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When to Kill a Project?

When to Kill a Project?


Killing a Project

Any project is a temporary endeavour which must end on one day. A project is an investment on a business objective or on some change initiative which is valuable from sponsor’s perspective. Project’s output need to justify the money spent by sponsor and time and energy spent by other stakeholders. Projects should not be done just to keep any organization or person happy or busy.

For successful project delivery, project manager need to have proper resources, understanding of business and technology complexities, lessons from previous projects and understanding of client’s business and objective of the project. It is not easy or sometimes it not feasible to understand all the dimensions at the start of the project.

Projects are progressive in nature. More you work, more you understand. More you understand, you discover the client’s need and then work towards it. However, sometimes project do not progress due to some reasons including lack of direction or too many changes in the project by stakeholders. Due to this project come to a stage where stakeholders are not interested in the project or sponsor is not willing to finance any more. This is the time you should consider killing a project.

When to ‘kill’ a project?

Project manager should think of recommending killing a project under following circumstances:

  • Sponsor does not find it worthy to invest any more
  • Sponsor does not have money to invest
  • Technology has changed so much that delivering out dated solution does not make sense
  • Competitor has come up with better solutions which your project’s product will not be able to provide
  • Community around the project see the project as a challenge to their quality of life and sponsor is not able to convince them
  • Objective of the project is already achieved by other means

 Role of a project manager in Killing Project

Project monitoring and controlling processes provides input and indicator about project health regularly to project manager. A seasoned project manager can notice changes in the project, can take corrective measures immediately if project is going off the track. If there are too many changes from stakeholders during the project progress, project manager need to determine how much is too much or what is the tolerance limits? Project manager need to discuss with the sponsor and other important stakeholders if there are too many changes or project going off the track. Project manager has all responsibilities to bring back project on the track and revive it. If project is closed before its objectives are met, project sponsor and manager are the most affected stakeholders. Project manager makes a convincing recommendation based on progress data available from monitoring and controlling process.

Decision making

Project manager should never decide to kill a project. The person who was sponsoring has the right to make the decision. Before you execute sponsor’s decision to kill a project you need to discuss with relevant stakeholders like customer, department heads, end user, legal experts and discuss the status of the project and discuss all possible solution to revive or deliver partially. Taking the inputs from these people you can discuss possible alternatives with sponsor and help him in making a best possible decision.

How to close a project?

Starting a project is a ceremony like a birth ceremony. Killing should not be unceremonious, although it is death. You can follow the steps below to close a project:

  • Invite all stakeholders and resource involved for a meeting
  • Inform them the decision of project board and sponsor
  • Prepare a release report and ship work in progress product or partially completed product to the customer
  • Schedule a lessons learned session with stakeholders (duration of this session depends upon size of project and number of departments involved)
  • Inform your vendors and close procurement work awarded to them
  • Document lessons learned and archive the same
  • Call project team formally and inform them that next working day onward they will not be working on this project
  • Inform to your information security, physical security departments so that they can provision accordingly
  • Inform your finance department about final payments
  • Settle the final payments of your employees, resources and vendors
  • Inform to your legal department about any pending or new litigation due to the project
  • Formally declare that ‘project is closed’
  • Prepare follow-on recommendation

A project can be closed once objective is met or it gets terminated half-way. Whatever the case it will have an impact on the morale of human resource working on the project. Possible impact because of killing a project are:

  • Blame game between team members or departments
  • Low morale of the project team
  • Risk appetite and risk attitude of the sponsor may be affected
  • Many a time opportunity for those people who were part of killed project are limited
  • Apart from this it can have impacts on competitor, organization politics and revenue



There are two processes in project closing process group in PMI’s Project Standard called Project Management Body of Knowledge 5th Edition. One process is Close Project or Phase which is part of Project Integration management knowledge area and second process is Close Procurements which is part of Project Procurement management knowledge area. In nutshell above recommendations are extracts of the best practices of these two processes.



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