We like to think that shifting a project is a simple matter of asking a project manager to take over, shaking hands, and moving on to the higher priority work at hand. Of course it’s not quite that easy, and there are several steps to making sure that you, the group you’re handing the project off to, and the customer all understand what’s happening. This article by Brad Egeland lists four important steps to preparing for project handoff.
It begins with a meeting between yourself and the delivery team. Get as much information as possible and document everything they tell you. This will yield huge dividends when the new project manager takes over the work. Along the same lines, Egeland suggests revising every element of the project: the project schedule, the status reports, and any other pertinent information.
An often overlooked stakeholder during project handoffs is the project customer. By informing them early of the change, you can avoid confusion later:
Call the project customer and bring them up to speed on the transition. Your contact will likely be their first knowledge of this so provide them with as much detail on the solid background of the incoming project manager as possible. You must present it in a way that will gain their confidence and not make them feel like a 2nd class project customer. And, if possible, plan for at least a lengthy transition where you lead and mentor the next project manager as you get everyone used to the transition. Handling the transition this way rather than making an abrupt exit will likely go a long way in keeping customer confidence and satisfaction high.
The article goes on, explaining how a formal process of project takeover should take place “in view” of the customer. This helps them understand when the actual switch between the past and the current project manager occurred, and also helps frame the change for the teams involved on the project side as well. While it can seem like a stage performance (especially if the new project manager has already taken control by the time the customer is notified), the smooth transition is important enough to allow for this pause in project work.