Aside from the obvious perks of being in an engineering rotational program, I have also had the opportunity to learn a surprisingly difficult lesson in project management: the challenge of taking on and handing off partially-complete projects. Whether it is in Sales, Marketing, Human Resources, Engineering, or any other area of a business, knowing how to successfully hand off a project in an ever-changing work environment is a skill that is often overlooked in the hustle and bustle of your everyday job. After a few cumbersome attempts at handing off and taking on projects mid-completion, I have come up with a list of do’s and don’ts.



1. Document!

One way I keep myself in check is to document my projects as if I were going to hand them off at any moment. This ensures that there are no misunderstandings regarding what work has been completed and what work remains, including any major roadblocks. Additionally, this documentation can help you stay on track after a long weekend or a few days out of the office, and provides all of the information your manager may need when looking for an update.

2. Save all material in one central location

In the age of technology, it is easy to get lost in notes on your smartphone, shared drives, thumb drives, and, if you’re like me, the post-it notes strewn across your desk. It is so important to keep all of the information that the new project owner will need in a central location.  Use a folder, such as a shared drive or a SharePoint site, that is easy to access and consistently up-to-date.

3. Provide clear and concise information

Keeping all project information accessible is important, but it may also be beneficial to have a worksheet that briefly summarizes the project in 1-2 pages. It is very difficult for most people to read 25 pages of information, graphs, and notes during their already-busy work day, so keeping a 1-2 page project hand-off worksheet is crucial. Project information I suggest keeping on this worksheet include:

  • Accomplishments
  • Lessons Learned
  • Action Plan
  • Challenges & Risks
  • Resource and Contact Information


1. Leave a project without an owner

The most crucial step in successfully handing off a project is verifying that the project will go on without you. Too often projects fall out because of lack of ownership. Signing off on the project is one method of verification, although there are a number of other options as well.

2. Rely solely on E-mail

Once you have a new project owner established, it is very important to meet in person if possible. Although e-mail, conference calls and virtual meetings seem to be the definite future, the Wall Street Journal found that in-person meetings are more effective 85% of the time.

3. Get too attached

Finally, know when to let go of the project. It is very hard when you feel you have put a lot into it. However, it is important to be able to recognize when the project handoff is complete and you can now attend to your new projects. So, let it go! (I know you have all seen Frozen at least once…)

What methods do you find helpful when handing off a project?