Wouldn’t it be great to end every job just moments after you started it and still get paid? Well paid! Unfortunately that’s not exactly what I mean in titling this blog “End Your Training Projects at the Beginning.”
In my many happy years helping CARA’s talented training consultants design and develop corporate training initiatives, one of the most important lessons I have learned is that closing a project actually begins on the first day. Many times, I am asked by a client or a consultant for specific information or tools from a prior project, such as a design document. Sometimes they ask, “How long did that project run?” or “Who was the subject matter expert who did such great work with our team?” You get the drift.
The more organized you are at the beginning (think simple, like a project team member contact list and well crafted work plan), the easier it is to close out a project and archive the deliverables as the final hours and “to dos” tick off. A well organized library of project documentation is a valuable resource to all project participants. Besides, it is a terrible, time-consuming bore to pour through various sources and pull together a file library that could have been easily built from the beginning.
Like the Mona Lisa without that mysterious smirk or Lady Justice without a scale, a project that just fizzles out is a very poor ending. It leaves everyone feeling unsatisfied and the project left hanging. The right ending, on the other hand, offers the resources, knowledge transfer, measurements and closure to bring the project to a successful conclusion…which is your masterpiece!
So here’s my advice. Start building the following list of documents as early and as thoroughly as you can in your project life cycle:
- Work Plan – Once you have enough information, create and save your approved work plan and file it in an electronic project archive folder. Remember to keep it current throughout your project. Going back and rebuilding it at the end of a project is time consuming and tricky, not to mention just plain annoying. Update it as changes occur and it’s ready to archive when your project ends.
- Contact List - It sounds almost trivial, but the list of contacts used on a project can be extremely helpful down the road as new client managers come onboard or as new personnel need to revisit old work. Build your contact list right from the start, file it in the project folder and add to it as needed. Again, if done at the beginning, you will have nothing to do but to hand it off when the project concludes.
- Lessons Learned - It’s always helpful to coordinate a post-program review where lessons learned are discussed. Just answer these two questions:
- What went well?
- What could be improved
Don’t forget to document the findings and file them in the project archive folder.
- Deliverables & Project Files - We all know that developing training is a document-heavy process. As you create presentations, design documents, test cases, assessments and communications, be sure to save them all to the same project archive file. Use a clearly defined folder hierarchy with intuitive naming conventions. A well organized library of project documentation is a valuable resource to anyone connected to the project.
It might sound like these tips are really just common sense, but projects get busy very quickly. It’s easy for the most efficient of us to push off building a project archive or to forego updating plans because we think we have so much time. Here’s my last bit of “been-there” insight I will share before I invite you to share yours: the small amount of time you spend in the beginning by planning and gathering what you need in the end will save you hours and hours of time and alleviate a ton of potential future aggravation.
CARA has several resources for consultants on our portal to help manage this process for our clients, but we don’t pretend to know it all. What best practices can you share about your end-of-project procedures?