Taking Over as Project Manager – The Golden Principle

Taking Over as Project Manager - The Golden Principle

The golden principle to live by when taking over an exsiting project

In my last blog, I examined three key areas a project manager should consider when taking over an existing project. I outlined viable steps to take to establish yourself at the helm. (Read ‘Project Managing an Existing Team’ here)

In this blog I will reveal the one, overarching principle at the heart of successful transition.

As experienced project managers for their advice on the topic and they will time and time again cite this one axiomatic truth. However, you will rarely find it in articles and blogs on the topic.

Before getting to that simple truth, let’s consider three new-project-manager-transitioning scenarios:


Scenario 1 

You are going to take over an existing project. There have been issues with the project up to this point and the current project manager has been unpopular with the team. 


Scenario 2

The project is behind schedule and over budget. Senior management feel that the team has productivity issues and would like you to take control and get the project back on track.


Scenario 3

You are taking over a successful project. The team is well established and is good at what is does. The previous project manager has been promoted and the team is supportive of your arrival.


How do you address each scenario?

It is tempting, especially as a less-experienced project manager – keen to prove your worth and build your reputation – to dive in head first, to implement changes, to take control of the situation and lead full-steam ahead.

The answer to all three of these scenarios, and any other you may find yourself in, is simple; the most effective thing you can do to maximise success is: LISTEN.

LISTEN to the project team you are working with. Talk to the outgoing project manager and LISTEN to their experience. LISTEN to clients, colleagues and senior managers. Gather as much knowledge about the project as you can. Discuss with anyone already involved in the project, on any level, as to what they know and feel about the project. 

Before you take action. Before you restructure, re-budget, re-align or re-staff the project: just LISTEN.


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