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.
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