Here’s A Wild Idea: Stop Closing Projects

An all-too-common struggle across project portfolios of any size is getting their managers to ‘formally close’ projects. “Just close it out so we can stop reporting on it!” they cry! There’s also usually also a sense of confusion (“Why aren’t they doing it?”), along with a constant stream of nagging to get it done.

So what’s the hold up?

Put simply – no one reads those damn closure reports. They’re words on a page for the sake of bureaucracy and nothing else. It’s a checkbox to tick to get through an arbitrary gate.

“But what about the reflections and lessons inside the project closure report?” – I hear you ask me.

To which I’d respond with “and are you actually doing anything with those learnings? …or are they just the same old recycled ‘manage cost better, anticipate scope creep and engage stakeholders earlier’ as the 10 completed projects before them?”. I can talk about organisational learning until the cows come home, so I won’t delve any deeper on that one. Instead, I’ll ask you to ponder a position:

What would your project lifecycle look like if you didn’t close projects?

What if projects weren’t just bundles of arbitrary delivery? What if they were integrated parts of your business – with operationalisation anticipated and included upfront, and value at their core?

What if you started the ‘value realisation’ phase when you were just 50% into delivery – would you be more inclined to actually measure your results? Couldn’t you then better pivot what you’re doing accordingly?

And what about lessons learned – wouldn’t it be better to be constantly learning during the project, rather than just pretending to learn at the end of one?

It might be time to kill off the project closure report…

If you need a sum-up of the project for audit’s sake – a 1-page factual summary is usually sufficient.

Some Quick Thoughts On: Useful Mastery

In a similar vein to ongoing learning, let’s reflect a little on what mastery looks like. It’s often thought that you need 10,000hrs in an area to become an expert (although that has been debunked). So what does expertise truly look like?

Is it the ability to regurgitate facts? Is it comfort with tools and techniques?

Or is it something else?

When we think of mastery, we should look to chess grandmasters. In particular – the current world number one blitz chess grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura. Hikaru is one of the world’s greatest chess players because he’s able to predict his opponent’s moves up to 10+ moves in advance. And he regularly proves it.

You see, when playing chess online, you can ‘premove’, i.e. you line up what your next move(s) will be. Hikaru regularly uses this to load up a tonne of moves to finish off his opponents. To see him in action, check out the 30s vid below. (Hint: when a piece is highlighted red, it’s a premove. And watch him take his hands off the keyboard near the end there, as his strategy plays out.)

That is mastery – the ability to reliability predict what’s coming next. A truly useful skill indeed.

What areas of your life are you close to true, predictive mastery?