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When the Project isn't Ready

When the Project isn't Ready

Author: Sophia Tutorial

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

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What's Covered

This lesson provides an overview of how to approach a project that is not ready to close, specifically focusing on:

  1. Outstanding Issues
  2. Determining Course of Action


In some cases, a project manager will reach the stage where scheduled tasks are complete, but the project is not 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 any of the following:

1. Quality or performance: deliverables may not meet the standards outlined in the project scope or by the organization.

2. Project scope:  Deliverables may not match the requirements documented in the scope.

3. Sign offs withheld: 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.

5. Contracts: in dispute or not finalized. All contracts must be closed prior to closing.

6.Outstanding risks:  unmitigated risks that may transfer to operations.  A project cannot close until decisions are made regarding outstanding issues. 


The first decision to make is whether the closing process should start. There are a number of actions a project manager can take based on what is needed

  • Close and deliver as is:  If the benefit of having the deliverables, even with known issues, is greater than not having them at all, then the project is closed and the project manager will document limitations and/or risks.

What if issues are too large or too numerous to consider immediate closing?  

  • Extend the project:  the project manager will prepare a schedule and budget for the work needed to address outstanding issues.  Approval for the change request will be received. HINT:  the project may re-enter at any of the previous phases of the project life cycle.

Example New deliverables will likely require the project to return to the beginning phase and the scoping activity, then proceed through the following phases. 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 as well. This would require a return to the scope activity.

  • Close and start:   In this case, the project manager would proceed with the closing process for the existing project with outstanding issues documented. A new project would then be initiated to address the outstanding issues.


The new project may or may not be handled by the same team.

ExampleSoftware projects when version releases might fix bugs or provide needed improvements.  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 issues can be fixed in an incremental way.

  • Kill the project.  Reasons to kill the project may include life or death products, such as those in the medical industry, industry/organization changes that render the project unnecessary, transfer into operation is too costly, a competing product or new technology has made the deliverable obsolete, or there are safety, social, or ethical reasons about the implementation that were not known when the project began.  

Term to Know 

Project Termination

A decision to not deliver or implement project deliverables.

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.


Can you think of a time when you were working on a project that may have fit these requirements, yet proceeded anyway?  What happened?

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.


In this lesson, you learned a few reasons why there may be outstanding project issues identified when evaluating readiness for closing.  A few of those issues include delayed sign-off and not meeting the quality or performance outlined within the scope. When a project is not ready to close, a project manager needs to determine a course of action such as extending the project or closing it with known risks.

Good luck!

Source: This work adapted from Sophia Author Jeff Carroll.

Terms to Know
Project Termination

A decision to not deliver or implement project deliverables.