Surviving a new boss: 10 Guidelines for briefing your new boss

Congratulations! You have a new boss.  Or – I guess congratulations are in order.

Whether this change is the result of an internal promotion, reorganization, or an acquisition, the project manager is responsible for educating the “newcomer” about the projects for which he or she is responsible. What you say and how you say it is to some extent dependent on your situation. For example, in a small company where the new boss already knows a bit about you and the project, then your task may be a no more than a status update. Other scenarios offer more challenges to a project manager – the person is new to the company or the person is new to project management (Yikes!).

In a large organization, the arrival of a new boss may lead to several days (or weeks) of briefings to get him or her up to speed. You and your project(s) will be among many presenting and the format and flow of the briefing may be dictated beforehand. Other organizations will choose to let the new boss set up briefings when they are ready. KEY ACTION: Don’t wait too long. If the boss does not take the initiative, you should. You want the new boss to know what projects you are managing, what you are doing, and why it is important.  The sooner you start a rapport and relationship with your new boss – the better.

So that first meeting / briefing is critical to your projects and you.  Here are some guidelines for handling your first briefing:

  • Provide context: where does your project fit within the organization. You may use an organization chart or a statement of objectives and tasks as they relate to the company’s mission. Answer the question: Who are the stakeholders (customers or consumers) of your project?
  • Present outcomes first: what will your project provide when it is complete. This is more detailed than just a rehash of your objectives. You will want to focus on the revenue or cost savings that will result from the successful completion of your project.  Think outcomes!!
  • Project status: This is typical status report information that includes schedule, accomplishments, costs against budget, and plans. Be sensitive to your new boss’s knowledge (or lack thereof) of technical terminology and keep this part of the briefing at a fairly high level. Hold off on risks and issues until later in the briefing (if at all). You are still in selling mode at this point.
  • Introduce your team: tell the new boss a small amount about the team members and the project team organization. Identify each person by name and role. Again, an organizational chart may be helpful if you have a large team.
  • Demonstrate: If time allows and you have a quick demonstration of your project doing its magic—show it off. This is the final part of selling your project.  Demos (when short) are always good.
  • Issues and risks: You want your new boss to understand what challenges you face and what conditions present a risk to the successful outcome of the project. It is a very good idea to have solutions ready for each risk and problem you present. A chart that includes probabilities, costs, and mitigation strategies is effective in presenting issues and risks.  If you run short on time – this is one area that can be moved to your second meeting.
  • What does the boss want to know? If you can, find out beforehand what questions the new boss is trying to answer about the projects and be sure to address those questions using the words he or she has chosen.  Or maybe I should say:  Find out everything you can about your new boss before briefing your first meeting.  Get their resume, talk to anyone who worked for them, if they have written articles get copies.  Don’t go in cold.
  • Graphics speak: Many people grasp information more quickly and retain it better when it is presented in graphic form rather than text. Make liberal use of relationship diagrams, tables with key concepts in the headers, charts, and pictures. Remember, pictures are worth a thousand words.
  • Make and distribute a hard or digital copy: If the boss is getting many project briefings as part of their orientation, it is likely that everything will run together in his or her mind after awhile. A copy of your briefing will serve as a reminder of your project.
  • Don’t try to do everything in one meeting: You are bound to have many more opportunities to present to your new boss. Think of this briefing as the beginning of a dialogue where you create a common vocabulary and understanding.  Make this meeting a positive one.


I want to thank Michael Watkins for his Blog on “How to succeed with your new boss” – it is a very good post on what to do with a new boss.


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