Closing projects isn’t just about making a decision. There are specific things you will need to do, and you might get pushback from those involved.
As a software developer, I understand how to close projects down. If I didn’t, I would still be supporting hundreds of applications at this point, instead of moving on. And sometimes the process of closing projects down leads to resistance, both internal and external. As I wrap up my current client project (I’ve been here 10 months), I am going through this process. But it’s not just about my work projects – I had to do the same process and watch for the same pitfalls when I was closing projects for my life reboot.
Steps To Closing Projects
Closing projects, even temporarily, is rarely about just making the decision. Why? There are usually other people involved. So it takes a bit more work than just deciding to let something go.
Of course the first step in this process is to decide you are going to let it go. But along with this, you need to decide if this is just a temporary break, where you will pick it up again at the same level in the future; or if you will change your level of involvement now or in the future (or both); or if you are going to stop entirely. If you are going to change or stop in the future, you will also need to decide what the timeframe of that change is. This will allow you to plan for the shutdown or transition.
Next up, it is only common courtesy to let people know that you are taking a break, reconsidering your involvement, changing your involvement or stopping. This can lead to conflict, though, especially when you are changing something that others have grown used to.
Close The Loops.
Walking away from a project with things undone is just a recipe to get sucked back into it. Even if the stepping away is temporary, you want to eliminate anything that could pull you back to it. The way to approach this is to make a list of everything you can think of that needs to be done, and then go through the list, delegating what you can, removing unnecessary tasks, and completing the rest.
Dealing With Resistance
Unfortunately, as you are closing projects, you might face resistance. It can be either from other people (external) to guilt or sorrow (internal). The degree of resistance depends a lot on how attached everyone is to the project. There are things you can do to make this process easier.
Handing over a project so it can continue is a good way to break free of something. There might be resistance, as people don’t like change, but knowing that you are leaving the project in good hands can sooth others and yourself. A transition plan can be as formal as you like, but make sure that there are definite dates so you know when you can be free. (As a software consultant, I am very wary of any plan that doesn’t have an end date…they just go on forever…)
Sometimes leaving a project – particularly one you have been heavily invested in – can take an emotional toll. Don’t be afraid to acknowledge the transition and do what you must. It doesn’t have to be formal, either. When I decided to divest myself of a particularly intense piece of needlework that I had already invested hours in, I wrapped it carefully in a plastic bag before placing it in the trash. Wrapping it allowed me to recognize that this had been important to me; placing it in the trash allowed me to release it.
Cut the strings however you have to.
Sometimes there are projects that you cannot divest yourself of. You may have transitioned it, wrapped it up, or distanced yourself, and like quicksand it keeps drawing you back in. If this is the case, and you feel you have done everything you possibly can, cut the ties and move on. People will get over it.
Any time you deal with closing down a project and people (even yourself) you can experience resistance and things that will suck you back into the project. Be cognizant of this, and it will go much smoother.
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