The Biggest Mistakes Project Managers Make At The End of Projects


Wiley Project Management Review would like to introduce Part Two of Project: You, written by Bruce Harpham, PMP®. Bruce is a columnist at Projectmanagement.com, has worked on various banking projects and is the author of the upcoming book Project Managers at Work.


At the end of a project, you’re tired but excited. The months or years of effort put in by the project team have finally paid off! Unfortunately, some project managers relax before the race is over because they think all the real work is done. As you study to earn the PMP certification, keep these recommendations in mind so that your projects end well.

1. Forgetting Customer Satisfaction

Did you know that it’s possible to deliver a project on time and on budget and still disappoint your customer? That harsh truth is one of the reasons why many executives are frustrated with their project managers.
To prevent this mistake, proactively engage your customer to ensure you are meeting their goals. If their ultimate goal is cost reduction, provide evidence and examples showing how your project has achieved this end. Take the time to meet with your customer or sponsor directly to show you are taking their concerns seriously.

2. Neglecting Procurement Closing

Most projects require the purchase of goods and services from other organizations. To that end, procurement training and processes focus on developing a RFP (request for proposal) and monitoring the vendor during the project. However, that’s only part of the picture.

If a project manager fumbles closing procurement, law suits, late payment penalties and damaged relationships will result. Remember – you will have a long career and may work with the vendor multiple times. The vendor deserves professional respect and courtesy and you can provide that with closing activities.
To close procurement, take note of the following steps. Request the vendor provide a statement of all invoices billed to the project and their payment status. Schedule a meeting to resolve any outstanding disputes over invoices or related matters. Communicate deadlines to submit invoices and other documentation well in advance so the vendor is not caught off guard.

3. Loose Financial Management

Financial mistakes can kill your project management career advancement quickly. Accounting rules and procedures are strict and companies have high expectations that money will be handled responsibly. Avoid the mistake of assuming that your finance department will manage every requirement for you.

To avoid this mistake, close your project’s financial activities fully at the end of the project. Closing the project finances includes means working closely with your finance department to ensure additional charges are not applied after the project concludes. In addition, check with finance and audit to ensure that all required documentation and approvals related to project finances have been successfully completed and filed.

4. Assigning Blame Instead of Lessons Learned

Lessons learned are a key activity in project management that support continuous improvement. Unfortunately, lessons learned meetings often collapse into pointing the finger, assigning blame or developing bland statements such as “mistakes were made.” Generic lessons learned documents don’t help anyone to improve.

Fortunately, there is a better way to develop lessons learned. Ask yourself how you can modify procedures and policies with your lessons learned. For example, if disorganized project documents caused delays, propose a weekly project documentation review session during projects to create, organize and store the required records. Keep in mind that lessons learned are designed to improve the future, rather than analyze the past.

5. Failure To Provide Reward and Recognition

Picture this –

Your project team has put in long hours for months – with plenty of overtime – to get the project done on time. On the final day, the software product ships and thousands of customers start to use the product. What happens to the project team?

Ineffective project managers send a final email to the team and move on to the next project. That’s no way to treat people who have contributed to making your project successful. There are better ways to close out the project. Skipping these activities will create a perception that you don’t care about the team so take note!
First, celebrate with the team to reward them for their hard work. Depending on your budget, this celebration may take the form of a catered lunch, going out for the evening and so forth. Next, take the time to recognize your project team members. For example, you may offer to write a letter of commendation for your top performers which they can use in their annual performance review.

What’s the worst mistake you have seen a project manager make at the end of a project and what would you have done differently?

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