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5 tips to handoff your project to someone else

Leaving on vacation and need someone to take care of your project? Want to make sure you come back and it’s not wrecked?

It all begins with how you handoff your project; the more you guide your colleague properly, the higher the chance he has of properly maintaining that project.

1. Quality over quantity

If you swarm your colleague with 50 pages of document about EVERYTHING, chances are he will be lost more than useful, or he will take control of your project very slowly, which will affect your project. Don’t forget, he as to pickup an ongoing project in one day, something which you may have gradually learned/planned in 1-2 months.

Guide your colleague with easy “next-step” lists. If documents must be read, guide him towards specific parts of documents, or even better, create a cheat sheet of those documents. For example: “read page 2 and 6 of document X right away”.

In this context, by quality, I also mean accuracy. Guiding your colleague towards a document that’s not updated will result in your colleague not trusting (so not reading) available documents. Or worst, he will read them, and manage your project with outdated information, which could damage your project. So make sure you update documents, or tell your colleague not to read them, and give him the needed information instead.

Result:

  • Your colleague picks up your project faster;
  • Less “training” time occurs on your project’s budget;
  • Fewer errors;
  • Sentiment of trust/control from your colleague;
  • Overall team stress/moral will be in a better place.

2. Transfer your ‘radar’

In this context, by ‘radar’, I mean, what you know to pay attention to. They may be details, but details that will make a difference in the outcome of your project. For example, it could be a colleague in the team that is always late. It could be a deliverable that has a very important element to verify before sending to client because it was requested as something very important. It could be anything, but it’s probably not written anywhere, or if so, it’s information hard to find.

Even if the information is found or transferred, if it’s not made clear that it must be in your colleague’s radar, then he might not think that it’s as important as it really is.

For example: “Before sending document Y, make sure to verify Jim’s text, he always makes horrible typos and the client hates that regardless of the quality of the document’s content.”.

Result:

  • Everything you thought was important will be checked just as if you were there;
  • Reduces chances of errors.

3. Clarify expectations

During transitions, there is nothing worst then unclear expectations which results in one person thinking the other will do it while the other thinks the same thing. The result is that no work gets done.

During the transition, chances are the team will communicate to both to make sure the message gets across, by mail for example. For each of those messages, it’s important that you tell your colleague if you’re taking care of it or if you’re trusting your colleague to do it. That way, expectations are clear, and if your colleague doesn’t feel comfortable to take care of the request, he can communicate so, and you can help him in doing so.

Expectations towards the team is important too, as I mentioned, they will probably communicate to both, or even only to you, so it’s important that the team knows they need to communicate to your colleague directly.

Result:

  • No request will be left unattended;
  • Information will be sent to your colleague and not to you only;

4. Follow-up

Project management can be hard as it is, and no matter what we think, it’s harder when it’s a project handed off to us rather than one we are in control since the beginning. Therefore, it’s important to do a couple of follow-ups if you know a milestone is coming or something specific must be done.

For example: “We’re suppose to be sending document Z tomorrow, was it verified today? Let me know if you need help”.

Result:

  • That follow-up may grab something that was going to be forgotten;
  • Your colleague will appreciate the backup;
  • This can prevent the feeling of projects being “thrown” to your colleague’s face rather than handed off.

5. Be available

Questions will come, and it’s good that you stay available to answer those questions or even help your colleague in the transition. Depending of circumstances or project, it may be good to be available for 1-2 weeks.

In conclusion

Handing off projects to other project managers is not easy, and our initial reaction is to “get rid of it”. Put yourself in your colleague’s shoes, and do it the way you would want it done to you. Your colleague will appreciate it, and the project will not suffer during the transition.

Let me know if you have more tips in the matter! Or you may want to share stories of how you were handed a project.