Close Project or Phase Lessons Learned for the PMP Certification Exam

The results of the Close Project or Phase process for PMP Certification Exam purposes include a project review with lessons learned and a final report that you will distribute to appropriate stakeholders. A project review accomplishes two outcomes: the lessons learned document and the final project report.

Learn from projects

To make sure it will benefit future projects, conducting a meaningful lessons learned exercise takes time and effort. Lessons learned is different from documenting all the reasons why a project wasn’t successful. It takes discipline to identify the root cause of good as well as not-so-good results. In addition, you need to document them in a way that they can be used and useful for future projects.

Here are some quick examples of not-so-great documentation and then some better documentation. Although each scenario might be relevant to your project, the not-so-great examples aren’t productive information to pass along.

Not so great

Don’t expect Jim to work on weekends because he has kids in soccer practice.

Better

Document in the Team Operating Agreement people’s availability to work overtime so they can fit it into their schedule if needed.

Not so great

Make sure you ask Jennifer from Marketing whether she has anything to add before you baseline your budget.

Better

Do a full stakeholder analysis to identify all stakeholders who will have requirements for the project.

Whom to talk to

Here are some ways you can conduct a lessons learned exercise. You could all stakeholders to come together and share what worked and what they would do differently next time. Another approach is to interview people one-on-one or in small groups to get more specific and perhaps sensitive information. You should include suppliers and vendors in your lessons learned.

You can take the information from a contract close-out report and a procurement audit, or you can interview the contractor about his experience working on the project. The point is that you want a broad spectrum of input for the lessons learned document.

Don’t wait until the end of the project to collect your lessons learned information. At the minimum, you should gather this info at the end of each phase — especially for long projects! By the end of a long project, some team members will have moved on, and most team members will have forgotten events that occurred in the beginning phases.

For those topics that you think can help improve the performance of projects in the future, you should share the results with management, the Project Management Office (PMO), and other project managers. The same is true for sharing events that went poorly on your project so others don’t find themselves in the same situation.

Two very important stakeholders you should approach for information about your project are your sponsor and your customer. In addition to identifying areas for improvement and those areas that worked well, conduct a satisfaction survey.

This can be informal, such as asking how you can do a better job of satisfying them in the future, or you can send an electronic survey. Ask open-ended questions when asking them how the project went from their perspective. This will help maintain and improve your working relationship.

An important part of closing a phase and the project is to measure stakeholder satisfaction. The obvious stakeholder you want to check with is the customer. However, don’t forget other stakeholders, such as your team members and the sponsor. If something you’re doing isn’t working for team members, you want to know about the issue so you can address it.

What to talk about

When collecting information about the project, have specific and general questions designed to get people talking. You might want to gather information about specific areas of the project, such as

  • Effectiveness of requirements gathering

  • How well scope was controlled

  • The quality of the schedule

  • How well communication worked

  • Effectiveness of risk management

Your lessons learned become part of the organization’s knowledge base, which means that they will be OPAs for the next project.

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