4 Things to Remember When Canceling a Project

It happens—a project you felt certain would move forward has been canceled. How do you nix a project without losing traction in other areas? And what are your chances of keeping the dead limb from sapping the energy from the rest of your project tree? When tasked with killing a project, keep these 4 principles in mind.

1 – Do it quick. Once a project is officially dead, immediately switch to “kill” mode. Don’t expend any more energy or resources on the project than are necessary to complete the cancelation process. Quickly shift existing personnel to other projects, leaving only the minimum level of staffing needed to decommission the dead project and perform any shutdown activities.

2 – Do it publicly. Notify your team first, and then let business partners, collaborators, vendors, suppliers, end users, and stakeholders know the project has been canceled. Don’t assume that folks are already aware of the project’s demise—even senior-level stakeholders may be surprised to learn their pet project is pushing up daisies.

3 – Do it thoughtfully. Evaluate your obligations, which could be numerous and expensive. Which contracts or work agreements need to be terminated, what are the costs associated with terminating those contracts early, and how long will the project continue to require some level of support—either funds or staffing—to complete the decommission?

4 – Consider your next actions. Whatever your project was designed to do—improve a work process, add new equipment, expand a critical piece of software—it’s time to evaluate how operations will continue without the project’s objectives being met. Are there vendor agreements that must be renegotiated to continue or restart services that were halted as part of your project’s implementation? Were temporary stopgap measures in place that now must be refitted to become long-term?

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