Have you ever had to turn over - or take over - a project that's in process?  It's not as easy as it sounds.


Especially with large companies, long projects, or ongoing projects, project managers move around, move on, take on new challenges - and need to hand their current project over to a different project manager.  That incoming project manager  may know very little about the actual project she's taking on.


It's important to do a clean handover.  For the project, a clean handover means minimal risk and minimal disruption.  For the departing project manager a clean handover means the project doesn't come with him in the form of questions and former project team members trying to work around a new project manager.  For the incoming project manager, a clean handover means getting comfortable with the project, process, and people and continuing the project success.  The stakes are even higher if the departing project manager is leaving the company. (Well, for everyone but the departing project manager.)


We carry a lot of project information in our heads.  Even experienced project managers miss critical information unless they really think carefully about what kind of information needs to be transitioned.


Having been on both sides of  project turnover (and having had some go very well and some turn into disasters), I have some guidelines on what I look for during a turnover:


  • The four dials (Schedule, Scope, Cost, Quality):
    • Where are they set
    • What are the expectations (written and assumed)
    • What's the priority amongst the dials
  • The people
    • Who's on the team
    • What are the skill sets
    • Who are critical contacts outside the team
    • Who are the go-to people
    • Which people don't work well together
    • Which people need some reminding
    • What are we missing
    • Who are the stakeholders, official and unofficial
  • The process
    • What process are we using
    • Where's the documentation
    • What regular meetings are scheduled, who attends them, and what's the purpose of each
    • What distribution lists exist
    • What reports are generated regularly
  • The risk
    • What are you worried about
    • Where's the risk register
    • What needs watching
    • Where are the contingency and mitigation plans


Finally, I like to sit with the other project manager and run through a typical week (or two) on the project.  That helps turn up all kinds of little things that are useful and important but otherwise forgotten.


Need some more?  Grab my Project Transition Checklist for a good starting point