When to hand off the project

When to hand off the project

And I’m not just talking about when your project ends and you hand over the project to the operations team.  I’m talking about some other situations you can find yourself in such as:

  1. Your in a large, complex project with multiple dependencies that touch multiple departmental areas.  For example, you may be a lead project manager for a major ERP deployment that also needs to interface with your company’s supply chain management system, and someone is brought in who has more experience with SCM interface integration.  You may feel compelled to have direct oversight on that sub project, but it may be best just to hand that off and work together to plan for the dependencies and ensure you both meet the timelines.
  2. Your company may experience a downsizing or reorganization where your whole reporting structure gets torn apart.  The new management does not know your full range of skills and ability to deliver projects and may feel it necessary to have someone else provide oversight or even take over a portion of your project.  In extreme cases, they may even request to have this person take over the whole project.
  3. Quite simply and a matter of fact,  it may be the case that you cannot handle the project.  It could be lack of experience, unfamiliar subject domain (managing a software development project without ever having written code), inability to “jell” with the team, culture or management clashes, etc.  Whatever the case may be, everyone including your management, team and stakeholder can tell you are over your head.

The best thing to do in all these situations is to remain calm and though you may initially feel like resisting, pushing back and in some extreme cases (which I have personally witnessed), deliberately sabotaging the project or creating a situation where you try and make the new project manager fail, the best thing to do is to go out of your way to accommodate the incoming person.

It may seem counter intuitive and even feeling like you are grooming your replacement, but the fact of the matter is that this person is coming in as the new project manager and you need to hand off the project to him/her gracefully and go out of your way to make the transition easy.  This will show you are a team player and will endear upper management to keep you on board to assist with the hand over and even to keep you on so you can learn from a more experienced project manager.

The positives in the first situation is that it will show you are a team player and mature enough to know when to hand off and work with a person who is more experienced in the other domain.  In the second situation, though you may not like it, you do have to prove yourself again to new management.  Downsizing and reorganization are a common enough phenomenon that you are likely to experience this multiple times in your career.  It’s best to just deal with it as positively as you can.  In the third, you are failing so its best to make the best out of a worse situation and if your lucky, you can stay on and learn from a more seasoned person.

So there you have it, another of the “emotional intelligence” area of your project management skill sets you have to develop.

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