With shifting business priorities caused by internal strategic or external environmental changes, it is not uncommon to find yourself pulled off one project to manage a new, higher priority one. In some cases, the project you had been previously leading is put on hold or could even get cancelled but other times, the previous project is handed over to a different project manager.
Under such circumstances, you are likely going to be under some pressure to start planning and leading your new project, so you might be forgiven for just pointing your replacement in the direction of your project control book and introducing them to the sponsor, key stakeholders and the team. If you really want to reduce the likelihood of getting pulled back in when things start to go wrong, it would be much better to negotiate with your leadership team for some breathing room to help you complete the following activities.
- Refresh your project control book. If it has been a few days (or weeks!) since you last reviewed and updated your schedule, RAID log and other living project control knowledge, do it now to save your successor from the frustration of having to bridge gaps between the documented and actual state of the project.
- Review open risks, actions & issues with the new project manager but also walk them through key decisions which were made over the project’s lifetime and any critical assumptions which haven’t been validated. A detailed review of the stakeholder register, project schedule and financials is also required.
- Request the new project manager to facilitate a short lessons identification workshop with the team and some stakeholders. This not only gives you the chance to share lessons you’ve identified to date before you leave the project, but it also provides your successor with insights into the personalities of the key players on their new project.
- Recognize your team members – just because a transition is happening shouldn’t mean that the good work they’ve done so far gets forgotten. Thank your old team members personally, and if your relationship with them supports it, meet with them individually to coach them on any opportunities for development. Send their people managers a brief note highlighting their accomplishments.
- Reset access. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve taken over the leadership of a project only to find that I’m lacking the appropriate level of access required to work with key systems or documents. Credibility and precious time gets lost in resolving this if the transition has already happened. As part of the transition, the new project manager’s access privileges should be configured and yours should get reduced or removed.
Running for the hills might seem a natural reaction to being handed a new project, but resist this temptation and review the 5 R’s!