PM Foundations – Project Celebrations

The team celebration is an essential component of properly closing a project. As a project manager, you want people to leave the project with a good appreciation for the team’s key accomplishments, and the impact this work had (or will have) on the organization. The team has probably celebrated several milestones and/or key accomplishments throughout the project life cycle, but the end of the project celebration should be a little more special. The celebration can be doing something (e.g., team dinner or outing) or giving/receiving something (e.g., team apparel or other memento).

It is amazing how project celebrations, if executed poorly, can leave people with a negative impression of the project. Based upon my experience, the following are some considerations that I find have a positive impact on the project celebration:

  • Inclusive: Trying to draw the line around who should be included in the celebration is sometimes difficult. You want to recognize the people that have been truly instrumental in the team’s success, but the team celebration is not a good time for people to feel left out or unappreciated. Therefore, when I make decisions around who should be involved in the celebration, I err on being more inclusive.
  • Involvement in Celebration Planning: Just because you are a good project manager does not mean you are a good “wedding planner”. Make sure you engage team members that are good at and enjoy planning team events. Soliciting input and involvement from team members, like any team deliverable, will improve the overall quality of the event.
  • Size: Make sure the size and cost of the celebration is appropriate based upon the size and effort associated with the project. For example, a lunch is appropriate for a one month effort, vs. a dinner and team shirt may be appropriate for one year effort. I have also found that the bigger and more expensive celebration is does not always mean it is a better celebration. A thoughtful and creative token of appreciation can be just as well received by team as a large and expensive team event.
  • Virtual Teams: The location of team members adds unique challenges to the team celebration process. In my experience it works out best if the celebration is consistent across the whole team. Therefore, I try to avoid one type of celebration for the majority of the team, and then another type of celebration for the REST of the team. I have seen some very creative and effective celebrations for virtual teams – do not skip the celebration just because you have virtual team members.
  • Final Wrap-up: It is a good practice to have a final team wrap-up review with highlights from the project closure report linked to the final team celebration. The wrap-up makes it clearer what the team is celebrating. The wrap-up can be incorporated into the celebration, or a precursor to the celebration.
  • Team Recognitions: The team celebration is a great time to recognize outstanding efforts/accomplishments, as well as memorable happenings during the project. I try to keep the recognition focused on the team vs. individuals.
  • Fun: Make sure the celebration is something the team considers fun. This is where input and involvement of the team improves the quality of the celebration. The goal of the celebration is to ensure the team feels appreciated and a sense of accomplishment – a fun event generally helps accomplish this goal.

About Steve Hart
Practice Manager responsible for project leadership & delivery services for the Cardinal Solutions Group in the RTP area. I am a PMP with 25 years of project management and technical leadership roles, have developed an extensive practical knowledge that spans a wide variety of industries, and project delivery approaches. As a practicing PMP, I am a member of the North Carolina PMI chapter. I am an avid sports fan, particularly the Miami RedHawks, Cleveland Indians, Cleveland Browns, and most recently the NC State Wolfpack.

2 Responses to PM Foundations – Project Celebrations

  1. Pingback: PM Foundations – Project Celebrations « PMChat

  2. Pingback: PM-Foundations – What Makes Projects FUN? : Accelerating IT Success

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