You’ve recently been asked to take over an existing project. Your handover hasn’t been that great. Don't worry this time you have our checklist to do things in a right way.
First, establish the authority that the project manager (that’s now you) has on this project. Is there a program manager and a program under which this project fits? If not, what authority has the project charter conferred upon you?
Is there a vision statement that explains the future state that this project is hoping to achieve? It’s fine not to have a detailed plan of how you are going to get there but you should a pretty clear idea of where ‘there’ is.
Is there clarity around objectives? ‘Yes’ is the right answer, by the way. ‘No’ means there is much more work to do here to understand what the project is trying to achieve.
You might find a project schedule. It’s probably a few colored boxes in an Excel spreadsheet saying which month or quarter you are expecting to work on each phase within the project, aligned to the major tranches of work.
Is there a governance structure? Who is your project sponsor? What’s the reporting schedule? What are the internal sign off hoops you have to go through?
Back to the PMO or your Finance team. In a push, you can ask vendors to send you copies of contracts and paid invoices.
What resources are available to the program, now and in the future? You want to find out the hours each person has available to the project. It’s better to know now if you are going to be short staffed. It will help with planning.
Where does the project fit in the overall business strategy? In other words, it could be a lot of money but is it the CEO’s top priority? If not at least you’ll know where you stand when it comes to competing for resources.
What communications structure is in place? If this is a transformative project you’ll have a lot of stakeholders at project and (potentially) program level.
Review any existing documentation. However you do it, you’ll have to use your best office politics to uncover what has been done and what’s missing.