In this article, I outline three key considerations for a project manager taking over an existing project efficiently and productively.
There can be a variety of reasons as to why a project manager is assigned to an existing project. A previous project manager may have left or been removed. Perhaps there has not been a project manager assigned previously but the project now needs more structure.
There are three key areas to consider in order to ensure the efficient transition into the role of project manager. The project may already have an established delivery methodology. However, transitioning in a new project manager requires its own clear methodology, unique to this process. Such an approach ensures that you establish yourself efficiently at the helm. It also faciliates the shortest ramp time to ongoing project productivity.
Understanding the Company/Context
When taking over an existing project, begin by understanding the company you are working into and the overall operating context. You may already have an established working relationship with the company; if so, this may be an exercise in refreshing your understanding of their core mission and brand values. You may be new to the organization; if so, this will involve completing a more established on-boarding process. Regardless, having a clear grasp of the values and aims of the business creates a solid foundation from which to begin. This understanding will form the backbone of all project work that you undertake. It ensures that you are focused on the company’s objectives and, ultimately, the business model for profitability.
Establish what authority you have as project manager: what the rules and procedures are that you are required to follow and the decision making processes established within the business. Being clear from the start as to where your role begins and ends, and how it fits within the company as a whole, will ensure you have the best chance of maximising your productivity.
Understand the project
The next vital element in taking over an existing project is to understand the project itself. Firstly, establish who the key stakeholders are. Establish who is championing the project and, conversely, where any sources of friction may lie. Understand why you are taking over the project and what risks and issues there may have been up to this point. This will ensure you can avoid repeating mistakes and have support behind you as you proceed.
Review all existing documentation available about the project. Employ a knowledge sharing platform to start pulling together key elements of the project e.g. brief, PID, processes and plans. Answer the following basic questions to be clear on the scope/plan for the project:
- What is the overall aim of the project?
- What is the scope of the project?
- How on schedule is the project?
- What is the budget for the project?
Next, understand the practical elements of running the project. What decision making processes do you need to follow? What knowledge is available in terms of suppliers, resources, vendors and staff? Most importantly, pull this information together in an easy to access place that your whole team can work on together to establish a smooth project transition.
Understand the team
The third, and arguably most important, element to consider when taking over as a project manager of an existing project is the team. You, hopefully,have the asset of a team already familiar with the scope and aim of the project. This may, however, come with some management challenge as you support them through this transition.
Understanding the relationship and structure of the team, as well as the dynamics and history therein is important. What are the team expectations of you as their project manager? Establish what the current team feels has worked thus far. Indentify where the room for change and improvement is. This will allow you to best understand how to lead the team from here on out.
Once you have got to grips with the company’s mission, the aim of the project and the structure of the current team, you can then really understand how you can have the most productive impact on the project.
In my next blog post I will reveal the GOLDEN PRINCIPLE to follow to ensure you are the most effective in this process as possible.
Method Grid is the ideal place to establish a transition methodology for taking over an existing project and a shareable source of knowledge moving forward. It allows you to formalise your plan and keep track of your progress as you move through the process of understanding the company, project and team. It is also the ideal place to coordinate all of the knowledge you acquire during the transition process and enables you to focus on a clear delivery methodology for the project itself.
Sign up for a free Method Grid account (that uniquely integrates knowledge and project management) to help you take over an existing project.