A new PM taking over a project "mid stream" will need to get up to speed with all of the documentation, objectives, etc. If the previous PM had produced estimates that the new PM doesn't agree with, how should the new PM proceed?

  1. Accept the old estimates and try to work within them, or produce new estimates?
  2. Produce new estimates?

I see practical difficulties with 1 (especially if the estimates are too tight), and political difficulties with 2, especially if the old PM is still in the organisation. In addition, revising the estimates, especially upwards, will undoubtedly impact on the benefits case.

4 Answers 4


If a new PM accepts the old estimates then he owns that estimate as much as any of the rest of the stakeholder team owns the estimate. Later on they will have no get out if the plan is bad.

So if the new PM doesn't agree with the estimate then the PM needs to make that perfectly clear from the outset by stating that his first task will be to revisit the project plan after full consultation with all the stakeholders.

All stakeholders of a project will expect a new PM will have new ideas - and revisiting the estimates and plan is a perfectly reasonable objective of any PM who wants to properly get hold of a project.

Clear communication from the outset and clearly defined reasons why the project is being looked at should ease the concerns of the client and prepare the ground for any cost/deliverable/scope/benefit revisions.

  • I've accepted this as the answer because the first sentence of this is right on the button, as far as I'm concerned. If that means upsetting the previous pm because he sees that his estimates are being modified, then that can be dealt with separately!
    – Iain9688
    Commented Mar 23, 2011 at 12:25
  • Thanks, passive acceptance of a plan happens too often - even if there is a reason for the previous PM leaving!
    – amelvin
    Commented Mar 23, 2011 at 12:47

What are we talking about here? A task estimate or a target baseline? These are not the same thing. Estimates of time or cost of any task, whether it is a highly decomposed activity, hammock level package or control account, or at the project level, are a range, not a single value that the target baseline is.

Every estimate has a minimum, a maximum, and a most likely. The target baseline falls somewhere within that probability distribution. So if a new PM comes in and disagrees, with what is (s)he disagreeing?

A new PM cannot come in and expect to "start all over." If you jump into a project, you get all the good stuff, the bad stuff, and everything in between. The target baseline has some probability value to it and lives in constant uncertainty. The PM needs to escalate this uncertainty as (s)he does with all risks--report the threat, analyze the exposure, recommend a course of action, draft plan B. If (s)he can show that the target baseline cannot be achieved with 100% certainty, then (s)he escalates this along with all of the other issues and problems.


You can claim that changing the pm was probably un-planned when the estimate was first decided, this by itself takes some time.

Of course it's good to stay in the estimate, but it's worse to say you will an then loose a deadline.

Whatever you have to say, the sooner the better, you can decide with the committee how to deal with your point of view. Hurry up and loose quality, accept to postpone a deadline or add more resources.

What are the reasons why the previous pm have been changed? this could matter, but anyway now this is your project and you should behave the same way as when you realize that the estimates were wrong in yours, but you have the advantage that it's not directly your fault.

A little diplomacy helps, but if you state the facts and show evidence of your beliefs you start with right foot.

In my experience if you say that the estimates are shorts you're probably already cutting time from unforeseen problems.

EDIT The sooner the better, but be sure about your ideas, plan them well, state that you need some time to have deeper understanding of the project (obviously).

  • +1 for the valid point that acting sooner is better than delaying. Just for clarity, the previous PM was put onto a different project because he knew the subject area well. I am not directly involved in the project, but I know both of the pms and they have different attitudes to planning and risk, with the previous one being more aggressive than the new one.
    – Iain9688
    Commented Mar 23, 2011 at 12:23

It's always fine to revisit estimates, whether or not a PM change is introduced. New information is presented, resources change, etc.

Be brave, be courageous. If you need to present new estimates to your management, don't hesitate to do so.

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