I am sure there are people who enjoy traveling as part of their job, although I have not met any of them recently! Travel to current or potential customer sites, subcontractors, giving a conference presentation or receiving training is sometimes necessary for the project and the organization. Who knows, sometime you might even get a vacation. So, who minds the store while the project manager is away?
Here are a few guidelines to help you prepare for your absence and minimize problems, especially if you will be gone more than a few days:
- Check the project schedule to see what is supposed to be happening while you are away. If anything tweaks your antenna as a potential problem, talk with the lead and develop an action plan. Tell them your concern or thoughts and get their feedback. This is a real-world opportunity to mentor project leads who may become project managers.
- Note any paperwork due during your absence — status reports, personnel forms — do it before you leave or assign someone.
- Check your calendar for any meetings you are required or promised to attend — assign someone to go in your place or let the organizer know you will be absent. If it is your meeting, contact attendees to cancel.
- Pull up or pull out your risk management indicators — anything that needs tracking should be assigned to someone while you are gone.
- Select a person to be in charge in your absence. Then, inform project personnel, your supervisor and department heads with whom you interact frequently — in writing — with contact information. You may also want to change for voicemail message and out-of-office email message. If your company’s policies allow, give the temporary PM signature authority, either total or specific.
- Make sure you have contact information for team members, the organization and your project customers on your cell, iPad or notebook computer. Redundancy is good here since bad or stupid things can happen. I have forgotten chargers and had liquid spilled on devices when we hit an air pocket.
- If you will not be reachable by email, phone or text message, assign someone to check your messages daily and follow up.
- Meet with your acting manager and review tasks and concerns. Use this meeting as an opportunity for training.
- Update your shared project or organization calendar to indicate you are out-of-office. If you use Microsoft server for project document management, be sure to check-in working documents.
- Contact your backup PM daily to see how are things are going. Let them know that you value their taking responsibility. Do not undermine their authority or confidence by criticizing decisions made in your absence. Ask questions that help them identify potential problems and think through possible solutions.
I probably left out some tasks that would be important to do before you leave. Project managers; please add your suggestions via comments.