Closing down and lessons learned
Plan for a smooth and comprehensive wind down of the taskforce and capture and share taskforce learnings.
- Not allowing time for winding down the taskforce, leaving a significant body of work for the 'last person standing'
- Not engaging with home areas to plan for where staff are going back to at the end of a taskforce, which may lead to uncertainty and anxiety
- Not taking the time to reflect and capture lessons learned as a group, missing out on the opportunity for closure and to identify areas for improvement in future taskforce work
- Poor records management that makes subsequent processes difficult, such as implementation, audits and briefing.
Tips for success
- Have time allocated towards the end of the taskforce, before all staff have departed, to undertake closure and handover activities
- Engage with corporate areas early to schedule the closure of administration supports (e.g. IT access, accommodation, finance)
- Ensure any further requirements for audit and briefing purposes can be easily met
- Engage with secondees and their home area well in advance of the end of the taskforce to plan for their return and ensure a positive transition from the taskforce.
Winding down is just as important as setting up
With the work of the taskforce drawing to a close, it's important to remember that this phase is just as important as the set up. Taskforces often underestimate the work required to close down, and with many staff departing to return to their home areas, this can leave a significant amount of work for the 'last person standing'. Your workplan should therefore build in time for a closure phase before the official end date of the taskforce so that you have enough resources to finalise work, and that you close the loop with stakeholders and prepare for handover to the policy or implementation team.
Your closure phase should allow time for:
- a review of taskforce records, with a clear file structure in place and accessible for anyone who needs it down the track
- engagement with corporate areas to confirm staff departure dates and cessation of administrative supports
- closing the loop with stakeholders – thank them for their support, show them how their input was used and let them know what is happening next
- time to reflect with the team on the taskforce experience and capture lessons learned
- supporting the transition of staff back to their home areas, including debriefing and providing feedback
- a celebration! After a huge amount of work, you should take the time to acknowledge your achievements.
The closure checklist can be used to guide activities during this period.
Support staff on their transition out of the taskforce
Actively supporting the transition of staff on exit from the taskforce will ensure positive outcomes for all involved – the employee, the taskforce team and the home area. The taskforce supervisor should support the secondee to initiate contact with their home area to discuss their return at least one month before the conclusion of the secondment period. A successful transition out of the taskforce is dependent on planning and minimising uncertainty during this period as much as possible.
Secondees should also have the opportunity to debrief with their taskforce supervisor about their experience, including development during their secondment and hearing feedback.
Obligations for wrapping up a taskforce
Taking the time to compile comprehensive records of taskforce activities is essential – while the work may have ended, questions or reviews may arise for years to come. And with taskforces made up of temporary teams, there is rarely an ongoing point of contact for questions and queries – a record may be all that remains.
Your closure should therefore consider:
- Audit requirements – the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) conducts performance audits on identified programs or processes, which can include consideration of their economy, efficiency, effectiveness, and legislative and policy compliance. The auditing process involves extensive information gathering and assessment of whether agreed objectives were met, along with the reasons and evidence for any decisions made. A clear and concise set of records, especially around decisions taken throughout the taskforce, will assist with a streamlined auditing process should one occur.
- Briefing requirements – work undertaken by the taskforce may be subject to ongoing reviews, such as Senate inquiries and other parliamentary briefing processes. Clear labelling and file structures will make it easier for anyone preparing a brief to pull the necessary content together.
- Freedom of Information (FOI) requests – in the event that an FOI request is received in relation to the work of the taskforce, good records will make sorting and assessing documents much simpler.
Take time to reflect
A retrospective is a great way for the taskforce team to collectively reflect on what went well and what didn't go so well during the taskforce and consider lessons learned based on this experience. Retrospectives are designed for continuous improvement – it's not about allocating blame. It's important to choose a time when the whole team is available and has space to reflect on their experiences and share their thoughts.
The guide to running a retrospective will take you through the steps of a successful session – it can sometimes be helpful to have a neutral person (such as a colleague from another area) facilitate the discussion and capture findings so that all members of the team are free to engage in the conversation
Share lessons learned
In addition to running a retrospective for team members to reflect on their experiences, it’s recommended that taskforces undertake a more structured self-evaluation of their performance against set objectives, including whether the taskforce scope or objectives were met; ease and efficiency of establishing corporate support; clarity of taskforce structure, roles and responsibilities; and staff management, development and well-being.
Self-evaluations should be conducted at the taskforce’s conclusion; however, you may wish to incorporate intermittent review points where appropriate.
To encourage accountability and transparency it’s further recommended that learnings reports (using our taskforce learnings template) be provided to key Senior Executives in the taskforce’s governance structure, for example, the relevant Deputy Secretary or potentially Steering Committee.