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Time to shut down a project?

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in Leaders & Managers

Starting a project requires so much effort that you may keep it going even when it isn’t performing. The bigger the investment of time, energy and resources, the bigger the temptation.

If only disengaging from a failed project were as easy as deleting a file. What you need is a disengagement plan that addresses two critical issues:

1. Damage control. First, list stakeholders who will be disappointed, and specify what each is hoping for but will not receive.

Next, list steps for mitigating the disappointment. Specify who is responsible for making sure stakeholders come to terms with the project ending.

2. Exploit positives. Take each major aspect of the project and document your original assumptions, as well as what you learned.

Use the document as a backdrop for the team to brainstorm possible learning applications: Is there knowledge to transfer to another division or a new commercial possibility?

— Adapted from “How to Shut Down a Project Gracefully,” Rita Gunther McGrath, strategy+business.

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