Project Cancellation Guidelines


Quick Summary
Screenshot A comprehensive guideline for determining whether a project should be cancelled and—once such a decision is made—for smoothly ramping down and closing out a cancelled project, taking into account possibly wide-ranging implications for your company and customers.


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What this is

Comprehensive guidelines for making the critical decision of whether to cancel a project, and an extensive checklist of activities required to smoothly accomplish ramp down and close out if a cancellation is planned. Includes considerations for fiscal and material impacts, resources and personnel, related activities (like mar-comm production), and customer relations.


Why it's useful

Because canceling a project is a critical business decision and can have many impacts on people, processes, materials, and money within the company. Depending on when it's cancelled, it can also have touchy impacts on customer and partner relationships. Haphazard, less-than-thorough, and insensitive cancellation processes are a really bad idea for all involved.

This guideline is meant to help you avoid the pitfalls and deal smoothly with the less-than-idea, often emotionally-sensitive situation a project cancellation involves.


How to use it

Use Part 1 to help determine whether a project should be cancelled. The guideline items can help assess status as your project proceeds, including at any company-defined checkpoints such as "phase gates" or end-of-phase checkpoints. The items in Part 1 can help you assess whether to cancel the project or try to recover it. It includes items such as:

  • Are there warning signs that the project business case cannot be met after all, due to changes in customer requirements, schedule risks, cost estimate changes, etc.?
  • Has the project hid roadblocks such as resource shortages or technical difficulties?
  • Has project sponsorship changed and left the project without a champion?
  • Given any indicators or problems, can the project be recovered if it appears to be at high risk?
Once you've decided that a project should be cancelled, Part 2 will help you plan the shutdown. Consider each question raised, and if desired, use the worksheet spaces to do specific planning for a smooth project closeout. This section includes such areas as business case and company financial implications; impacts on customers, stakeholders, partners; implications for project participants and their priorities, careers, and morale; disposition of partial project deliverables including documentation, promotions, and other materials; and lessons learned activities.


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