I received this question from a reader of my newsletter: How can I manage endings of major change projects?
Here are some things you can do:
Thank people for their effort and their accomplishments. It is amazing how often a change gets implemented, and we forget to say thanks. Obviously, it helps to be sincere when you thank people.
Debrief the project. Get a cross-section of people together to explore the question: What can we learn from this that could help us in the future? Be willing to acknowledge what worked, what didn’t, the missed opportunities, the unexpected wins, and so forth. The purpose is to learn about how your organization handles change, so that the next time might be better. Avoid pointing fingers and blaming. Use this as an opportunity to learn something.
Acknowledge that the project is over. If the project was a success, then the new software will be installed, up and running, and you’ll be getting results. Say so. If it was a failure, acknowledge that as well. But be willing to end it. But I hear you say that’s hard to do. Try this: “I have an announcement to make. The project is over.”
And, by all means, read William Bridges’ book, Transitions. It is the only book I know that explores this phase in the life of a change so extensively. I highly recommend this classic.