Three Neglected Truths in a Project Hand Over

Published on Oct 8th, 2010 by

Three Neglected Truths in a Project Hand Over

You can be pretty confident that the benefit of not switching a PM will outweigh the impact it has on the project. If you’re program management or an executive my formal advice to you is to keep a PM on board and on the same project until a project is finished.

The only real exception on this is a case where the project manager gets “burned” (loses the client’s trust) or when he/she lost the support of the project team.

Why does this have such impact, why is it so hard to pick up where someone else leaves off?

Disclaimer: when I use the word cost in this article, I mean both time and budget.

Documentation and project history is lost.
You can always hope that a project is fully documented, but we all know it never is. There’s almost always an important informal detail that gets lost. Definitely one for the risk register. The hand-over time is often too short and always expensive, which brings us to the second point …

The conditions for responsibility.
The hand over cost should be integrated into the project’s balance somehow, otherwise the new PM can’t be held genuinely responsible. This is easily looked over, most people find if hard to grasp.
The new PM should be allowed to estimate the time and budget required for the hand over together with program management and/or the leaving PM, allowing for some kind of re-baseline. Sadly the new PM is often faced with conditions that apply to a situation that doesn’t exist anymore, that’s no genuine basis for responsibility.

Project manager style matters, a lot.
No two people are the same, project management is almost all about communication and personal style. This is also a very real risk in a hand over situation. It might turn out to be a bad thing or an opportunity, but don’t neglect it.

Changing the project manager (at any stage) on a project is often a very bad thing. It’s very disruptive because it’s extremely hard to do right. It’s also just as much bound to happen from time to time and that’s probably why we often take this situation too lightly; people become ill, they go on long vacations, they reach the end of their contract, etc. etc.

I’ve compiled a few checklists with practical advice for project managers who are in this situation, they are the subject of future posts.

Latest Comments (5)


Nice catch.

My 2 bits. Depending on the sector you work in, there is in most cases no time and budget for a hand over. In marcom it’s hardly possible to do a decent hand over. Also because of the fast changing interest of the client in this sector. It’s impossible to keep every change within the given budget. And do not expect to get more $$$.

October 16, 2010 19:16 Reply


Hi Claudio, thanks for sharing! I have the same experience with marcom, it can be a real challenge.

October 18 2010 09:58 am

Journeyman PM – A Checklist for Handing Over a Project

[…] So if you find yourself in this kind of situation, here’s the checklist I promised a while ago. […]

October 29, 2010 16:30 Reply


Thanks for this article and the checklist. I found both very useful.

I’m a Junior PM and I find myself in a the position of being asked to take on a large project in delivery from another PM who is not leaving the organisation, and I can see no discernible rationale for why there is going to be a change – except that he has been driving for it for a while. He’s been the PM since initiation.

I have expressed my concerns (somewhat aligned to this article) to the Programme Manager but I suspect it is going to happen regardless.
I have less confidence in the Business Change team since I feel the decision making is flawed. I am nervous too, so that isn’t helping.

January 17, 2017 12:46 Reply


Thank you Emma, and best of luck!

January 27 2017 10:30 am

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