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Effective Strategies for Taking Over a New Project: A Comprehensive Guide for Managers

Frank Blecha
Frank Blecha
6 min read
Effective Strategies for Taking Over a New Project: A Comprehensive Guide for Managers

Table of Contents

What do you do when you inherit a new project

I have done this several times over my career, and I've developed a process that works pretty well.

Immediately talk with all stakeholders

Before you're on the project, you should identify the stakeholders and sort them by rank and priority. Level, in this case, corresponds to their position, power, status, or other organizational position within the company. There are times where you'll need to talk with external stakeholders (e.g., you take over a client account - you need to speak to the principal account manager, but also the main point of contact in the client firm).

Priority depends on the reasons you're coming on the project. There are two cases typically why you'd join a project. The first version is when a new project is starting. In that case, stakeholders’ priorit8y is the folks that decided this project needs to exist, which would include the executive sponsor that's obtained funding for the project. Stakeholders may be within or external to the firm. They may also include peers who will feed upstream dependencies into the project. There may also be peers that depend on this project's output downstream.

The second case is when a project is in trouble, and stakeholders must make a leadership change. It would help if you talked to the stakeholders that caused the leadership change in this case. Your goal with these folks is to determine what the last person did, how that failed, and find any land mines you need to avoid as you try to put the project on the right track. The other folks you need to interview are the people more closely aligned with the project that will impact it on a day-to-day basis. It would help determine what they thought of the last person, what they thought of the change, and how to operate to make the project successful.

Note: You will run into people who think the change was wrong and shouldn't have been made. Usually, this opinion won't matter because, by definition, a change has already occurred, or you wouldn't be there. In this scenario, you need to determine if they're right. Senior leadership put you because they had concerns these folks didn't see in the course of their job.

The third group of people you need to interview is the actual team. While they're stakeholders in you (how you interact with them will significantly impact their jobs), think of this more as an assessment of the team.

If it's just you doing the assessment

You're on your own, and you have to do the assessment; then you're going to do you have to do it out of technical strength. Just realize that you hope you got your job because you're also good at doing the individual contributor job. The first thing you do is start to interview all team members and determine if they know how to do their job and how well they can do it. The other thing you need to ask them is for apparent problems in the project with her at people. At the same time, it's executed how it's organized communication, etc. Keep in mind that some people will try to ingratiate themselves with you by disparaging their other team members or talking themselves up. You're going to have to rely on your ability to tell facts from fiction and form a correct assessment of what the team is and what they're capable of. The next thing you need to do is take a look at her actual workout, but they've done suicide from what they tell you, you need to assess what they have done and the quality of it, the schedule it was done, and the amount of work that was done in the past preferably the recent past with all of that you should be able to assess the team and who is capable of doing one preferably I try to do this within the first week after you inherit a new team so that you can go into week two with another plan to make things better ( action plan).

If you don't have to assess on your own

If you're inheriting a large organization or you bring bringing your team over into a new ward, or you're combining teams, then you don't have to be solely responsible for the assessment. You will still have to perform your examination. In this case, take some of your top performers and the people you can trust to be fair and ask them to evaluate the team and their work. When everyone is done assessing, gather everyone to discuss evaluations and then determine what you're should do next.

And not be biased with just your impressions but so if everyone agrees that you know Riley isn't doing very well and it's likely Riley isn't doing very well versus you don't happen to like Riley. Hey, respective of the same person or same work from different people just let you compare different lenses and see if it's an individual having a problem with another individual or collectively this person isn't doing very well.

Things to avoid during an assessment

It would help if you avoided several major land mines while assessing.

First, you cannot refer to it as an interview. People are already going to be wary of the new manager, and as soon as you refer to it as an interview, they're going to start telling folks that "they have to re-interview for their job." This implies that they may not pass the interview and puts you in the position of being labeled a hatchet right off the bat.

Second, you can't act like an interrogator. You're trying to get people to tell you the truth, and if they fear that there will be repercussions will cause them to either outright lie to you, not tell you what you need to know, or they'll operate in fear of you. If you put them into any of those states, it will be hard or impossible to ever get to a good working relationship based on mutual respect.

Next, you can't tell them that everything they were working on is crap. Even if the work output is poor, if you're going to win them over, you're going to have to look at the entire system and figure out how you can improve the system. There may be folks that do have poor performance, but at least some (and perhaps all) of the issues are going to include the fact that the existing system and leadership allowed it.

Determine if you can make the delivery

After assessing, determine if you can make the delivery with the existing team. If you can't, take one or more of the following actions.

Actions to take

Bring in New Leadership

Where possible, bring in new leadership to help get the project on the right track. If previous leadership left, this is easy to do. It's either going to be you as the new leader on the team, or you're going to have to place a new leader on the team if they're part of your organization. I caution you not to make any immediate promotions on the unit until you can determine who can lead the team. Too often, I've seen Director reach for the lead or senior person on the team, and they're immediately promoted to fill the team leadership gap. The question is, how were those people evaluated? For example, I've taken over a team previously, and the promoted person seemed to have won it primarily on speaking volume more than anything else. The job had been given to the loudest voice in the room, which turned out to be a mistake. In this case, I reorganized the team and elevated one of the other team members who was doing the job exceptionally well and had the team's respect, but they had a much quieter prescience.

When you can bring in new leadership, it helps to leverage your network. this may be your internal network of people already at the firm - either they're already in your organization or people you've worked with but are in another business unit. Leverage your preexisting relationship to put in someone you trust but that you can also talk up as a long-standing relationship. It's good to say, "I've worked with your new lead for the past few years, and I have confidence in them," but temper it so that the new team doesn't think it's some form of nepotism and you're just placing lackeys on the team.

Review the work

This should be a step in taking over a team, but few people get down into the weeds to review the team's actual work. It doesn't mean you need to understand everything single thing they're doing, but it does let you know what kind of team they are and how they approach their work. Is there workflow buttoned up, and you can't see any room to optimize? Do they deliver quality work? How do they determine if a product has sufficient quality for what you're trying to do? How do they confirm that the product works as expected? How do they handle any customer support requests? Do they have a good reputation for working well across other business units?


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Stakeholders are the people who have a stake in your delivery. Sometimes, they're easy to identify (they provide funding), and sometimes, you'll have to uncover them through several layers of management. You must understand who they are because their goals are part of how you are