Project Management Institute

Saying goodbye

VOICES | Peer to peer

What are the must-have steps for proper team disbandment?

R. Rooban Annamalai, PMP:

Proper team disbandment has to be monitored centrally in the program management office (PMO). We have standard operating procedures for team disbandment, and our PMO site team monitors progress to make sure every project manager in our organization adheres to the guidelines we've given them.

Fred Fanning, PMP:

I think it really depends on the project— and what has occurred on the team. If two team members had experienced confrontation, I would add conflict resolution to the disbandment process. I’d want to make sure baggage wasn't left over for these individuals for future assignments.

Why do project managers often skip a formal team disbandment?

Mr. Fanning:

As teams work through the process, they're focused on getting the deliverables out to the customer. Once that's achieved, it's easy to lose momentum on those final steps. Plus, disbandment means discontinuing the relationships on the current project, and people are often reluctant—probably unknowingly—to break those bonds. So they leave the steps out and just disband as they will.

“People are the most important aspect of any project, and a formal disbandment process helps them prepare for transitioning to new projects.”

—R. Rooban Annamalai, PMP, Wipro Retail UK, Bradford, England

Mr. Annamalai:

For some teams, disbandment is skipped because it's more comfortable to avoid an emotionally difficult task. But people should look forward to the process, because closing a project may lead to a new opportunity for career advancement or learning new technologies.

What's the biggest advantage of a disbandment process?

Mr. Annamalai:

People are the most important aspect of any project, and a formal disbandment process helps them prepare for transitioning to new projects. For example, if team members have to relocate, disbanding gives them time to prepare for the impending change.

Mr. Fanning:

I’ve seen leftover resentment from some team members when we don't disband properly, because we didn't do individual performance reviews or reward performance. They felt like they didn't get credit for the work they did on the project. I think there is a benefit to the organization, too. Without disbanding the team properly, we don't make notes or develop lessons learned from the team members’ experience.

What is the biggest challenge of the disbandment process?

Mr. Fanning:

It's not an easy conversation, but you have to discuss the good and the bad of each team member's performance. If not, the next project manager has to start over. He or she may not know there have been some issues in the past.

Giving honest feedback helps the whole disbandment process, and it allows that team member to see how he or she has made the team successful or not. PM


Fred Fanning, PMP, is director of program integration and logistics operations at the U.S. Department of Energy in Washington, D.C., USA.


R. Rooban Annamalai, PMP, is a program management office manager at Wipro Retail UK, in Bradford, England.

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