects. 

To learn more, read our guide on how to conduct a lessons learned meeting .

How to Write a Lessons Learned Report in Project Management

One of the most critical steps in applying lessons learned is creating lessons learned reports. The purpose of writing a lessons learned report is to consolidate the input from your team and present it to an audience in a concise and legible way.

Step by Step: Write a Lessons Learned Report

When writing a report, consider the following:

  • Determine the audience for your report. Is this report for stakeholders or project team members? Team member reports will focus more on the day-to-day operations within the project, whereas stakeholders’ reports will highlight the big picture.
  • Identify the lessons learned in your document that are important to your audience. Organize your survey responses and feedback by the type of report they apply to. Many responses might end up in more than one kind of report.
  • Summarize lessons learned. Offer suggestions for improvements to processes. Also make sure to identify what went well.
  • Distribute and store the report. Create a folder in the cloud or on a shared drive for reference and for use in future projects.

Lessons Learned Report Sample

Lessons Learned Report Template

Download Completed Lessons Learned Sample Report 

Microsoft Word | Adobe PDF  | Smartsheet

You can use the above sample lessons learned report to display the conclusions from your surveys and meetings, as well as your own observations as a project manager. Download the completed version and use it for reference. You can also edit and customize it based on information that is important to your audience. 

Lessons Learned Report Example

Download Blank Lessons Learned Template

Microsoft Word | Adobe PDF 

Download a blank version of the template for your needs.

How to Share Lessons Learned

The best way to share your findings is to create specific reports for varying engagement levels. The goal of creating a lessons learned report is to distribute your group’s findings among a targeted audience.

  • What to Give Stakeholders: Stakeholders should see the larger scope of a project. They will be interested in things like budgetary concerns and profit margins, long-term timelines and deadlines, and your project’s alignment with other goals within the industry.
  • What to Give Team Members: Team members are interested in the day-to-day operations of a project. Give them a report with an emphasis on individual deadlines (both made and missed), team cohesion and communication, and overall success of the project. Make sure to let them know what they did well, too.
  • Store Reports in a Central Repository: You should store reports in a fully accessible database, such as a shared drive or cloud storage, so that different members of the organization can reference them at any time.
  • Create a Project Lessons List: Create a basic outline of your findings, without going into excess detail. This list can be shared with a wider audience, perhaps through email or a company newsletter.

What Are Examples of Lessons Learned in a Project?

Every completed project provides experience to the people working on it, whether or not it was a success. These lessons can be universal or specific to the task. Below are examples of lessons learned for different levels in an organization.

Examples of Lessons Learned for Project Managers:

  • Support Your Team: Delegate tasks appropriately and enforce realistic deadlines. Foster an environment that encourages collaboration.
  • Communicate Clearly: Check in often with the team and keep communication lines open. Be clear with your expectations.
  • Give Praise Often: Let your team know when they have done something well. As Armanini says, “Don’t forget to reward yourself for those wins!”

Examples of Lessons Learned for Team Members:

  • Ask for Advice: Ask for the input you need from leaders and teammates. 
  • Check In Often: Communicate effectively with all levels of project involvement, and update your manager(s) at regular intervals.
  • Improve Your Work: Take feedback and use it to improve. This will help you learn from your missteps and grow your successes.

Examples of Lessons Learned for Company Leadership:

  • Outline the Big Picture: Clearly define your expectations. Consider budget and time concerns early on in the project’s lifecycle.
  • Insure Against Risk: Examine areas of high risk. Attempt to stay ahead of large-scale delays.
  • Educate Your Team: Use your continuing experience (and that of those around you) to improve processes at every level.

Why Are Lessons Learned Important in Project Management?

Organizations that capture and utilize lessons learned from past projects can more easily avoid mistakes, repeat their successes, and minimize risks on future work. Project managers play an integral role in this process and enable their teams to thrive.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics , about half of all new businesses fail in the first five years. A company that commits to documenting and improving its processes stands a much better chance of survival than one that does not. Hiring and retaining stellar project managers ensures that these processes will continuously improve.

Benefits of Lessons Learned in Project Management

By identifying lessons learned, you can capitalize on your successes and take note of your mistakes. Additional benefits of lessons learned in project management include the following:

  • Learn from Experience: Capitalize on your success and avoid past mistakes. “Record lessons learned in real time so that you don’t forget anything along the way,” suggests Armanini.
  • Identify Areas of Inefficiency: Eliminate redundant processes and streamline future endeavours. Get rid of anything that is not helping the team achieve its goals.
  • Document Your Processes: Allow future teams to use your expertise to their advantage. Share your knowledge with those who come after you.
  • Demonstrate Growth: Demonstrate productivity and results with organized reports that date back to past projects. Compare those to reports in the future to track your progress or identify places where you still get hung up.
  • Foster More Cohesive Teams: Increase morale by achieving more wins as a team. 
  • Improve Communication: Involve your team in the process from day one. Encourage them to stay involved by listening to their input.
  • Establish Best Practices: Figure out what works best for your team, then implement and enforce those changes.

Challenges with Lessons Learned in Projects

When you implement lessons learned processes with your team, you will likely run across some challenges. Here are some examples of challenges that project managers face:

  • Future Implementation: It can be challenging to implement the lessons you have learned to future projects. “Being a quality professional, for things that didn't go so well, I tend to lean toward root cause, corrective action (RCCA), and 8D-type investigation. Both methods state the problem, identify causes, and then propose corrections to eliminate or reduce the causes, all in a structured format,” explains Armanini. To learn more about root cause analysis and download free root cause templates, read “ Free Root Cause Analysis Templates: The Complete Collection .”
  • Time Management: When you’re under a tight deadline, finding time to gather your team’s comments can seem impossible. Make sure to factor in opportunities to collect and analyze lessons learned data so that you don’t leave them out.
  • Organization: Armanini reflects on changes her company made when organizing their lessons learned data. “At first, it was handwritten notes on pre-filled questionnaires or in notebooks or notes on a whiteboard or flipchart, then photos of the notes for future reference. To stay more organized, we have started using Microsoft Teams and a OneNote page.”
  • Blame: “Make your questionnaire anonymous for a team not used to sharing bad things,” advises Armanini. Avoid placing the blame for mistakes on any one member of the team. Furthermore, she says, “Try to find someone to facilitate your session. If I'm running the session, it needs to be with a team that trusts me fully to get honest feedback. Especially if it is a project that did not go very well, use a facilitator. It can help to take some of the emotion out of the session.”

How to Apply Lessons Learned

The most crucial step in applying lessons learned to future projects is identifying those lessons in the first place. Create a system of surveying and collaborating on input with your team, and make sure that you record these responses so that you can access them later. Organize it by team, by task, or by the system most pertinent to you.

Establish timely check-ins with your team members. Hold informal gatherings in between formal meetings, and create a system of collecting weekly or monthly feedback, depending on the scope of your project. You can use these evaluations to check against past lessons learned and to identify new ones as they arise.

Don’t be afraid to implement lessons learned within the same project, rather than waiting until the next one. In fact, one sign of an effective project manager is knowing when you need to nudge a process in a different direction. Use the collected lessons from your institution to guide your team to success.

Best Practices for Lessons Learned in Project Management

It is vital to consider the best practices for your unique team. Some universal best practices when it comes to lessons learned in project management are as follows:

  • Gather Information Often: Survey your team and hold informal meetings. The more data, the better.
  • Document Your Findings: Make sure your reports are well documented and searchable in storage so that you can easily find relevant lessons learned from past enterprises. 
  • Review Past Lessons: Establish a process for reviewing lessons learned at each stage of a project, and update this process as you go. 
  • Involve the Whole Team: Everyone involved in a venture, from intern to management, should have the opportunity to give input.
  • Do Not Place Blame: The team succeeds and makes mistakes as a whole. Foster camaraderie and collaboration, not animosity. 
  • Close the Loop: Hold a project retrospective  to wrap up operations. For more information about project retrospectives, check out our guide to project closing .

Considerations for Gathering Lessons Learned in a Work-from-Home Environment

In a perfect world, you will have the opportunity to conduct lessons learned meetings and surveys in person. But when all or part of a team works from home, you might have additional considerations. 

“It’s easy to get complacent when not working in a structured office environment. Not just the clothes, but also losing interest during meetings because it’s online and not in-person. But since I work in a production environment in an essential industry, we were not completely shut down for long. I’ve been back in the office full time since mid-January. Engineers, purchasing, and the like still mostly work from home,” says Armanini. 

“We turned meeting rooms into large break rooms with few tables for better spacing, and rotated break times to keep fewer team members on break at the same time.” She suggests staying flexible for meeting schedules and survey deadlines when possible to accommodate both groups.

Read our “ Experts Hacks and Tips for Working at Home ” to learn more about flourishing in an at-home work environment.

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When teams have clarity into the work getting done, there’s no telling how much more they can accomplish in the same amount of time.  Try Smartsheet for free, today.

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18. Project Completion

Adrienne Watt; Project Management Open Resources; TAP-a-PM; and David Wiley, et al.

Click play on the following audio player to listen along as you read this section.

Every project needs to end and that’s what project completion is all about in the last phase of the project life cycle. The whole point of the project is to deliver what you promised. By delivering everything you said you would, you make sure that all stakeholders are satisfied and all acceptance criteria have been met. Once that happens, your project can end.

Project completion is often the most neglected phase of the project life cycle. Once the project is over, it’s easy to pack things up, throw some files in a drawer, and start moving right into the initiation phase of the next project. Hold on. You’re not done yet.

The key activities in project completion are gathering project records; disseminating information to formalize acceptance of the product, service, or project; and performing project closure. As the project manager, you will need to review project documents to make certain they are up-to-date. For example, perhaps some scope change requests were implemented that changed some of the characteristics of the final product. The project information you are collecting during this phase should reflect the characteristics and specifications of the final product. Don’t forget to update your resource assignments as well. Some team members will have come and gone over the course of the project. You need to double-check that all the resources and their roles and responsibilities are noted.

Once the project outcomes are documented, you’ll request formal acceptance from the stakeholders or customer. They’re interested in knowing if the product or service of the project meets the objectives the project set out to accomplish. If your documentation is up-to-date, you’ll have the project results at hand to share with them.

Contract Closure

Contracts come to a close just as projects come to a close. Contract closure is concerned with completing and settling the terms of the contracts let for the project. It supports the project completion process because the contract closure process determines if the work described in the contracts was completed accurately and satisfactorily. Keep in mind that not all projects are performed under contract so not all projects require the contract closure process. Obviously, this process applies only to those phases, deliverables, or portions of the project that were performed under contract.

Contract closure updates the project records, detailing the final results of the work on the project. Con­tracts may have specific terms or conditions for completion. You should be aware of these terms or conditions so that project completion isn’t held up because you missed an important detail. If you are administering the contract yourself, be sure to ask your procurement department if there are any special conditions that you should be aware of so that your project team doesn’t inadvertently delay contract project closure.

One of the purposes of the contract closure process is to provide formal notice to the seller, usually in written form, that the deliverables are acceptable and satisfactory or have been rejected. If the product or service does not meet the expectations, the vendor will need to correct the problems before you issue a formal acceptance notice. Before the contract is closed, any minor items that need to be repaired or completed are placed on a punch list , which is a list of all the items found by the client or team or manager that still remain to be done. Hopefully, quality audits have been performed during the course of the project, and the vendor was given the opportunity to make corrections earlier in the process than the closing phase. It’s not a good idea to wait until the very end of the project and then spring all the problems and issues on the vendor at once. It’s much more efficient to discuss problems with your vendor as the project progresses because it provides the opportunity for correction when the problems occur.

The project team will then work on all of the items on the punch list, building a small schedule to complete the remaining work. If the number of items on the punch list is too large or the amount of work is significant, the project team continues to work on the project. Once the punch list becomes smaller, the project manager begins closing down the project, maintaining only enough staff and equipment to support the team that is working on the punch list.

If the product or service does meet the project’s expectations and is acceptable, formal written notice to the seller is required, indicating that the contract is complete. This is the formal acceptance and closure of the contract. It’s your responsibility as the project manager to document the formal acceptance of the contract. Many times the provisions for formalizing acceptance and closing the contract are spelled out in the contract itself.

If you have a procurement department handling the contract administration, they will expect you to inform them when the contract is complete and will in turn follow the formal procedures to let the seller know the contract is complete. However, you will still note the contract completion in your copy of the project records.

Releasing the Project Team

Releasing project team members is not an official process. However, it should be noted that at the conclusion of the project, you will release your project team members, and they will go back to their functional managers or get assigned to a new project. You will want to keep their managers, or other project managers, informed as you get closer to project completion, so that they have time to adequately plan for the return of their employees. Let them know a few months ahead of time what the schedule looks like and how soon they can plan on using their employees on new projects. This gives the other managers the ability to start planning activities and scheduling activity dates.

Final Payments

The final payment is usually more than a simple percentage of the work that remains to be completed. Completing the project might involve fixing the most difficult problems that are disproportionately expensive to solve, so the final payment should be large enough to motivate the vendor to give the project a high priority so that the project can be completed on time.

If the supplier has met all the contractual obligations, including fixing problems and making repairs as noted on a punch list, the project team signs off on the contract and submits it to the accounting department for final payment. The supplier is notified that the last payment is final and completes the contractual agreement with the project.

Post-Project Evaluations

Before the team is dissolved and begins to focus on the next project, a review is conducted to capture the lessons that can be learned from this project, often called a lessons-learned meeting or document. The team explores what went well and captures the processes to understand why they went well. The team asks if the process is transferable to other projects. The team also explores what did not go well and what people learned from the experience. The process is not to find blame, but to learn.

Quality management is a process of continual improvement that includes learning from past projects and making changes to improve the next project. This process is documented as evidence that quality management practices are in use. Some organizations have formal processes for changing work processes and integrating the lessons learned from the project so other projects can benefit. Some organizations are less formal in the approach and expect individuals to learn from the experience and take the experience to their next project and share what they learned with others in an informal way. Whatever type of approach is used, the following elements should be evaluated and the results summarized in reports for external and internal use.

Trust and Alignment Effectiveness

The project leadership reviews the effect of trust—or lack of trust—on the project and the effectiveness of alignment meetings at building trust. The team determines which problems might have been foreseen and mitigated and which ones could not have been reasonably predicted. What were the cues that were missed by the team that indicated a problem was emerging? What could the team have done to better predict and prevent trust issues?

Schedule and Budget Management

The original schedule of activities and the network diagram are compared to the actual schedule of events. Events that caused changes to the schedule are reviewed to see how the use of contingency reserves and float mitigated the disruption caused by those events. The original estimates of contingency time are reviewed to determine if they were adequate and if the estimates of duration and float were accurate. These activities are necessary for the project team to develop expertise in estimating schedule elements in future projects—they are not used to place blame.

A review of budget estimates for the cost of work scheduled is compared to the actual costs. If the estimates are frequently different from the actual costs, the choice of estimating method is reviewed.

Risk Mitigation

After the project is finished, the estimates of risk can be reviewed and compared to the events that actually took place. Did events occur that were unforeseen? What cues existed that may have allowed the team to predict these events? Was the project contingency sufficient to cover unforeseen risks? Even if nothing went wrong on this project, it is not proof that risk mitigation was a waste of money, but it is useful to compare the cost of avoiding risk versus the cost of unexpected events to understand how much it cost to avoid risk.

Procurement Contracts

The performance of suppliers and vendors is reviewed to determine if they should still be included in the list of qualified suppliers or vendors. The choice of contract for each is reviewed to determine if the decision to share risk was justified and if the choice of incentives worked.

Customer Satisfaction

Relationships with the client are reviewed and decisions about including the client in project decisions and alignment meetings are discussed. The client is given the opportunity to express satisfaction and identify areas in which project communication and other factors could be improved. Often a senior manager from the organization interviews the client to develop feedback on the project team performance.

A general report that provides an overview of the project is created to provide stakeholders with a summary of the project. The report includes the original goals and objectives and statements that show how the project met those goals and objectives. Performance on the schedule and budget are summarized and an assessment of client satisfaction is provided. A version of this report can be provided to the client as a stakeholder and as another means for deriving feedback.

Senior Management

The report to senior management contains all the information provided to the stakeholders in a short executive summary. The report identifies practices and processes that could be improved or lessons that were learned that could be useful on future projects.

Archiving of Document

The documents associated with the project must be stored in a safe location where they can be retrieved for future reference. Signed contracts or other documents that might be used in tax reviews or lawsuits must be stored. Organizations will have legal document storage and retrieval policies that apply to project documents and must be followed. Some project documents can be stored electronically.

Care should be taken to store documents in a form that can be recovered easily. If the documents are stored electronically, standard naming conventions should be used so documents can be sorted and grouped by name. If documents are stored in paper form, the expiration date of the documents should be determined so they can be destroyed at some point in the future. The following are documents that are typically archived:

  • Charter documents
  • Scope statement
  • Original budget
  • Change documents
  • DPCI ratings
  • Manager’s summary—lessons learned
  • Final DPCI rating

Text Attributions

This chapter was adapted and remixed by Adrienne Watt from the following sources:

  • Introductory text and text under “Contract Closure” was adapted from “Project Completion” in Project Management for Skills for All Careers by Project Management Open Resources and TAP-a-PM. Licensed under a CC BY 3.0 licence .
  • Text under “Final Payments”, “Post-Project Evaluations”, “Trust and Alignment Effectiveness”, “Schedule and Budget Management”, “Risk Mitigation”, “Risk Mitigation” and “Customer Satisfaction”  adapted from “ Project Closure ” in Project Management for Instructional Designers by Amado, M., Ashton, K., Ashton, S., Bostwick, J., Clements, G., Drysdale, J., Francis, J., Harrison, B., Nan, V., Nisse, A., Randall, D., Rino, J., Robinson, J., Snyder, A., Wiley, D., & Anonymous.  Licensed under a CC BY-NC-SA (Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike) licence .

18. Project Completion by Adrienne Watt; Project Management Open Resources; TAP-a-PM; and David Wiley, et al. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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Tactical Project Manager

Lessons Learned in Projects: Everything You Need to Know

  • by Adrian Neumeyer

Lessons learned workshops aren’t fun because you always make mistakes in projects. And during a review you often think “ We could have done this better” .

But taking a critical review of your project is actually a good thing. Because if you take the feedback to heart you become a better project leader.

(Talking about mistakes: I recently created a checklist for setting up new projects . It helps you avoid making the same mistake in your next project. Go check it out)

In this article you’ll find everything you need to know about lessons learned. What they are good for and how to conduct an actual workshop.

Table of contents

  • What are lessons learned?
  • Why do a lessons learned workshop
  • How to conduct a lessons learned workshop
  • Workshop rules
  • Why you should continuously ask for feedback

Lessons Learned in Projects Featured Image

What are Lessons Learned in Project Management

Lessons learned are an informal conversation where you look at a project in retrospect. It is done after project completion, usually conducted as a meeting involving the project manager and key representatives from customer and contractor side.

I have also done lessons learned with the entire project team. This is even more insightful but it requires more organization ( How organized are you? ).

During the lessons learned meeting everyone shares their perspective on what they thought about the project, what they would have changed, what they learned and what could have been done better. That leads us to the next question:

Why you should have lessons learned workshops

Lessons learned workshops are performed for three reasons: The first is to learn from mistakes and to avoid these mistakes in future projects. The second is to gather best practices — that is smart ways of doing something — and to pass on this knowledge to other project leaders.

The third reason is for trust building with your stakeholders and team members. Involving people in the process and giving them the opportunity to share their perspective will make them more supportive towards project management as well as future projects.

That being said, it should be clear that lessons learned workshops are not (just) a forum for people to vent their anger.

Sometimes you might get this impression when people are being very negative. But a project review should always be about  sharing helpful and constructive feedback and ideas to become better.

How to conduct a lessons learned meeting

Let’s look at the typical process for a lessons learned workshop. The process differs depending on the number of attendees:

  • When you run the workshop with your entire team, you have team members gather ideas in small groups and then present the findings at the end of the workshop.
  • In a lessons learned with only a few attendants though, you will just discuss everybody’s conclusions without any presentation.

The challenge in such workshops is that people will be relatively reserved to give candid feedback. They are afraid of coming across too harsh or to hurt anybody’s feelings, or even to be disadvantaged in the future. What usually breaks the ice is when one person steps up. Then others will follow and share their criticism openly. That’s the kind of atmosphere you should encourage (even if it’s painful).

If you believe it will be hard to get the attendees to open up, consider planning some discussion points in advance. Like, putting in a few self jabs to show humility and humor. And to show others that being self-critical of both themselves and their team is accepted. Also, if you have the relationships in place to do it, consider having a few “plants” in the audience who will chime in with pre-rehearsed lessons learned or comments. This will help to get the ball rolling for the shy people.


Start off by welcoming the team. Then move on to explaining the purpose of a lessons learned workshop. You should have gotten enough ideas from this article.


Next, explain the meeting rules. You’ll find them further below. Attendees should understand they are supposed to be  constructive , whether they liked the project or not. Everybody is asked to give their feedback on the following questions:

Lessons learned key questions:

  • What was done well?
  • What didn’t go that well?
  • What did you learn?

You have to decide how to record the results. In a small group you would just enter the feedback in an Excel sheet. With a larger audience, you would normally use flip charts or white boards where team members record their thoughts. Irrespective of the tool you always use a 3 column structure: column 1 = what went well, column 2 = what didn’t go well and column 3 = learnings .

Something like this:

Step 3: Gather feedback

Now that everybody knows the process, they can get to work and write down whatever is on their mind. Of course, you as the project manager are not excluded from the process. You should also take the opportunity to reflect on what went well and what didn’t and document your thoughts.

Team members participating in a lessons learned workshop


If you are doing the lessons learned with the entire project team, have one or two team representatives present the results in a summarized form.  They will briefly go through all notes and talk about the most frequently mentioned points: Many team members said they were unhappy with the way the product training was done. The 1-day training apparently was not enough, so people mentioned they didn’t feel well prepared for the project. OK, hopefully you will also get positive feedback.


After everyone was able to share their feedback and you’re done recording it in an Excel sheet, it’s time to close the meeting. Say a few kind words and thank the attendees for their participation. You should also point at how the feedback is going to be used: ‘We will take your feedback into consideration for improving our future projects, especially when it comes to ‘.

Rules for a lessons learned meeting

  • Don’t constrain people on the questions. Let them tell you what they want to tell you.
  • Everybody can share their views openly. No judgement.
  • There is no good or bad feedback. Any feedback is appreciated.
  • Avoid personal attacks or naming names. If somebody wants to complain about a specific individual, they can use the title instead, e.g. saying ‘the head of logistics’ instead of Brian Johnson.

Going into the meeting with the right attitude

I want to help you with your mindset for a project review. Suppose you are the project leader and you are going to have your first lessons learned workshop. Then there are a couple of things you should keep in mind.

Don’t dwell on past mistakes: You may be thinking a lot about problems that have happened in your project. A conflict with a stakeholder or a critical step you forgot to take care of. Although this is understandable, it is also not very helpful. I suggest you accept whatever bad things have happened and focus instead on things you have learned (and the things that went well).

There will always be people criticizing: Even the best and most respected project managers face criticism. That’s because projects always trigger controversy and resistance from people in the organization. Therefore, it is natural for people to tell you what you should have done differently. Dogs will always be barking 🙂

Be open to learn: Accept you may not now the best approach for everything. There may be better ways to plan or to conduct certain project tasks. If you’re will to learn, you will become better. And that’s the key. Lack of willingness to introspect is a clear signal project failure is ahead. Read about Seven signs why your project might fail because of you .

Lessons Learned Examples (and what to do with the results)

The whole point of a lessons learned workshop is to learn . To become better. As a project manager and as a team but also as an organization. This learning effect only materializes when action is taken in response to the lessons learned. The type of action depends on whether it concerns only you, your team or the entire company.

Lessons learned for you (project manager):

  • lack of PM support during client negotiations: If your team feels you could be more supportive in situations involving the client, you need to be more available and take over leadership in such situations.
  • team praises your motivational skills: great job, keep going. Nothing to change here.
  • functional expert complains about having been informed too late: True, you could have reached out to the guy 1-2 days earlier. But you were so busy with another issue so you totally forgot about that guys task.

Lessons learned on team level:

  • lack of team spirit: This is a criticism that’s often raised in newly formed teams. One way to approach this problem is by organizing a team event where team members get to know each other.
  • knowledge sharing: A problem when junior team members don’t get enough support from senior experts. The issue can be overcome by defining senior experts as mentors of the junior workers.
  • lack of a specific expertise: Assume you are going into an IT project in the oil and gas industry, but you don’t have anybody on your team with oil and gas industry knowledge. That’s bad, and it will lead to all sorts of awkward situations which in the end the team will complain about.

Lessons learned on company level:

Some of the lessons learned may even require action on company level:

  • no organizational alignment: Each department has its own set of objectives and priorities, but the leadership of the different departments often don’t seem to be aligned with one another and/or the upper leadership – leaving a messy situation at the project team level due to the conflicting priorities. This lack of alignment is something to be taken up on management or even CEO level.
  • poor company culture: Project issues caused by a poor company culture, e.g. one that relies on blaming and imposing fear on employees always have to be solved at the root. Corporate management or the owner of the company have to initiate a cultural change that creates the kind of environment where people are willing to take over responsibility without fear.
  • corporate travel policy: A company’s travel policy could be too restrictive, for example requiring employees to stay within a $70 per night limit for accommodation. Such restrictions can make a business trip even more challenging and unpleasant as it already is. Maybe the company should revise its travel policy?

My advice to you: Always ask for feedback

One important piece of advice I want to give you is to solicit feedback throughout the project, and not just to wait til the end. In project management, you have to respond quickly to issues, and you always want to improve your process so you get optimum results.

The way I collect feedback is to continuously talk to my team: How is this thing going? Are there any issues? Anything we should be doing differently next time? This way I instantly know what areas we have to improve upon and I can take immediate action and course-correct.

Adrian Neumeyer

Hi! I'm Adrian, former Senior IT Project Manager and founder of Tactical Project Manager. I created the site to help you become an excellent project leader and manage intense projects with success!

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9 Important Questions to Ask Before Kicking Off New Projects in 2024

Imagine for a moment that you are part of the Project Steering Committee. What questions would you need to ask the project manager as well as what questions should you ask to add value to the process? The thing is, if you aren't trained as a project manager—or don't come naturally hard-wired with a project manager's mindset—you likely don't know where to start or how best to contribute. Fortunately, you've come to the right place. Here, we've provided a cheat sheet for asking the right questions before launching any new projects.

Just because you manage projects—or are responsible for certain aspects of projects—doesn't automatically make you a professional project manager. In fact, it can give you a false sense of security around the status of your projects. But you must ask yourself, do you really understand how to evaluate a project's progress, risks, operating environment, and challenges?

To ensure your project's success, here are the nine questions to ask to identify the areas of improvement or the clarifications that need to be made before your next project review.

The right questions to ask when kicking off a new project

This is not an exhaustive list by any means, but if you ask these questions, you and your team will be in a much better position to drive a project's long-term success. Here's what to ask:

1. Have you cast the right people for your project?    

Projects are rarely carried out alone. In fact, so-called ‘human costs' typically make up a big part of any project. This includes time and effort, personal investment, ongoing training, and managing relationships. That's why it's so critical to choose the right people to build your team.

Assembling the right team isn't simply about putting people with the right technical skills together, but more about assessing how well those people can work together. Failing to create a happy balance between a team's combined hard and soft skills can quickly derail a project before any work is ever delivered.

2. Who are you key stakeholders and how does the project affect them?     

A big part of seeing through any project is getting stakeholder buy-in and support. Failing to do so will make it very hard to achieve your team's project goals. However, it's important to keep in mind that many of these stakeholders will likely be people outside of your project team—and not necessarily obvious stakeholders from the very start. They could be indirectly affected by your project (i.e. the end-users of your project deliverables) just as much as they could play an active and critical role in providing the necessary resources to build and carry out your projects.

Additionally, you may want to consider adding a handful of “experts” to your stakeholder list. These are the people who can contribute insightful feedback throughout the life of a project as well as the teams and organizations that can ultimately help you deploy the final product.

It is critical that you identify all of your project's stakeholders and also clearly understand their motivations, the potential impact (good or bad) they can have on a project, and their expected contributions. Some stakeholders are much more invested and ‘hands-on' while others prefer to play the role of ‘occasional contributor.' Either way, you need to ask yourself the following:

  • How do you plan to engage stakeholders throughout the life of a project?
  • Do they understand the benefits of the project and how it will impact them?
  • Have you simply consulted them for input or have you truly made them feel involved?
  • Will they ultimately become supporters or detractors of your project's success? 

3. How did you estimate total project effort?      

Oftentimes, teams tend to understand the time, effort, and personal investment a project will require. This is perfectly normal and nothing out of the ordinary. When you truly care about a project, you don't necessarily think about all the hard work that will need to go into it. Even so, you must take a step back to understand the full scope of your project. What must happen to get your project off the ground? How have you estimated time and effort—and how can you be assured that those estimates are accurate? Have you identified all of the tasks required?

Truth be told, there are as many good as there are bad ways to estimate time and effort. If your estimates are overly vague or very rough, be sure to take the time to dig into them a bit more—until you feel confident they are truly reliable. Also, be sure to question your calculation methods and the metrics you'll use to measure time and effort throughout your project's duration. You will be responsible for executing your projects on-time using the resources allocated, so your estimates and tracking methods need to be accurate.

4. What is the project's critical path?       

You must have a clear understanding of what it will take for a project to go from start-to-finish. Have you identified the critical path for a project's tasks? What are the key milestones along that path? What are the dependencies between tasks? Why have you sequenced the tasks in this way? How much time, effort, and resources will go into completing each task?

As with estimating your project's effort, it's important to put a significant amount of thought into building your project's schedule. At the end of the day, you need to be able to answer this question: If the tasks get completely out of control, will that jeopardize the project's life?

5. What's not included in the project plan?         

Equally as important as number 4 above, you need to be aware of the external activities, deliverables, and dependencies that matter to the success of your project. Not only can overlooking this be the source of steep financial risks (i.e. unbudgeted expenses), but it can also lead to delays, especially when specific resources shared across several projects are unavailable when you need them most.

Even worse is failing to consider the impact your project will ultimately have with regards to change management. Therefore, you must take into account the time and resources needed to analyse, understand, and address end-user needs as well as communicate project status with them regularly. In many cases, this kind of oversight can alienate end-users from the process, leading them to reject parts of a project and, thus, risking the project to fail in its entirety.

6. What are a project's major risks in terms of time and costs?                  

Successful projects face just as many obstacles as those that fail. What distinguishes a ‘success' from a ‘failure' is that successful project teams anticipate problems, plan their responses, and allocate budgets and resources in advance in order to deal with issues as they arise.

In addition, you have to think beyond the obvious risks and ask yourself the following questions:

  • What are the signs that a risk may or will materialize?
  • Will the project team have enough time to act on it and reduce potential consequences?
  • What is the plan for mitigating these risks early on?

7. How will you keep track of your project's progress?           

Based on how you have decided to estimate time and effort (see number 3 above), you should have already identified the right metrics for tracking actuals vs. the estimate to complete objectively. Keeping tabs on project costs should be a part of this even though these metrics alone don't tell the full story; they must be evaluated in the context of project completion. For example, if you've spent 60% of your budget but have only accomplished 20% of project tasks, there's a big problem.

As the manager of any given project, you should be able to provide details about your project's progress at any time. This includes being able to identify which milestones have been achieved, what deliverables have been rolled out, what deadlines are approaching, and well beyond.

8. When is the project really done?                       

Or as the Agile saying goes, “What is your definition of done?” Completing a project is not simply about delivering the right (or anticipated) deliverables at the right time. It's about deploying a solution that can realistically offer long-term value. In other words, a project must stand the test of time, otherwise all that effort could very well end up being all for nothing. Even so, from a purely project management standpoint, all projects have a “start” and “end” point.

9. How can you shorten the project timeline without impacting the end result?

Sometimes, circumstances require you to shorten a project's duration by 25% or eliminate 10% of project tasks—all without changing the project's overall scope. To do so, you'll need to make some thoughtful trade-offs in terms of budget, resources, and project deliverables. Either way, asking this question before someone asks you forces you to identify what it will take to deliver maximum value faster, without risking your broader goals. In Agile terms, this is what you'd call your path to the MVP, or Minimum Viable Product.

There are benefits of applying this approach to your own projects

Throughout your career, you'll have many opportunities to increase your responsibilities and develop your hard and soft skills. There will also inevitably come a time when you'll be asked to join a Project Steering Committee. And when you get that call, you'll already be equipped with the right questions to ask, in order to ensure you can always contribute meaningful value as you see a project through. As an added perk, your project manager will thank you!

  • Project Management

Michel Operto

Michel manage des projets IT depuis plus de 3 trois décennies pour des fabricants informatiques et des sociétés des télécoms.

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17 Must Ask Questions for Planning Successful Projects

Project Planning | By Adele Sommers | Read time minutes

Business colleagues holding question mark signs in front of their faces

Why do some projects proceed without a hitch, yet others flounder? One reason may be the type and quality of the questions people ask at the very start. Below are 17 insightful queries that can expose the uncertain aspects of your project, and thereby help you avoid expensive surprises later on.

1. How Would You Describe Your Project?

Explain as expressively as possible the ultimate, "big picture" vision and purpose of your completed endeavour. How will it look, feel, taste, sound, perform, increase productivity, help your customers, or otherwise benefit human kind?

2. What Are Your Goals and Objectives?

What are you trying to accomplish? List the project goals and objectives in terms that are clear, concise, achievable, and measurable. Example: "Produce a four-hour video training series on self-defence along with a training resource guide and database, to be accessible by college students on the Internet by May 2008."

3. Who Will Benefit From Your Project?

Examples of audiences or beneficiaries include: Clients, customers, customers' customers, local communities, wildlife, students, and specific population segments.

4. Will You Be Creating Any Products?

Examples include: Books, publications, studies, reports, manuals, video, audio, multimedia productions, tools, instructional materials, graphics, software and information systems, websites, databases, widgets, and special equipment.

5. Will You Be Providing Any Services?

Examples include: Providing telephone support, business software training, day care, statistical analysis, copy editing, and customer satisfaction surveying.

6. What Methods Will You Use?

For example, will you start by researching your audiences' needs? Will you use phases for design, development, implementation, pilot testing, and rollout?

7. What Kind of Schedule Do You Anticipate?

Will your project or programme involve an incremental implementation process that might occur over many months or years? If so, what long-term phases are you anticipating? Are there critical milestones within these phases? Can you create a detailed schedule for near-term tasks you will be performing?

8. Will You Need Any Partners or Collaborators?

Many types of projects will benefit from teaming up with partners who can offer complementary strengths or a long-term track record in an important area. Do you anticipate joining forces with other organisations, consultants, or agencies to complete the project? If so, what experience, expertise, credibility, funding, or other benefits will each party bring to the table?

9. Will You Need Specific Information or Advice?

Do you plan to seek information and help from subject matter experts or other advisors? Will you need to perform research, and if so, what sources will you tap? Examples include Internet resources, company documentation, service reports, trouble logs, customer feedback, surveys, focus group data, evaluation forms, census data, libraries, and formal studies.

10. Will You Need Special Systems or Equipment?

Some projects require setting up a technology infrastructure to create or deliver the products or services. Examples of items in your infrastructure might include: Servers, networks, computers and peripheral devices, and multimedia, sound, or video systems.

11. Will You Need to Use Special Tools or Templates?

Some projects require using a certain set of software tools or a specific set of templates or techniques. It's important to specify these at the beginning so that everyone will be clear about what's required.

12. How Will You Evaluate Project Success?

How will you measure the progress and effectiveness of your project? Will you collect information on how you are carrying out your stated objectives (process evaluations), and how well you are serving the needs of your target audiences (outcome evaluations)?

13. Who Needs to Review and Approve Decisions?

Will there be a clear process for submitting items for review and approval, and a set timeframe for receiving comments back? What protocol will be used? A key consideration is whether there will be a single responsible party with the authority to reconcile differing opinions if a review team can't reach a consensus.

14. How Might Your Project Evolve over Time?

Why should what happens in the future be so important today? One reason is that implementing downstream opportunities can be hindered or helped by decisions that occur at the start. It's not unusual for a short-lived, "one-time only" effort to take on a life of its own by adding unexpected phases, variations, and versions - so why not plan ahead?

15. Who Will Be Responsible for What?

This aspect is especially important when multiple parties will contribute to the outcome, and even more so when they are dependent on one another. For example, your detailed schedule for Task X might specify that "Completing Task X depends on Person Y in Company C providing the ABC Results by such-and-such a date."

16. What Risks Should You Plan to Manage?

Nothing is more difficult that anticipating, flagging, and managing potential risks to a project as a whole, or to the successful completion of your part of it. After all, no one wants to admit potential failure, right? However, risk is a normal part of everyday life, and with proper attention, we can manage it!

17. What Open Issues Remain?

What issues and concerns remain after all topics above have been considered? You and your team may be keeping a running list of unanswered questions and unknowns. What are these items, and how and when do you think they will be resolved? Do they present risks until they are answered?

By thinking through the questions above, you can achieve your project goals with much less guesswork and far fewer problems than you may have experienced in the past.

Adele Sommers, Ph.D. is the author of the award-winning "Straight Talk on Boosting Business Performance" programme. She helps people "discover and recover" the profits their businesses may be losing every day through overlooked performance potential. To sign up for more free tips, visit her site at

Recommended read: Frequently Asked Questions About Project Management , by Duncan Haughey.

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  • For project managers, problem-solving remains an ever-important soft skill. A simple six-step process will help you master effective problem-solving.

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project completion questions

The Project Management Blueprint

project completion questions

The Six Key Questions to Ask When Planning a Project

…and the resulting six hundred or so sub-questions…..

project completion questions

“If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” — Benjamin Franklin

All successful projects start with a well-considered management plan. Perhaps every detail isn’t fully worked out in advance, but the important questions need to be asked—and answered—before any significant work takes place. Otherwise, you risk wasting time, money, resources, and the patience of your stakeholders. A clear definition of project success—along with the path to get there—needs to be developed during project planning.

There are six key questions that always need to be addressed during the project planning phase. They are:

Who wants and/or needs the project—and why do they want it? Who are the key stakeholders, customers, end-users, and such that are asking for the project? And why do they want it? What is their want or need? What are the high-level objectives and goals of the project? Who is the project for—and why?

What solves the high-level wants and needs? What will be created that solves and addresses the high-level “why” of the project? And how "good" does that solution have to be? What is the ideal deliverable that meets the needs of the key stakeholders?

What is the execution plan to create and deliver the solution? How will it be acquired or produced? What resources are required to execute that plan? How will progress be measured and corrections be made along the way during execution? How will information be managed and progress reported? What is the plan to successfully closeout the project? And what needs to be considered and addressed for after completion of the project?

What is the timeline to carry out the execution plan? How long will the effort take? What are the key milestones that need to be met and/or tracked?

How much will the plan cost to execute? How much does each element of the solution and plan cost? What funding constraints must be adhered to? When and how much funding is required during each aspect of the project?

What threatens the plan—and what can be done about the threats? What poses a danger to our ability to carry out the plan within the time and cost constraints? What technical, programmatic, external, and other risks exist? How likely are they to occur? How serious are they if they occur? What can be done to minimize their likelihood of occurring and/or the impact of them if they get realized?

Every project is unique, so the answers to these questions will vary. Depending on the size, scale, complexity, and type of project, the answers may be simple or complex. Further, they may spawn dozens or hundreds of sub-questions and issues to address. But regardless of the project specifics, every project requires answers to these six basic questions. If you can work through and provide detailed responses to these six primary elements, you will have the foundation of a project management plan that clearly defines success and a reasonable and appropriate means of achieving that success. 

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Project Closure Phase: A Comprehensive Guide

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The project closure phase is the final stage of project management. Immediately following monitoring and control, it is focused on wrapping up the overall effort and tying up loose ends. Learn the importance of this phase, the key steps involved, and more in this article.

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Objectives and Goals of the Project Closure Phase

The primary objective of project closure is to make sure that the project is completed successfully and that all deliverables are submitted and archived. 

In addition to these key objectives, here are the main goals of the last of the five phases of project management :

Formalize acceptance: This activity involves obtaining formal acceptance from the stakeholders of all deliverables that have been released as per the agreed-upon contract, including the expected scope, schedule, and budget. This critical step in the project closure process ensures that the project has met all expectations, with no issues or missing features.

Finalize loose ends: Every activity tends to have loose ends that need to be addressed and tied up before the work is officially closed. Finalizing loose ends for a project includes completing remaining tasks, resolving outstanding problems, and making sure all project documentation is captured, up to date, and complete before filing away.

Learn lessons: An activity that is often skipped due to time constraints or lack of experience, hosting a lessons learned exercise involves conducting a project review with the entire team to identify best practices and areas of improvement. Schedule this event before the team disbands and starts on a new work as the results of this activity make for an invaluable asset that will boost the success of future projects.

Release resources: This involves releasing all project resources, including personnel, equipment, assets, and facilities. Resources need to be available for other projects immediately so there are no overruns resulting in unnecessary costs associated with this project.

Celebrate success: It’s easy to be done and run, which is why a celebration is a great way to end a project. Celebrate the successful completion of the project with the project team and stakeholders and recognize the hard work and dedication of everyone involved. This will improve the team’s morale and get them motivated as they move on to the next project.

The Importance of Project Closure

Project closure is an indispensable phase in project management as it marks the end of a major work effort. Here’s why this stage is important:

Minimizes risks: The last thing you want after a successful project delivery is outstanding issues that can cause major problems in the future. Project closure means doing cleanup and addressing oversights to reduce risks.

Improves future projects: The project closure phase provides an opportunity to learn from the project after its completion and gain insights that can be applied to future projects. This helps improve overall quality and ensures timely completion.

Builds trust and reputation: This stage opens up the opportunity to build trust and reputation with the client by ensuring that all project deliverables have been submitted and all requirements have been met. This results in improved client satisfaction and increases the chances for repeat work.

Frees up resources: Project closure serves as a greenlight to release all project resources, including personnel, equipment, and facilities. This makes all resources available for other projects while making sure there are no unnecessary costs associated with the current one.

Key Steps and Best Practices

Project closure, like any other endeavor, is most efficient when executed well. Listed below are the key steps involved in this phase and practices to adopt to wrap the project up the best way possible. 

Consolidate reports and archive documentation: As the project draws to a close, make a habit of consolidating all project reports and archiving all project documentation in a central place for post-project access and reference. This should also include updating project plans, schedules, and budgets, as well as any other work-related documents such as contracts. These documents come in handy when scoping and pricing out similar work.

Sign off on final deliverables: Often overlooked, this step involves obtaining formal sign-off from the client or owner, signifying that all project deliverables have been submitted. It ensures that the project has met the client’s expectations and that there are no issues left unresolved. The last thing a project manager wants to deal with at the end of a project is finding out that something was missed or misinterpreted and having to schedule additional work or write up a project change order.

Finalize procedures: Before and in addition to closing out documentation, part of the project closure is seeing to it that no tasks remain undone, no concerns remain unaddressed, and that assets are properly archived. If the client has lent materials for research purposes or at any point in the earlier stages of the project life cycle, this is the time to pull it out of inventory and either return or destroy it.

Wrap up financial matters: This is an opportunity to complete any financial tasks, including closing out budget accounts, reconciling expenses, issuing and paying final invoices, and reviewing all financial records to make sure that they are accurate.

Hand off ownership: Handing off ownership of the project includes transferring all project deliverables, documentation, and other project-related materials so that they can be used in the capacity that they were designed and created for. This may include passing ownership to another department within the company or a client or vendor once your part of the work is complete. 

Set up support: A contingency plan may be required for the work once handoff is complete. This helps a business deal with unforeseen situations that require the help of your team and defines how your team may need to act in case of unexpected events or risks. Setting up support for the project includes organizing training sessions, maintenance, or support services, as well as outlining the contacts and processes needed to make sure the work is sustainable.

How Project Closure Contributes to Overall Project Success

There are several ways the project closure phase contributes to the overall project success, including the following:

Provides closure and a sense of accomplishment:   Project closure helps to recognize the hard work and dedication of the project team and to build morale for future projects. It is during this phase that certain actions are taken to make sure the project is ending on a high note and all parties are satisfied with the results.

Identifies areas for improvement: The last phase of project management offers an opportunity to learn from the experience and to identify best practices and lessons learned that can be carried over into upcoming projects, providing a solid starting point to build upon.

Minimizes potential liabilities: Lessen problems post-delivery when all loose ends are tied up. The closing phase of project management is where previously unidentified issues are addressed, minimizing the risks of suffering even bigger issues.

Strengthens relationships with stakeholders: Saying what you do and doing what you say is the gold standard for ending a working relationship with stakeholders and clients, and strengthening those relationships by making sure that they receive deliverables according to contractual expectations, which is what the project closure is about. A satisfied client will come back for more work, make invaluable referrals, and provide stellar testimonials.

The Role Stakeholders Play in Project Closure

Along with the project team, stakeholders play a critical role in the project closure stage. They are the final gatekeepers in a long list of checks and balances that ensure the successful completion of a project.

Among other things, stakeholders have an active role in wrapping the project up, including the following key actions.

Provide feedback and approvals: Stakeholders provide feedback and approval by officially signing off on all project deliverables and confirming that they were delivered according to scope, schedule, and budget. A signature, email, or in-system manual affirmation is the final indicator that nothing was amiss.

Participate in post-project reviews: Stakeholders and the project team participate in post-project reviews, an activity that aims to identify what went well and what could have been done better.

Offer support during knowledge transfer and handoff: Stakeholders are some of the individuals that offer the best support during knowledge transfer and handoff. They help identify details and bridge the gap between project work and post-project activities, including monitoring activities and any ongoing needs in terms of the use of the project deliverables.

Closing Thoughts

Once the project closure phase of project management is completed, the project is considered to be officially closed. A well-executed project closure plan sets the stage for organizational knowledge and continuous improvement and paves the way for future successful projects. This valuable time is an opportunity for reflection, learning, and preparation for what lies ahead.

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How To Run A Project Completion Meeting

Conduct a project completion meeting by summarizing results, discussing learned lessons, resolving remaining issues, and celebrating the team’s accomplishments.’

See Our project completion meeting Template here

Jannik Lindner

  • Steps in this Guide: 9
  • Last Updated: January 24, 2024

A Project Completion Meeting, also known as a project closeout or handover meeting, is a formal gathering where all key stakeholders of a project convene to review the completed project, document lessons learned, discuss the project performance in detail, and confirm that all project deliverables have been fulfilled as per the initial plan. This comprehensive review allows for the identification and resolution of any outstanding issues, an assessment of the project’s success, the recognition of team effort, and the transfer of project knowledge and experiences, leading to continuous improvement in project management techniques and team performance.

How To Run A Project Completion Meeting: Step-By-Step

Next, we will share our step-by-step guidelines for running a project completion meeting:

Step 1: Pre-Meeting Preparation

Step 2: agenda setting, step 3: beginning the meeting, step 4: presentation of project, step 5: post-project analysis, step 6: recommendations and future planning, step 7: feedback and exchange of ideas, step 8: meeting conclusion, step 9: follow-up activities.

In this stage, you need to collate all the available information and outcomes connected to the SEO project meticulously. Develop a comprehensive report that clearly illustrates the journey from inception to completion, encompassing significant triumphs, insights gained, stumbling blocks encountered and potential for improvement. This report should serve as a detailed post-mortem, allowing for further growth and learning.

Our Meeting Notes App, ZipDo, enhances the efficiency of meetings by improving preparation. It features a collaborative space for each meeting, where agendas and notes can be jointly edited. Meetings are sorted by theme, and recurring meetings are displayed on a timeline, facilitating easier preparation.

This step is about preparing a comprehensive meeting agenda, which includes not just the list of invited attendees, but also clearly defined meeting objectives and discussion topics. By sending this agenda to all intended participants well ahead of time, you provide them with the opportunity to study, prepare and contribute effectively to the meeting.

The ZipDo app emphasizes a team-based approach to meeting agendas. Every meeting added via calendar sync gets its own shared workspace for agenda development and modification. Meetings are organized into channels, granting all channel members instant access to the agendas, thereby streamlining collaboration and removing the hassle of individual permissions.

project completion questions

To start the meeting effectively, begin by re-establishing and confirming the agenda. Go through each item, detailing the objective of the meeting and the projected results. Document the presence of attendees by conducting a roll call. If needed, proceed to introduce each participant, especially if there are new faces or external attendees, to foster rapport and facilitate open communication.

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project completion questions

In this phase, showcase the finished SEO project. Delve into the tactics implemented, the outcomes secured, and the pivotal Key Performance Indicators affected. Make sure to extract valuable learnings from each data set. Illustrate your points using pertinent visuals or documentation for comprehensive understanding. Communicate any additional context to support your presentation and encourage further discussion.

Evaluate the project’s outcomes critically, assessing both its successes and potential areas for improvement. Discuss positively impactful strategies, highlight inadequacies and identify potential modifications. Understand the effectiveness of various approaches, discover lessons learned, and propose actionable changes for future projects.

Propose relevant recommendations derived from the project’s outcome and discuss prospective SEO strategies. Consider launching new campaigns or projects that might contribute to bettering the site’s search engine performance. It is crucial to continuously refine strategies based on search engine algorithm updates and industry trends.

Let everyone participate by inviting feedback and novel concepts. It’s essential to give all meeting attendees a chance to voice their thoughts, creating a well-rounded discussion. This not only promotes collective learning but also uncovers potential areas for enhancements by leveraging everyone’s unique experiences and viewpoints.

Summarize key points after a meeting to ensure comprehension among attendees, thus avoiding confusion on discussed matters. Be clear about the decided outcomes or drawn conclusions. Furthermore, highlight and confirm any next steps—future meetings, tasks, or responsibility delegation—to ensure progress.

After concluding the meeting, it’s essential to engage in follow-up activities. This generally includes circulating meeting minutes to all participants that comprehensively detail the key outcomes, delineating the tasks assigned, the responsible individuals, and delivering clear timelines for each next step to ensure fruitful execution.

The final crescendo of a project – the project completion meeting. It’s not just a gathering where everyone involved summarizes their work and waves farewell to their respective tasks. It’s the spotlight on your project’s success story, the launch pad where experiences and learning take flight towards future projects. Fine-tuning your strategy for this ultimate meeting can upgrade you from good to great when wrapping up projects. Whether you are a career project manager or new to the role, this blog post will guide you through the ins and outs of running an effective project completion meeting that not only celebrates your hard work but also sets you up for future success. Let’s take a lesson in planning, leading and synthesizing your project completion meeting like a pro. Buckle up and prepare to lead your team to a productive and powered wrap-up.

The purpose of a project completion meeting is to discuss and assess the completed project in its entirety. This includes a review of its successes, challenges, overall performance, and learnings that can be carried forward to future projects.

At the end of the project, predefined objectives and deliverables should have been achieved. This includes completion of tasks and milestones, meeting set targets and goals, and delivering a finished product or solution as per the project plan.

Evaluation of the project’s achievement can be varied. It could be considered successful if all objectives and goals were met on time and within budget, while overcoming any unforeseen challenges and still delivering quality output.

There can always be areas for improvement in any project. This could be in terms of communication, resource allocation, risk management, or even project scheduling. These should be identified and discussed extensively during the project completion meeting for future enhancement.

Key learnings from the project may include insights gained from team collaboration and communication, solutions to unexpected challenges encountered, efficacy of the project plan and its execution, as well as individual and collective skill development among team members.

Step-by-Step: How To Run A Project Completion Meeting

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10 questions for a project review meeting

10 questions for managers to ask in a project review meeting

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Chris Shenton MSc

15th March 2022

For employees, project reviews can feel a bit like giving a presentation in school. Just another awkward formality for them to get through. But choosing the right questions for project review meetings sets the tone, and can make all the difference in the world.

So, what are project reviews for?

They are check-ins during the run of a project to ensure everything is going to plan, key targets are being focussed on and any challenges are being resolved. They should also be combined with a post-completion retrospective to develop new learnings for future projects.

Why project update meetings are essential

At risk of stating the obvious, reviewing new or ongoing projects is a key business function. Otherwise, you run the risk of greenlighting pointless or completely unfeasible projects or running off track.

Project reviews are especially important for workplaces where employees have relative autonomy. Now, that might sound contradictory. But, if you want to take your hand off the wheel and have people stay productive, you have to set clear expectations .

10 key questions for project review meetings

So, now for the main event. If you're new to running these sorts of meetings, figuring out what to ask can be a real head-scratcher. This isn't a typical performance conversation , but more of an in-depth check-in. That's why we've chosen these ten essential questions for project review meetings.

Questions to ask before project kick-off and as your project progresses

1. what is the end-goal of this project/are our goals still relevant.

The first thing you need to figure out is what you're trying to achieve. Projects are often put together with general aims in mind, but now you need to get specific. What is your metric for success? What numerical figure or specific outcome are you looking to reach?

A clear end-goal is especially important if you're using OKRs . That's because you need to connect employees' individual assignments to company objectives.

But it's also important for limiting scope creep. That's the phenomenon of project objectives shifting or diluting over time. In 2021, the Project Management Institute performed a survey on the issue . It found that scope creep affected more than a third of the organisation's projects.

2. What will each stage/the next stage of the project look like?

Of all the questions for project review meetings you could ask, this is one you'll spend a lot of time discussing. By clarifying each step in the process, you'll be able to foresee potential roadblocks. You need to make sure you're not giving the go-ahead on half an idea.

This is essentially SMART planning in action . The road to project success can be long and complex. Breaking it down into simpler tasks makes it easier to develop an action plan. These smaller milestones also help keep morale up during lengthier projects.

3. How much will this cost/how's the budget looking?

It's important to ask about the aims and potential benefits of a project. You know, the positive stuff. But, past a certain point, you need to know how expensive it will be.

Different projects can impose different financial demands. You might need new software for the project to succeed, which can be pretty costly. In fact, sources predict that global IT spending on enterprise software will reach $672 billion this year .

Or you could need an advertising budget, or to plan for overtime, or a thousand other things. Get an idea of potential costs ahead of time. It'll keep you from being unpleasantly surprised later down the line.

4. Are there risks to the business or its employees?

From a HR perspective, this is one of those questions for a project review you can't do without. Wellbeing was one of the defining issues of 2021. But according to CIPD, many private sector businesses still have a way to go .

 Employee risks can include:

  • Excessive workloads
  • Work-related health problems

But there are also risks to the business to consider. Project reviews play an important role in diffusing potential PR nightmares before they happen.

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5. How are you keeping all your collaborators in the loop?

Good communication practices are the lifeblood of an effective workplace. But a 2019 survey found the leading cause of employee stress in UK SMBs was the failure to communicate effectively .

Make sure your project leaders have good communication practices. This is a balancing act. They need to circulate information and keep documentation, but avoid spamming or micromanagement. Internal communication is critical, and this is an important question to ask in a project review meeting.

6. Have you satisfied the concerns of everyone involved?

Good communication practice also includes attentiveness and emotional intelligence. A leader who steamrolls the people working with them will go on to cause issues. Plus, following up on the concerns of team members covers things you might overlook.

7. Do you require any additional support?

This is one of those questions for a project review you need to ask in the right way. Ambitious project leaders want to show you they can succeed with the bare minimum.

But that's not always the best way to get things done. Make sure your people are aware and making use of all the resources at their disposal. That might be extra feedback. But it could also be job flexibility, or support from knowledge specialists in the organisation.

Questions to ask after a project has finished

It's good to have a project review before things progress too far. But you'll sometimes want to have them after the fact too. Retrospective reviews are a useful learning experience, kind of like a debrief. Using these questions for a project review will benefit your other future objectives.

8. How would you rate the success of this project?

As with any review between an employee and manager, the goal is to share an understanding. Employees working on projects can pick up details you're too busy to notice.

But there's also the fact that, as manager, you're privy to the broader picture. So, this is a useful question to ask, whether the employee gives you good news, or you have to burst their bubble.

9. Will this project lead to future endeavours?

'Good movie, but do you think there could be a sequel?'

If a project is really successful, it might open new doors down the line. This question could be pre-emptive. But we've put it in the retrospective category because the long-term outcomes of project success can be hard to predict.

10. Have you learned anything that will benefit future projects?

Reflection is all about understanding what happened and how things can be improved. This question gets to the heart of that.

Whether it's a particular challenge that arose, an issue with processes or even inter-team relationship concerns, there is always something that can be learned from a project. Whatever it is, take the lesson and plan how to run things even smoother next time.

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17 Questions for Project Kick-Off Meetings + Checklist

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As I’ve got older and more experienced, I’ve also got lazier when it comes to preparing for project meetings. Recently I was completely caught out when I checked my diary in the morning. That afternoon I had four external people coming in for a meeting that I had forgotten about!

Project Initiation Checklist

It was an informal pre-kick off meeting for something that might turn into a project. I had a couple of hours to prepare which was plenty, but it made me feel a bit uncomfortable. It could have been worse — at least the meeting wasn’t at 9am.

We talked through the bare bones of what they wanted to do and I think there is something there. The next step will be properly initiating the project.

In this article, we’ll talk about what you should include in that kind of meeting: the project kick off meeting.

But first, let’s talk about the project initiation phase and what needs to happen at the start of a project to set it up for a successful finish.

The project initiation phase

You kick off the project through the project initiation phase. This is where you get all the information together to work out exactly what it is you are supposed to be doing, by when, with whom.

It’s the very first part of the ‘real’ project, after the business case is approved but before the work starts.

How long is project initiation?

There is no simple answer to how long the project initiation phase should be. On a small project, you could finish project initiation in a morning, following a chat with one other person.

On a big project, you might run multiple workshops with various different groups of stakeholders, each getting you closer to understanding the full project scope and objectives of the project. That could take a couple of weeks.

And you might need extra time to build your project plan and schedule after that. Project managers would call the planning phase a different part of the project lifecycle, but sponsors don’t see it that way in my experience.

They see ‘person doing thinking and planning and not delivering anything’ and ‘the ‘doing’ work has started’. They don’t much care about the specifics of how to manage a project as long as someone is doing the work in a noticeable way for them.

Don’t let anyone tell you are taking too long for project initiation. It takes as long as it takes. When you feel ready to start properly planning, then initiation is over.

What documents are created in the project initiation phase?

The business case should have been completed before project initiation.

During initiation, you are creating the project charter and any other essential project documents .

Read next: The project documents (and templates) you need to manage your project .

Your pre-project questionnaire

I’ve prepared a list of essential questions to ask when starting a project. These are questions to use in your project kick-off meetings, and during the initiation phase so you fully understand what needs to happen.

Here they are:

  • Why is this project important?
  • What’s the problem you are trying to solve?
  • What are you expecting the project to achieve? What do you see as the high-level objective?
  • Have the project’s requirements been documented yet? If so, where? By whom?
  • What’s the solution that has been agreed upon, if any? What analysis was done about the proposed solutions?
  • What are the project’s success criteria? (Read more about success criteria in my definitive guide to project success criteria )
  • How does this project tie back to company strategy?
  • How is this project going to be funded? Have all the funds already been secured?
  • What are the constraints?
  • What is most important: time, cost or quality management ? Or would you rank something else as the defining measure?
  • Who benefits from the project?
  • Who are the other stakeholders ?
  • What is in scope?
  • What is deliberately out of scope and why?
  • What internal and external dependencies should we be aware of?
  • Have you done this sort of project before? If so, who can I talk to in order to learn about their experiences?
  • What risks are you aware of already? How risky do you think these risks are? What do you think of these risks I know about already?

As you can see, there is a mix of project planning questions and other pre-project questions in the list. These are what I would typically ask during a project initiation meeting.

The questions related to project funding should (in theory) have already been sorted out as part of the business case. In fact, most of the answers to these questions should have been asked at business case time.

And sometimes, the funding isn’t secured, even though the business case is approved — or you only have funding for part of the project.

You might ask different stakeholders different questions, so pick and choose from the list depending on who you are talking to. I would run a series of individual one-to-one meetings and also a team kick-off event.

Consider using transcription software to capture everything discussed in your meeting.

project kick-off meeting agenda

The project initiation meeting

The project initiation meeting is a meeting you have at the beginning of a project to set expectations for the rest of the work.

You might call it a kick-off meeting (I do, sometimes, as it sounds less formal and therefore less daunting for people who will be attending).

Who attends the project initiation meeting

The core project team will normally attend the project kick-off meeting. This includes:

  • You, as the project manager
  • The project sponsor
  • The key day-to-day customer representative, assuming the project sponsor is so senior they won’t actually know how the processes or systems work in detail
  • Anyone else who will be working regularly on the project team.

If you are going to use a legal person to draft a contract mid-way through, you wouldn’t invite them to this meeting. The objective is to get the right people in the room so you can all agree on what is going to be done and how.

The initial meeting could be just you and one other person, or you might have a packed meeting room. It just depends on what it is going to take to get the work done.

You might choose to run several different meetings, each with different attendees, focusing on a different topic. Then you’d combine the output of each meeting so you’ve got a complete view of everything that affects project initiation.

Project kick-off meeting agenda

I have another article with detailed guidance on how to create a meeting agenda , but there are definitely some specific topics you’ll want to include in a project initiation meeting agenda.

An agenda for a project initiation meeting looks like this:

Don’t assume everyone in the room will know each other or have worked together before. Take time to introduce everyone and state their roles and what they will be responsible for on the project. This conversation is also useful to feed into creating a roles and responsibilities template for the team and a RACI matrix .

Equally, don’t assume everyone has worked on a project before. You might need to do a ‘what is a project manager and what will I be doing’ introduction to your own role.

Get the project sponsor to talk about the project objectives. Mention key dates, what has been promised and share the highlights from the business case if there was one.

The point of this is to set the project in context, so link it back to the company’s strategic objectives. This helps people understand why they are working on this thing. When people understand why, they are more likely to actually do the work.

Talk about what it is you are going to be delivering. Be specific. Talk about what you aren’t delivering too.

Talk about how you are going to get the objectives delivered. You aren’t doing detailed planning in this meeting. It’s more about ensuring everyone is on the same page for the way the work is going to happen.

For example, if you are going to use Agile methods , make sure everyone is aware of that. If they haven’t worked with Agile before, you might need to do some follow-up sessions to help them understand what it means to work in an Agile team.

That’s a meeting that can be planned for early on in the project — as soon as possible, really.

Set expectations for weekly/monthly reporting, team meetings, time recording, and anything else you need the team to be on the same page for. Layout the time scales for updating you with progress on tasks.

You can even outline what the agenda of the weekly team meeting will be, or what you expect to be discussed in the standups .

If you use project management software, talk about how it works and how you expect others to use it (if you do). Generally, I don’t expect the rest of the team to input data directly into our project management tools, but you might need to explain to them how to do that or set them up with a login.

If your team has to track their time spent on the project, then make sure they know how to do that too. This isn’t the right time for a lesson in how to use the time tracking software, but note down who needs help with that and schedule some time for them to get some training or support before they need to start using it.

Normally, your next steps will be to do a planning workshop with the people who will be doing the work. Get the people in the kick-off meeting to tell you who needs to be involved in that from their areas.

You’ll have been writing down next steps and actions as you go, so summarize what you’ve noted down. For example, any follow-up meetings or training, or providing logins to people so they have the tools, skills, and access they need to do their work.

Any other business. Give people enough time to ask questions and raise additional points that haven’t yet been covered.

You can also confirm the date and time of the next sessions, for example, your first weekly team meeting, if you haven’t already covered that in the next steps.

The AOB section of your meetings should get shorter over time as people get used to how to bring up topics for the room’s attention, but you should always include it in case there are things you have forgotten to discuss.

Typically, the actions from AOB are to make time to have further discussions, so note that in the action summary of the meeting.

During your meeting, you should aim to answer the questions from the pre-project checklist above, where you haven’t had those responses from your one-to-one meetings with stakeholders.

Should you invite the client?

If you are doing a project for an external client, you might want to think twice about having them along to your first project initiation meeting with your internal team. It might not be appropriate for them to be there.

However, you should have a kick-off meeting with the client. If you work in an agency environment where you are approaching the client kick off with a statement of work to discuss, and so on, then read this guide to project initiation from The Digital Project Manager . My experience is all on in-house projects.

After the meeting, capture and circulate meeting minutes to record the important points.

The most important project question

I always ask people: Is there anything else you’d like to add? Since I started asking this question when interviewing people for this blog or just in the course of my normal job, you’d be amazed at what gems of information come out.

Don’t assume that because you are a project manager you know what to ask! When asked an open question, people give you lots of other information that you wouldn’t otherwise have got. Try it!

Once you’ve carried out your kick-off meeting, and go through project initiation, the next stage of the project lifecycle is planning. As you think about how to get the work done, consider how to avoid common scheduling mistakes, so you and the rest of the team know exactly what to do.

Guide to Project Initiation and Scheduling

For more guidance on how to manage project initiation, check out my ebook on the topic: The Rebel Project Manager’s Guide to Project Initiation & Scheduling .

Pin for later reading:

17 questions for project kick-off meetings and checklist

Project manager, author, mentor

Elizabeth Harrin is a Fellow of the Association for Project Management in the UK. She holds degrees from the University of York and Roehampton University, and several project management certifications including APM PMQ. She first took her PRINCE2 Practitioner exam in 2004 and has worked extensively in project delivery for over 20 years. Elizabeth is also the founder of the Project Management Rebels community, a mentoring group for professionals. She's written several books for project managers including Managing Multiple Projects .

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Soliciting feedback ( project-management-leveraging-user-surveys ) from your end users at the end of every project is a great way find out how your Project Team is doing and what they can do better ( reasons-your-end-users-are-unhappy ) . But unless you’ve put some thought into which questions you put in front of end users, you might be missing out on an opportunity to improve customer satisfaction. A lack of follow up could also result in some portion of your project going unfinished, or you could have created new problems for users that you don’t even know about. We’ve put together a list of 5 questions to give you a good head start on gathering useful information.

Did the project address all of your concerns? This question will help identify the issues that might still be outstanding. Be sure to include space (or a follow-up question) that allows users to list anything that’s still unresolved.

Were project communications timely and informative? Users’ feedback will help you understand if you need to tweak your normal communication program to make broadcasts more targeted, more widespread, more frequent, or more detailed.

Was support available when you needed it? Users may be wanting help at times that your team isn’t offering it, making the support you do give them less effective. Follow up with individual users to find out what would have more closely matched their needs.

Was the project team approachable and available? If end users aren’t comfortable contacting your team members directly, consider selecting one or two accessible individuals with exceptional communications skills to act as a conduit.

Was the project’s outcome what you expected? This question will help you drill down to one of your project’s primary objectives: accurately identifying users’ needs and concerns. Again, be sure to follow up with users for additional direction on their outstanding questions or concerns.

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Discuss Your Project, Portfolio & Training Needs

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New product launches involved many different functional groups, some of which may come and go as the project moves through its lifecycle. To keep everything

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