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When the Project isn't Ready

When the Project isn't Ready

Author: Jeff Carroll

This lesson provides an overview of how to approach a project that is not ready to close.

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Video Transcription

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Hi, I'm Jeff. In this lesson, we'll discuss how a project manager handles a project that has reached the end of the work phase, but is not ready to close. So let's get started. In some cases, the project manager will reach the stage where scheduled tasks are complete, but the project is not judged as ready to close due to outstanding issues. When this occurs, the project manager must document these issues and develop a plan to move the project to successful completion.

Issues that might require additional work could be related to quality or performance. Deliverables may not meet the standards outlined in the project scope or by the organization. Project scope issues. Deliverables may not match the requirements documented in the project scope.

Sign offs withheld. The project sponsor or key stakeholders may not feel the project is ready. This might only be a communication issue, and in that case the project manager should address the issue with the necessary meetings or documentation. Contracts not finalized or in dispute. All contracts must be closed before the project can be ready to close.

Risks that are still high impact or high probability. Any risks that have not been mitigated and might continue into the operation phase would need to be addressed. The project manager cannot close the project until decisions are made about how to handle outstanding issues. If there are too many issues, the closing period of the project might add considerable time to the schedule.

So the first decision to make is whether the closing process should start. If the deliverables are needed immediately by the organization, then the decision might be made to close the project. The benefit of having the deliverables even with issues is greater than not having them at all. In this case, the limitations due to outstanding issues must be documented by the project manager and the team as part of the closing process.

Sometimes though the issues are too large or too numerous to consider immediate closing. For example, if deliverables are not performing to quality or performance standards, or if new deliverables have emerged due to changing business conditions or changing stakeholder expectations, then the project should probably not be closed. When that occurs, there are three ways to handle a project with such significant outstanding issues.

Extend the project. If this decision is made, then the project manager will need to prepare a schedule and budget for the work needed to address the outstanding issues, then create and gain approval for the appropriate change requests. The project may need to re-enter any of the previous phases depending on the amount of work.

New deliverables will likely require the project begin at the scoping phase, then proceed through the following phases. For example, if a project is developing a tablet computer and a direct competitor releases a tablet with the ability to record television, then your project may need to add that feature also. And that would require a return to the scoping phase. Projects are often extended when quality is critical to a product's success, or if it's acceptable to have a time delay if it means the deliverable meets the customer's expectations.

The second option would be to close and start a new project. In this case, the project manager would proceed with the closing process for the existing project, and the outstanding issues should still be documented. A new project would then be initiated to address the outstanding issues and may or may not be handled by the same team.

This choice might allow the organization to begin using the deliverable from the original project while work continues to fix the issues with the deliverable. It is often used when the existing deliverable has value to the organization and the issues can be fixed in an incremental way. For example, this is a good option for software projects when version releases might fix bugs or provide needed improvements.

The final choice would be to kill the project. This is a difficult choice for a project manager to make. But if they determine that a project is not ready and may never be ready under the current process, a project manager may need to recommend terminating the project.

This might occur when deliverables do not perform as expected. For example, in critical life or death products, such as those in the medical industry, a product that does not perform as expected and cannot be fixed should not be released at all. Industry or organization changes have made the deliverable or the project unnecessary. Placing the deliverable into operation would be too costly for the organization.

A competing product or new technology has made the project's deliverable obsolete, or there are safety, social, or ethical reasons about the implementation that were not known when the project began. So the project must be killed. If a project is killed, the project manager must still proceed through the closing process since conditions might change in the future that allow the deliverable to be used, or just to document and archive the history of the project.

When deciding which path to take, the project manager must consult with the project sponsor and the key stakeholders. The decision should be based on factors such as schedule and cost, the availability of funding, and the business needs of the organization. The decision should also be formally approved by the stakeholders and documented by the project manager.

OK, that was nicely done. In this lesson, we learned how a project manager approaches a project that isn't ready to close. We learned about some of the outstanding issues that could cause this to happen. We understand how to determine whether to close the project or not, and the paths that might be taken if the project isn't immediately closed, up to and including killing the project. Thanks for listening and have a great day.

Notes on "When the Project isn't Ready"

Key Terms

  • Project Termination
  • A decision to not deliver or implement project deliverables.

Source: Image of male project sponsor, Creative Commons, Kelly Eddington; Image of umbrella open, umbrella blown, crack, closed sign, paper, tablet computer, color tablet computer, three path arrow, hands on placard, open sign, medicine, org chart, abacus, light bulb, corrosive sign, images by Video Scribe, License held by Jeff Carroll; Image of approved stamp, Public Domain,

Terms to Know
Project Termination

A decision to not deliver or implement project deliverables.