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How To Pick Up A Project From Someone Else

How to Pick Up a Project From Someone Else

In the last couple of weeks I’ve turned into a woman who runs down Regent Street in ridiculous heels to get to her next meeting on time.

Who has said, “Sorry, I’ve got a mouthful of lunch, hang on,” too many times on the phone because there isn’t enough time in the day not to work through lunch.

Who has paid library fines even though the books are just there ready to go back, because she can’t get out of the office for 20 minutes to return them.

In other words, life has just been really busy.

The reason for all this is that I’ve taken on a new project. We’ve shuffled things around and I’ve picked up a (big, complicated) piece of work. It’s interesting.

It’s in good shape as the previous PM did an excellent job. The team are committed and know what they are doing. But I got 47 emails about it overnight (that’s between 5pm and 8am) on my first day truly in charge. There is a lot going on and I really don’t feel like I have a clue.

Still, it’s the  turn of autumn over here, my favourite time of year with leaves that cheer you up even if you have got out of bed four times in the night with a toddler who is going through the ‘there’s a T-Rex in my wardrobe and I’m scared’ phase.

So, here are my tips for beginning work on a project that someone else is handing over.

Scroll to the bottom to get a free Project Initiation Checklist to help with all this. It’s everything you need to remember when you are taking on a new project.

1. Get a handover

The clue is in the title. They are handing over responsibility to you, so they need to actually do a handover. Get copies of important papers (especially anything to do with money spent or committed to spend). Ask about the team. Check the milestones.

That’s the formal part of the handover. Now have a chat off the record.

Find out what the stakeholders are expecting and which of them are being a bit difficult right now. The old project manager is a great source of information about the office politics surrounding this project and can shortcut your learning curve drastically.

2. Get introductions

I can’t find the source of this story (get in touch if you know) but someone once told me a tale of two soldiers. The both agreed to talk each other up at every opportunity.

Over the years they described each other’s credentials and experience when their colleague’s name came up in conversation. Lo and behold, they each got promoted more quickly than the norm.

In his book Yes: 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive, Robert B. Cialdini talks about how having someone else introduce you is a more powerful way of making a first impression. Get the leaving project manager to make positive introductions, and ask them to specifically point out that the project remains in good hands.

That’s a message that will give confidence to stakeholders who might be nervous about the change in project manager and it means you’re more likely to get off on the right foot.

Come to think of it, that soldier story might be in that book too.

3. Go through project initiation again (by yourself)

For your own piece of mind, run through what you would normally do when you set up a project. Is there a project initiation document? A business case? If you would set up a Yammer group for a new project, is there one?

Download the Project Initiation Checklist by leaving your email address in the box below. Run through the steps. Check that you are happy running this project now.

Put in place anything that you feel needs doing and stop anything that doesn’t work with how you want to run the project. Just be sure to tell everyone so that they know what’s going on.

You don’t have to run it in the same way as the other person did. It’s yours. Do it your way.

Now go and be awesome!

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About Elizabeth Harrin

Elizabeth HarrinElizabeth Harrin is a Fellow of the Association for Project Management in the UK and the award-winning blogger behind A Girl's Guide To Project Management. She's passionate about demystifying project management and making tools and techniques work in the real world. She's also the author of several books including the PMI bestseller, Collaboration Tools for Project Managers.

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