Home > Work > Wrapping up in a hurry

Wrapping up in a hurry

My current project nearly finished, unexpectedly, due to client funding issues which were only resolved at the very last hour (I was within 30 minutes of going off site).

As a result of trying to close down and handover my work, I have a few lessons learned for next time:

  • Everything takes longer than expected. This is true at any time, but it is only when you are battling against the clock that you really notice. (It applies just as much when going on holiday).
  • Expect all systems to be unresponsive, fail, run out of disk space, and generally not work on the last day, especially if it is a Friday afternoon or the last working day of the month (which it almost certainly will be).
  • There will be loads of unplanned interruptions, especially on the last day, which will be filled with crisis meetings.

Projects rarely terminate suddenly without warning. When dark clouds start to appear on the horizon (hopefully giving a few weeks’ notice), aim to reduce the number of tasks in progress by finishing as many of them as possible. Then you won’t have too much in flight when the plug is suddenly pulled. If you are the project manager, make sure your whole team follows the same strategy. Tie up loose ends, and don’t start anything new unless you are going to run out of work. But keep more or less to the plan; if the storm clouds blow away, you can carry on as if nothing happened.

Once the final decision is taken to close down the project, the priority changes – the aim is to leave it in a clean state, ready for somebody else to pick up in a few weeks’ time. It’s worth doing well, just in case the person picking up the threads later turns out to be you! Be realistic about how much you can do. Abandon large jobs altogether and concentrate on what can be achieved in the remaining few days. The focus should be on the small tasks that will be forgotten in a month’s time, rather than what was previously on the critical path.

  • Do one thing at a time in priority order. If there is time something else can always be squeezed in – but the chances are, you won’t have time.
  • Try to have everything important finished with a day to spare, as the last day is usually a write-off.
  • If you have a lot of files or documents to transfer to a repository, or backup, do it early.
  • Start the final handover email several days in advance. Put in some headings of things to remember and fill in the detail later as things are completed. That way you will at least remember everything that needs to be said in the last minute rush.

Finally, if you’d prefer to carry on, clear your desk and take your stuff home early. That way you will get a last-minute reprieve and have to bring it all back again. Well, it worked for me.

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