It is pretty usual for a project manager to find him/herself in a position of taking over a project under implementation.
I remember my first day at a multi-year multi-million project i took over after a succession of three project managers. I opened the office cabinet. There were at least three skeletons inside. Not literally, of course. I immediately closed the doors – i did not want them to fall and break their necks. I thought i might need them, latter, in full shape.
I am not an archeologist but “digging” is something i enjoy doing. I needed to learn everything i could about my discoveries. The success of the project and its continuation depended on it.
Digging in project management is not very different from due diligence or market research. It is about learning for an informed decision. Here are a couple of suggestion on where to start.
Talk to your superviser or your programme manager.
If the former project manager is still around and available, talk to him/her.
Ask your team members who were there longer than you for support.
Schedule one-to-one meetings with key team members.
Read all reports. Including the financial ones.
Revisit the risk and assumptions log.
These will help you identity immediate priorities. These could be pending payments, drafting of specifications, procurement and contracting, reporting, preparing for audit, for example.
Do not criticize your predecessor. You might be someone’s predecessor one day.
Call for a full team meeting and check your findings/diagnostic of where you are with the team. Getting them on board from the very beginning is key.
Signal any critical issues to management and/or the sponsor.
Proceed. With confidence. And a smile.