Passing the Project Baton

passing the project batonHanding off a project that is your baby is not often a very desirable thing to do. You kicked it off, you developed a good relationship with the team and the customer and you are making the decisions and making things happen. But sometimes, there comes that time when you have to hand it off because you’re needed elsewhere – on a project that is a higher priority or that needs your specific experience or expertise. How you go about executing this hand off process can sometimes mean success or failure to the project you’re handing off, and that success or failure can be traced right back to you and how you orchestrated the transition.

Aside from the normal activities you will need to perform to get up to speed on your new project, you will definitely need to focus on these four key events in order to make sure the transition of your existing project goes as smooth as possible:

Meet with your team

First, meet with your delivery team and get all the latest task status and progress updates from them that you possibly can. It’s critical that you know the latest and greatest status of your project and all the details that go into what’s going on. The next project manager will need all the help they can get.

Get everything up to date

Take everything you learned from your team and everything you already knew and revise all ongoing status information on the project. Revise the project schedule that you deliver to your team, customer and executive management every week. Using a full-featured, and collaborative project management tool can ensure that your team, customer, and the new project manager will be on the same page from the start. Create a very detailed status report – probably more detailed than usual – for your next weekly status call with the customer because that’s when the transition will really begin. And be sure to update the project budget and forecast so the financial health of the project is obvious to the incoming project manager.

Coordinate with the customer

Call the project customer and bring them up to speed on the transition. Your contact will likely be their first knowledge of this so provide them with as much detail on the solid background of the incoming project manager as possible. You must present it in a way that will gain their confidence and not make them feel like a second-class project customer. And, if possible, plan for at least a lengthy transition where you lead and mentor the next project manager as you get everyone used to the transition. Handling the transition this way rather than making an abrupt exit will likely go a long way in keeping customer confidence and satisfaction high.

Transition over time

Transitioning to the new project manager over a period of time is the most desirable way to go and the option that will keep customer satisfaction the highest and will likely ensure the smoothest transition. So, if your time availability, the old project tasks, the new project startup effort, and the availability of the new project manager allows for it, stretch the transition over a period of at least two project status calls with the customer and team. The outgoing project manager should lead the first one and officially introduce the new project manager and the new project manager should lead the second one, officially taking over the project in the eyes of the customer – even if it’s already happened with the team on the delivery side.


Again, it’s never easy to let go of a project that you started and have been successfully leading, but there come about certain times when it may be necessary. Plan out the transition carefully, and executing it precisely can definitely limit the bumps that are bound to happen. How about you? Have you had to hand off the baton on a key project you were leading? How did you transition? What worked well and what do you wish you had done differently?

Brad Egeland
Brad Egeland

Noteworthy accomplishments:
*20 year provider of successful technical project management leadership for clients across nearly every industry imaginable
*Author of more than 4,000 expert professional project management and business strategy articles, eBooks and videos over the past decade
*Articles/professional content receives over 40,000 page views monthly
*Named #1 in the 100 Most Inspiring People in Project Management
*Named a Top 10 Project Management Influencer to Follow in 2016
*The most read author of expert project management content on Project Times/BA Times for 2015
*Named most prolific provider of project management content over the past 5 years
*Noted for successful project management and financial oversight for $50 million Dept. of Education financial contract/program
*Chosen by the Dept of Defense as a subject matter expert (SME) to help select IWMS software provider for the largest IWMS implementation ever awarded

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