How to successfully Transition Project Managers

By guest contributor Anthony Schatz, part 2 or 2 part series.  Tony is senior partner at RJSL Group, IT project management consultancy and staff augmentation outfit based in Chicago.

We all know project resources are ever changing.  It always seems that once you have a well-oiled team and everyone is working towards the same goal, inevitably a key member is promoted, removed, or leaves your project.  As project managers, we are trained to work through these situations and keep the project moving forward.  However, what happens when the project manager is replaced?  Who leads the transition?  Who ensures the project continues to move forward?

Here are some key components to ensure a smooth transition from one PM to another:

Sponsor(s)/Key Stakeholder Communication – This group will make or break a successful transition.  These are high-level resources that need to understand their project will not be negatively impacted by this change.  This group is mainly concerned about completing the project successfully.  Explain to them why the transition is taking place and what the plan is to keep the project moving forward.  If possible, have face-to-face meetings.  Follow up these meetings with an email to have a written record of what was discussed.

Make sure you reach out to ALL sponsors/stakeholders, whether they are deeply involved or not.  If you miss one key resource, it could jeopardize the transition.

Team Communication – Much like with the sponsors, it is important to explain to the team why the transition is taking place and what the plan is to continue to move forward.  It is important to explain the project is not changing and the team’s responsibilities are not changing.  Each resource is still responsible for the work assigned to them.

Documentation – A successful transition relies on the transitioning PM having all the project documentation up to date.  Project standards (project schedule, risk and issues log, project charter, and status reports) provide the new project manager an understanding of what steps are necessary to continue moving the project forward.  Further, good documentation allows the new PM to get up to speed without having to ask redundant questions that have already been answered.

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About Richard Lee
Experienced finance and operations professional. Currently partner in five companies, adjunct professor of economics at Columbia College and executive contributor to a small business blog (www.SMBmatters.com); following corporate finance, M&A and management consulting tenures with Orbitz and Diamond Technology Partners; and six years of service with the United States Army.

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