Wrapping up a project

Wrapping up a project

Tom Christie-Miller, director of marketing for the Institute of Directors, ponders the issues around concluding a project and helping your team move on when it has reached its end.

  • "The best way to close a project is to start it properly – to define it and then establish the right timeline. But if you haven’t done that, then you must develop a process to stop something that’s failing.
  • One problem is that it might still creep along. People can’t imagine ending it because of the possible impact on their career, so you must have a governance structure that says it’s time to stop. Then you need to tell other people that it has happened, and why.
  • When calling a halt to any project – even one that’s gone well – you need to have a wash-up session at the end and say: ‘It’s now closed… there’ll be a review’. Dissect it and discuss what’s been learned.
  • Where some projects are still visible online with ‘ghost residual’ content, you must make it clear to the market that it’s stopped as well. Big projects can take three to five years to shut down.
  • Sometimes you have to make decisions that will surprise the marketing team. When I was at Disney, we developed an idea in Europe – Disney Movie Rewards – where if people bought a movie we could encourage them online to make multiple purchases of other Disney products. We had a million customers at one time but physical media – DVDs, and so on – had peaked, so we decided to close it down. The team didn’t expect the decision – some of them couldn’t quite believe it. People may worry about their prospects, so you need to articulate a future to everyone beyond that project – there’s a duty of care. Sometimes bringing in temporary specialists to wind down a project is a less emotional way of doing things; marketers aren’t necessarily good project managers.
  • My advice is never to let people run around setting up projects if you don’t have a formal process for doing so. While you can do that in a small team, once you start going into the company network the impact is much greater. You have to manage egos, and people will expect results.”

Tom Christie-Miller is director of marketing for the Institute of Directors.

Andrew Mourant Freelance Journalist CPL
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