We talk a lot about first impressions — but not so much is said about last impressions. But the fact is, they matter just as much as introductions.
Endings are important. Consider the gymnast finishing their set with a showstopping move. An orchestra finishing a piece with fanfare. A fireworks display that saves the best for last. Endings are your last chance to make an impression and drive home what you want your audience to remember.
As a project manager, you know that closing a project is just as important as starting it, and a well-crafted project closure report can help you do just that. It can also be a valuable resource for future projects and help your team and stakeholders feel positive about what you’ve accomplished together. So, let’s take a look at what a closure report is and what you should include in it.
What is a project closure report?
A project closure report is a document that summarizes the results of a project. It includes the team’s accomplishments, lessons learned, and recommendations for improving upon future projects. Closure reports are typically created at the end of a project, but you can also use them to summarize the results of interim project milestones.
A project closure report typically includes the following information:
- A brief project overview, including objectives and goals
- A description of the team’s accomplishments
- A discussion of lessons learned
- Recommendations for future projects
Why create a project closure report?
A closure report is helpful for future projects, as you can refer back to previous reports to see what worked well and what didn’t.
Evaluating your results also encourages you to reflect on the project and identify areas that are ripe for improvement. By taking the time to create this handy little document, you can ensure that future projects are even more successful than previous ones.
Finally, a closure report is a way of formally wrapping up a project. It shows your client or sponsor that you’re taking the time to assess team performance and you’re committed to continuous improvement.
What happens if you don’t have a closure report?
If you don’t have a closure report, it can be difficult to track the results of your project. This, in turn, makes it tricky to spot areas for improvement. It can also make it more challenging to replicate the successful elements of previous projects.
Without a closure report, you also miss out on an opportunity to show your project sponsor or client that you’re taking the time to assess the project and its results. This can reflect poorly on you as a project manager and may damage your relationship with clients.
What should I include in a project closure checklist?
A project closure checklist should include all of the following items:
- A brief overview of the original project requirements, including the project scope, objectives, and goals
- A description of what you accomplished during the project
- Lessons learned and client feedback
- Recommendations for future projects
- Proof that you fulfilled all deliverables and objectives (with confirmation from the client)
- Payment details, including any outstanding fees to/from suppliers or vendors
- A performance review for all sections of the project
- A folder(s) containing all project documents and communications
- Confirmation of transfers of any resources/items
- Offboarding documentation for any project-specific contractors or freelancers
When should you begin a closure report?
Ideally, you should begin work on your closure report as soon as you’ve completed the project. This helps you keep all the relevant information fresh in your mind. It’ll also make it easier to track down any documentation you need before it’s filed away, deleted, or lost.
Top tip: use a project management tool that lets you archive files to avoid this happening!
If you’re working on a large project, consider creating interim closure reports. This can be helpful in documenting the results of specific milestones, and it’ll be easier to create a final report at the project’s end.
How do you write a closure report?
Writing a closure report is relatively straightforward. Here are the steps you’ll need to follow:
- Arrange a project post-mortem.
- Briefly summarize the project and its objectives.
- Describe what the team accomplished during the project.
- Discuss any lessons learned during the project.
- Make recommendations for future projects.
- Thank your team and sponsors.
- Close with a strong statement.
- Publish your report.
Let’s dig into these in a little more detail…
1. Arrange a post-mortem
Before you begin writing your closure report, it’s important to arrange a post-mortem meeting with your team. This gives everyone a chance to debrief and discuss the project, and it helps you identify any lessons learned.
A post-mortem meeting should be structured and focused. Begin by asking everyone to briefly share their thoughts on the project, and then move on to discussing specific elements of the project.
Some questions you may want to ask include:
- What went well?
- What didn’t go well?
- What could we have done differently?
- What did we learn?
This will help you identify areas for improvement and give you some insight into what went well.
2. Briefly summarize the project and its objectives
The next step in writing your closure report is to provide a brief overview of the project. This should include information on the project objectives and goals, including a vision statement if you have one. Keep this section short and to the point; you can provide more details later on.
3. Describe what the team accomplished during the project
This is your opportunity to discuss any successes or challenges you encountered along the way. Be sure to back up your claims with data wherever possible. Refer back to your KPIs, project schedule, and other documents to support your statements.
There are several metrics that will help you support your claims of project success:
- On time: was the project completed on schedule? If not, why not?
- On budget: did the project stay within budget? If not, why not? You’ll need to compare project costs with your project baseline to work this out.
- To spec: did the project meet its objectives and goals? If not, why not?
- Stakeholder satisfaction: were the project’s stakeholders happy with the final result?
- Quality: was the project delivered to a high standard? If not, why not?
If you’re using project management software (which we highly recommend!), then you can simply pull reports and graphs to include. Not only does this make your job easier, but it also provides hard evidence to back up your claims.
4. Discuss any lessons learned during the project
This is your opportunity to reflect on what went well — or didn’t go so well —during the project. Be honest in your assessment, and use this section to identify any areas for improvement. This could be anything from process improvements to changes in team communication.
Consider making this section a 360 review, where everyone receives feedback, from the juniors to the managers. And be sure to open and end on a positive note, so people start in a good mindset, reflect productively, and leave feeling inspired.
5. Make recommendations for future projects
Based on what you’ve learned during the project, what would you do differently next time? These recommendations could include changes to the project management process or specific actions you should take (or avoid) on future projects. And once you’re done, make this document accessible so that the whole team can read it and reflect.
6. Thank your team and sponsors
Be sure to thank everyone who contributed to the project, including your team members, contractors, and stakeholders. A simple “thank you” can go a long way in building goodwill and ensuring continued support for future projects.
7. Close with a strong statement
End your report on a positive note, highlighting the successes of the project and thanking everyone involved.
This is your opportunity to really sell the project to stakeholders, so make it count! A good closing statement should reiterate the main points of the report while also showing gratitude to everyone who helped make the project a success. It should be well-written, edited, and proofread before publication.
8. Publish your report
Once you’re happy with your report, it’s time to publish it. Depending on your company’s process, this could mean sending it to your project sponsor or stakeholders, sharing it with the project team, or posting it on an internal company website or intranet.
If you’re using project management software, you can simply generate a PDF of your report and send it out to interested parties. Or, grant them access, so they can log in and refer to it anytime.
Creating a project closure report: tips and best practices
If you’re using a closure report template, be sure to tailor it to your specific project. Don’t simply copy and paste information from the template. This will make your report less helpful and may even damage your credibility as a project manager.
When writing your closure report, be sure to:
- Use clear and concise language. Remember that not everyone involved in the project will be familiar with technical jargon. Use simple, accessible language that everyone can understand. This is no time for showing off your poetic turn of phrase and impressive vocabulary!
- Be objective. A project closure report is not the place to air your personal grievances. Stick to the facts, and avoid making value judgments. If you do need to include negative feedback, be sure to balance it out with positive feedback as well. And always back it up with data to remove any subjectivity; this is about facts, not opinions.
- Use evidence. As we mentioned before, be sure to back up your claims with evidence. This could be anything from project reports and graphs to customer satisfaction surveys.
- Be positive. The goal of a closure report is to show that the project was a success. Even if there were some bumps along the way, focus on the positive outcomes of the project.
- Share it. A well-written report can help improve communication between the team and sponsors, and it can provide a snapshot of the project’s progress for anyone who’s interested.
- Keep it updated. A closure report is a living document, and as new information comes to light, you may need to update it. Be sure to keep stakeholders in the loop, and let them know when there are changes.
- Use collaboration tools. Project management software is a must-have when it comes to setting off on a new project. Be sure to use one that offers archiving, document sharing, automatic notifications, Gantt charts, task assignments, and other tracking tools so that the project runs smoothly and everyone stays in the loop. By the time you finish the project, you’ll have all the data you need to create a comprehensive report at your fingertips.
A well-written project closure report can be a valuable tool for both project managers and stakeholders. By taking the time to reflect on the successes and lessons learned during a project, you can ensure future projects are even more successful than the last.