Recently, I shut down a project I’d been working on for the last several months. It was a sentimental moment for sure—no longer spending my time on something that had been a big part of my day was certainly a tough pill to swallow. However, it was an experiment from the start, and I knew that once we got the results we needed, it would draw to a close.
Having to end—or in corporate jargon, sunset—an initiative you’ve been a crucial part of is bound to happen in your career, whether by your own accord or someone else’s. Maybe budgeting runs out, maybe it’s a bandwidth issue, maybe goals and priorities shift, maybe someone made a mistake assigning it in the first place.
Regardless, knowing how to wrap everything up in a pretty bow is an important skill—just because it’s coming to an end doesn’t mean you don’t have a responsibility to end it smoothly and professionally. Plus, when done correctly, you can use all you’ve learned and achieved for future career advancement.
1. Gather All the Facts
Before doing anything, you need to understand why this project is ending. Ask questions, talk it out with relevant team members, and understand what this means for the long-term.
For starters, this could give you both confidence and perspective—especially if you’re concerned that it’s ending because of something you did (or didn’t) do.
This also helps you make more educated decisions going forward. When you know why a project is no longer needed, you can make smarter choices for future initiatives and ensure that you’re on the same page on:
- whether this is a permanent, trial, or temporary initiative
- how success will be measured
- what the timeline expectations are
2. Set an End Date and Prepare
Next, get the little details sorted out. When will this be completed? Who will help in wrapping up loose ends? What’s needed to get done before it is? Who needs to be notified?
Once you know all this, you can start preparing immediately—both for the last day and for what comes after (if anything). You’re going to have more time on your hands after this is over, so figure out how you want to spend your time moving forward and what other projects you might like to start or be a part of. Make sure to talk to your boss to get a sense of what they want you to focus on and prioritize.
Also, take advantage of the time you have to complete this project. Is there an experiment you’ve been meaning to try? Or, a skill you’re looking to build? Use this stretch to test any last-minute ideas or thoughts.
3. Notify Your Team (and Anyone Else Who Was Involved)
This is key: Whoever was involved in some way or another—whether they helped out, contributed feedback, or just followed it passively—should be looped in.
Send out an email or set up a meeting outlining why the project is ending, what this means for each team member and the company, and what the next steps will be. Give your colleagues a chance to ask questions and contribute feedback (and jot that information down for step five).
4. Take the Time to Celebrate Key Players and Accomplishments
This goes hand-in-hand with step three, but it’s so important to acknowledge all the hard work and achievements associated with the project. Make sure to call out and celebrate those who helped and shout out any big positive outcomes that resulted.
Also, celebrate yourself! Whether or not it was a “success,” you spearheaded something and no doubt gained skills along the way (even if those skills are better project management). So, take the time to feel proud of the work you did.
5. Do a Reflective Analysis
Once you’ve closed up shop, gather everything you collected over the course of the project, both qualitative and quantitative:
- What did you do?
- How long did you do it for?
- Who was involved? What did they do?
- What results were you hoping for?
- What results did you get?
- What results didn’t you get?
- What was surprising?
- What mistakes were made?
- What lesson were learned?
Define what success meant for this specific initiative, how you did (or didn’t) achieve it, and what can be learned for the future—and write it all down in a report.
We’ve made the perfect template for you to use to do just this!
Then, use that report! Having all this information in one place is incredibly valuable for a number of reasons:
- It forces you and your team to be reflective. Set up some time to go over it all, discuss it, and add to it. Use it as a conversation starter for launching new projects or brainstorming other initiatives.
- It helps you be strategic in making future decisions and prevents history from repeating itself. Whenever you come across a project or problem that feels similar, look back on this report to decide whether to move forward and how so you don’t make the same mistakes or fall down the same rabbit hole.
- It’s physical proof of your achievements. You can bring this to your next performance review or reference it in your job search. Also, you can use it to just feel good about yourself—you did all this!
It’s certainly not emotionally easy to end a project you care about. But, by doing it in a well-documented, well-thought-out way, you make it easier for yourself to successfully lead future projects. And that’s a great thing.
TopicsProject Management , Syndication , Productivity , Tools & Skills , Communication , The Muse Editor's Picks
Photo of group meeting courtesy of Hero Images/Getty Images.
As Editor for The Muse, Alyse is proud to prove that yes, English majors can change the world. Her work has been featured in Fast Company, Forbes, Inc., Motto, CNBC's Make It, USA Today College, Lifehacker, Mashable, and more. She calls many places home, including Illinois where she grew up and the small town of Hamilton where she attended Colgate University, but she was born to be a New Yorker. In addition to being an avid writer, Alyse loves to dance, both professionally and while waiting for the subway.More from this Author