When taking over an existing project - what are the first 3 things you ask for?

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begeland
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If you've ever been asked to take over an existing project, you know it can sometimes be an awkward situation. You may be just taking over for someone taking a leave of leaving the company or who is overloaded on other projects. Or you may be taking over a project that is a mess and you're the new PM asked to 'fix' it.

Whatever the situation, you usually need to get up and running fairly quickly. What are the first 3 things you seek out? For me it's usually the statement of work, the latest project schedule, and the last couple of months of status reports and notes. I'd say budget status/forecast, but sometimes that info is included in the status report at a high level and if not, it may not be my immediate concern...it will probably be next on my list.

What are your top 3?
eoinmcdonnell
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It's a tricky situation, isn't it?

I'd always ask for the PID (though, if it's a failing project, I know that by asking for this I'm probably exposing the fact that there isn't one).

An hour of each Board members time.

An updated Plan including adjusted delivery forecasted over the next stage and budget forecasts.
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dhaughey
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Hi Brad,

An unenviable task, but an effective way to showcase your project management skills.

The three things I'd ask for are:
  1. To see the BOSCARD and Requirements Specification.
  2. To see the original project plan and current project plan.
  3. To hold interviews with all Stakeholders.
If it's a failing project I'd start by looking for the root cause of the project's problems. Once understood, I'd review the project documentation, including the plan, and write a damage assessment report. The report would include reasons for any schedule issues, budget overruns and the state of all deliverables and work needed to complete them.

Next, I'd re-plan the project with the team and present my findings to the sponsor and project board. At this point, I'd look to get acceptance of my plan and agreement to rebaseline the project. If agreed then I'd start managing the project.

Rescuing a project can be similar in many ways to starting a project. There's no magic, it's just understanding the current state of the project, how it got there, and what is needed to recover it by working with the project team and stakeholders. Having an external perspective and being detached from what has gone before makes it easier to cut through the fog and map a route to a successful conclusion.

Any other thoughts or tips?

Cheers,
Duncan
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kwalford
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dhaughey wrote:Hi Brad,

An unenviable task, but an effective way to showcase your project management skills.

The three things I'd ask for are:
  1. To see the BOSCARD and Requirements Specification.
  2. To see the original project plan and current project plan.
  3. To hold interviews with all Stakholders.
If it's a failing project I'd start by looking for the root cause of the projects problems. Once understood, I'd review the project documentation, including the plan, and write a damage assessment report. The report would include reasons for any schedule issues, budget overruns and the state of all deliverables and work needed to complete them.

Next, I'd replan the project with the team and present my findings to the sponsor and project board. At this point I'd look to get acceptance of my plan and agreement to rebaseline the project. If agreed then I'd start managing the project.

Rescuing a project can be similar in many ways to starting a project. There's no magic, it's just understanding the current state of the project, how it got there, and what is needed to recover it by working with the project team and stakeholders. Having an external perspective and being detatched from what has gone before makes it easier to cut through the fog and map a route to a succesful conclusion.

Any other thoughts or tips?

Cheers,
Duncan

I like this.

I was just reading your BOSCARD article on this website about this, interesting reading.
Edi
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Please what about if the previous project manager is sick?
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dhaughey
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Hi Edi,

If the sick project manager is due back at work soon, it's probably just a case of keeping things going and not changing too much. In the case of a long-term sick project manager, I'd do something very similar to taking over an existing or failed project. I'd look at the BOSCARD, project plan, budget and hold interviews with key stakeholders, including the project team. Project managers have different styles so once the project is understood, the project manager may wish to make changes as they see fit. The new project manager will usually have a honeymoon period while they are getting to grips with the project so shouldn't feel under too much pressure initially.

Duncan
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