There are two main reasons why project handovers occur. It can be a scheduled part of a project plan, whereby at the end of a certain phase the project is handed over to another team for further work or indeed for final delivery to the client themselves. The other reason is between project managers when, for one reason or another, a PM has to hand over control of the project.
In this article we are going to talk about the latter situation, though there will be healthy advice for both intra-team and client project handovers as well. If you’re in a situation where you will have to hand over a project here are some ways to make sure it goes as smoothly as possible.
Create a proper handover task strand and use project management to make sure things work out successfully. As you are most likely using a project plan or Gantt chart to organize and delegate tasks, it makes sense to use project management best practice to handle any project handovers too. Draw up a workflow chart and cover all the elements which will be necessary to make the handover successful, as you work through each individual task don’t be afraid of modifying the scope to make sure every base has been covered.
Make sure to have an adequate hand over period. The lead in time before the new project manager takes over is your opportunity to hand over the baton at full speed and make sure they hit the ground running. As soon as possible, i.e. once the new or interim PM has been chosen, it is good to at least touch base and provide access to your project status and progress. After that try and secure a decent time period, up to a week depending on the complexity of the role, of working together so that they can be fully informed of each area of the project.
Break the project down into distinctive areas so that it is easier for questions to be asked. While empathy is a good trait to have in nearly all areas of life, in project management, taking your replacement’s role into consideration can help the hand over process greatly. Once you have begun the hand over period, try to reduce the information overload by separating tasks, objectives and team member roles into discrete segments. This will prevent the next PM from simply being deluged with information, not knowing where to begin. By being able to figure out what they need more information on themselves they will assist in spotting the gaps in the hand over process.
Get sign-off from superiors or other stakeholders. This can work both ways as the next PM won’t want to get blamed for any inconsistencies or issues which the project had when they inherited it, but also for you to make sure you don’t end up being a scapegoat for things which come up after you leave. It is not just your reputation which can suffer but also bonuses, job opportunities or even potential legal action are at risk.