Project Closure Decisions

When considering whether to close a project, the decision process can fall into three general categories. The first type of decision methods is when the project fails to meet the factors and metrics an organization is using to define success. Similarly, another decision method is to determine whether the project is meeting the goals and objectives that were set for it. The last decision type is focused on whether the project is behind on deadlines and the cost to complete the project is no longer justifiable (Meredith, Shafer and Mantel 2017, 497). Determining which decision factors are most important can help aid the decision to close a project.

To determine the priority of the factors that stem from these different decision types, it is important to look at the factors that make a project successful. Meredith et al. (2017, 494) provides a list of critical success factors in order of importance that can be useful for determining the priority of closure factors. Aligning the critical success factors that are shown below in Figure 1 with the different decision types mentioned previously can help provide prioritization in the decision to close a project.

Figure 1. Critical Success Factors in Order of Importance

Source: (Meredith, Shafer and Mantel 2017, 494).

When reviewing this list, one of the most important factors in determining whether a project should be closed is whether the project still aligns with the goals and objectives originally set. The next most important would be whether there is top-management support still for the project. Top management support can also indicate whether the company has changed their definitions of success like if the industry or organizational needs have changed. Determining whether there is still the appropriate personnel and technology available to carry out the project is important as well. These factors can tie into whether the financial and personnel budgets for the projects are prohibitive in completing the project. The general priority of methods in deciding to close a project focuses on first determining if the project is meeting its goals and objectives, then whether the project is still meeting the current measures of success, and finally whether the cost of the project is still justifiable.

Closures and Team Members

Closure of a project, whether premature or not, can lead to positive and negative impacts on project team members. Project closure can be different depending on the structure of the organization and the ways the project is close but is often stressful (Meredith, Shafer and Mantel 2017, 488-489). One of the largest sources of issues for project team members is where they will go after the project. For people that only work on projects, focusing on what the next project can cause anxiety due to the uncertainty of being placed on another pojrect. Some people like exciting projects to work on so going back to standard functional work may be boring as well (Meredith, Shafer and Mantel 2017, 490-491). Depending on how the project was closed, a team member may not want to work on other projects if their project was closed by slow starvation of the budget for example. Whether moving to a new project or back to functional department work, negative impacts can be lessened by taking into consideration team members’ preferences of their work post-project and ensuring there are transition plans for team members in place.

However, these same issues that are negative for some project team members may be advantages to others. If someone worked on a successful project, they can be regarded higher in the organization and with management from that work. This can lead to more exciting project work, or movement to different and more interesting functional departments. Another benefit comes from the multi-disciplinary project teams bringing together different people networks. These can allow for new opportunities to be found that increase career mobility. Project closures are an inevitable part of project work. Efforts should be taken to minimize negative impacts through proper closure planning to ensure the organization is better off from the project.

Personally, I am a person that enjoys the exciting aspects of project work. Project terminations, even when the project was a success, always left me slightly depressed afterward. Returning to the standard functional work was not as stimulating. I would try and get assigned to another project as soon as possible. Project managers can help minimize impacts by providing team members broader understanding of other projects in place for the organization if possible. This helps team members understand future opportunities while maintaining motivation that the work being done ties into a comprehensive set of projects to achieve the organization’s goals.

Author: Logan Callen


Meredith, Jack R., Scott M. Shafer, and Samuel J. Mantel. 2017. Project Management: A Strategic Managerial Approach. 10th ed. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons. ISBN-13: 9781119369097.

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