Project Completion Criteria

Project Completion Criteria

How do you know when you are done on your project?  It seems like a simple enough question but it can be a bit contentious if all parties do not have the same definition.  Let’s first start with a working definition of project completion criteria.

 A term used to refer to the setting of explicit goals that must be attained to call a component or deliverable of the project “done”.

What does that mean to you, the project manager?  Let’s break the definition down and discuss each part separately.

Setting: The use of the word “setting” infers that early in the project, this was discussed, defined and planned.  According to the PMBOK® Guide, setting key stakeholder expectations should be documented in early project documentation such as the Scope Statement and Project Charter.

Explicit: stated in clear and unambiguous language.  We often talk about requirements meeting these same criteria but this is also true of each and every outcome or deliverable of the project. This increases the probability of customer acceptance and reduces the likelihood of scope changes.

Goals: The project is complete when the work is done.  This is the project manager’s goal.  However, we must be clear about the business goals and priorities for our projects.  Do we understand why the business is investing in this project?  If we create the deliverables but miss the business need, have we met the completion criteria?  These are important issues that need to be clearly understood and documented.

When there is more than one goal for the project, each goal must be prioritized so that the project manager can make critical project decisions in alignment with established priorities.  For example, if push comes to shove which is more important?  Making the schedule or meeting the budget?

Component or deliverable: a measurable and tangible outcome of the project.  These are the systems, machines, products, services, manuals and project artifacts that you will turn over to the customer when the project is closed.  Each one must be clearly identified and then transitioned in its final form to the appropriate and agreed upon recipient.

Done: Doneness is directly related to quality.  Appropriate quality metrics should be defined and planned.  This will help the team determine their quality control and testing protocols and use cases.  We know that it is the responsibility of the project manager and team to work with the customer to understand what the customer’s definition of quality is in measurable and quantifiable terms.  It is important to work through this so that all parties agree that the defined quality level is achievable and appropriate.

Set the project up for success!  Don’t establish definitive targets but rather an acceptable range such as 8-10 months or $250,000 +/- 10%.  To use an analogy, even the best baseball players don’t hit a homerun every time they are up at bat. Why do we agree to meet a specific date (or dollar)?  The definition of project success should be defined in a way that is achievable and by using ranges for time, cost and quality allow us to set the project up for success.

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