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11 June 2007

Joining the project team late

Sometimes you get assigned a project that’s well and truly underway. Sometimes it can be two thirds done. Often they are short term projects – for example a product launch or an event.

As a project manager it’s your job to manage order, structure, quality and risk into these frantic projects, but there is already a team of experienced people doing their specialist thing, and really, you are just going to get in the way.

How do you handle it?

You have the option of standing back and hoping nothing goes wrong. You could also do your documents, circulate them and make sure everyone knows you have done your planning thing. You could even call the project to a halt while you get your planning and work in order. Of course you may not have the option of there is a fixed deadline.

The thing that you should be doing is talking to everyone on the project and finding out what they should be doing, and how they are feeling about their work and the project. You also want to be talking to the key stakeholders.

You are listening for risks.

At the same time you are also looking for structure and competency, dependencies and so on, but mainly it’s risks.

You are going to have to do the integration thing on the fly. Documents can help you analyse and communicate what’s going on but in these fast, in progress scenarios you really need to get yourself across the game.

If there are no major risks to worry about you can get involved in the usual project management things, but your first focus should be on risks.