To be a good professional project manager, you don’t have to be certified or master many techniques or tools. It is more important to have good social skills and maintain a goal-oriented attitude, knowing that the most important moment of a project is the closing meeting.

Projects are started to finish before a due date. In addition to the schedule objective, there are others no less important, such as finishing on budget, delivering a precise functionality and not another, making the product looks “good” to the customer, etc. Above all, projects are distinctive because they must finish.

Professional project managers are supposed to have the habit of starting with the end in mind. From the first day of the project, you should see the closure and the steps to get to it. You should imagine that precise moment in which stakeholders meet or exceed their expectations, to move in that direction.

Professional project managers are aware that all project are problematic. Projects can get many people upset. They will have to change how they do things. Many problems, conflicts and unexpected crises will occur. On the other hand, project managers know that they depend entirely on their teams. Will those people who have never worked together, end up being a cohesive and synergistic team? If the team does not work, the project will fail. So many uncertainties are stressful.

A healthy tactic is to imagine the last day. Everything is done, and project closure is effective: Project manager arrange a meeting with the sponsor and main stakeholders. He has prepared a presentation, thoroughly rehearsed. He wears his best suit, he has prepared the room, the projector, and stakeholders have already arrived. He starts this ceremony entitled “project closure.” In his mind, this meeting has another title: “Goodbye, I’m leaving.”

I usually recommend an old movie to learn about project management. The title is  “Lilies of the field”, with Sidney Poitier winning the Oscar as best actor in 1963. In the film we can follow the project to build a chapel. There are scenes that recalls project management matters such as project initiation, communication, leadership, issues and conflict resolution, expectations management, etc. However, the part that seems most eloquent to me is the final scene. We can see a true project closing meeting. Click here to see this 5 minutes scene:

We can recognize some similarities from project management:

  • Project= Build a Chapel.
  • Project Manager = Sidney Poitier.
  • Product of the Project = the chapel.
  • Sponsor = Mother Superior.
  • Stakeholders = Nuns.
  • Closing pre-requisite = everything is done.
  • Closing ceremony = Just like another follow-up meeting = English lesson time = Sing.

Project closing ceremonies include many subliminal messages. From my own experience, I admit that one thing is what I say, but other thing is what I mean:

  • “Project closure meeting” = “Goodbye, I’m leaving”.
  • “Achievements and milestones met” = “Nothing left to deliver. Each deliverable is accepted”.
  • “This folder contains the project documents. Next phases are…” = “Since the project product enters the operation phase, it is no longer a project, so I’m not responsible anymore”.
  • “Any questions?” = “Whoever has something to say, speak now or stay forever”.

For me, this meeting is the decisive moment for the project. I try to conduct this meeting in the most effective way. This meeting occurs on if some deliverable is not accepted, or some requirement is not validated. Even when everything is accepted, I know that is not enough. I have to act from a stage so that everybody is aware, with no doubt, that I’m done. After this meeting, stakeholders have no right to request more changes.

Imagine that the chapel is successfully delivered. Several masses are celebrated during the last project phase. Job shadowing revealed no issue. All stakeholders are happy: the priest, the mother superior, the nuns, and regular attendees. All technical specifications are met. Everybody appreciates the final quality and also the value of no masses outdoor. Volunteers are happy about teamwork experience, etc.

The closing meeting has served to communicate that the project is done. However, before Sidney Poitier leaves, the Mother Superior tells him: Wait a minute Sidney Poitier, before you go, you need to know that event that the product is perfect, the project has been a failure. You have not performed well as a project manager and we are no longer having you as project manager in any other project. Why is the Mother Superior saying this?

It is possible that the product of the project is perfect and the project itself is a failure. This happens when it finishes too late, with high over cost, or any other project management goal is not met. A professional project manager works to meet goals at the project closure. At that moment, we need to meet goals on schedule, cost, funding, quality, scope, expectations of stakeholders, etc. We want a cohesive and synergetic team, procurements closed, the product transitioned to operations, the value delivered, the business case goals met so far, etc.