7x tinkering with PRINCE2®

Project Management

PRINCE2® is one of the most common best practices in project management. The strength of the PRINCE2® approach lies in a solid foundation, in the form of 7 key principles, which form the foundation for managing PRINCE2® projects. Let's take a look at these 7 key principles.

1. Continuous Business Justification  

Within PRINCE2® (PRojects IN Controlled Enviroments), there is a lot of focus on having a relevant business case. The focus of business justification is both on desirability (do we want this, does this fit our strategy?) and viability (are we going to be able to realise the benefits and deliver the products?). Formal moments are provided in each phase of the project, to judge whether there is (still) a reason to do/continue the project. In this way, a Business Case Development Path is created in which various stakeholders take responsibility during the project's lifetime in demonstrating, confirming or rejecting the business case.

2. Learn from Experience  

Both at the start, during implementation and at the conclusion of a project, PRINCE2® pays a lot of attention to lessons learned. What did we learn from previous projects? What did we learn during the previous phase? What have we learned throughout the project? A lessons log is kept so that all lessons learned are captured together.

3. Defined Roles and Responsibilities  

As a methodology, PRINCE2® is very detailed about roles and responsibilities in a project organisation. Firstly, it starts from three project interests - Business ("value for money"), User (benefits) and Supplier (skills & technical integrity), which should be represented in the project steering committee.  

A project management team also includes different roles, each with their responsibilities. Think of a project manager, team manager(s), project support, change authority, project assurance. Each with its own focus, but important that they are all 'on speaking terms' to make the project succeed.

4. Manage by Stages  

Although many project management methods work with a phased approach, PRINCE2® is again unique in the set-up of phases, management stages, in a project.  

Each management stage starts and ends with a process called 'Managing Stage Boundary' (at the end 'Closing a Project'), which immediately shows how much focus is put on closing stage and preparing for the next stage. So it is not simply breaking down a project into manageable blocks at the start, but it is actual systematic tracking of where we are and whether we are achieving the objectives. Within the PRINCE2® methodology, there is feedback to the steering committee every stage with an end-stage report, which also updates the project plan and the business case, examines whether it makes sense to continue the project and, based on this feedback, draws up a new stage plan ('go!' for the next stage) or an exception plan (when adjustments are necessary). This way, a steering committee keeps its finger on the pulse and you are not endlessly planning ahead, but use intermediate stages and processes to plan ahead again.

5. Manage by Exception  

By clearly defining roles and responsibilities, it is also possible to adhere to the 'manage by exception' principle. In a PRINCE2® project, there is always a critical look at how decision-making power cannot just be placed at the highest level. By clearly establishing 'tolerances' (boundaries) around topics such as time, cost, quality, scope, risks and benefits, it is possible to take decisions (or have them taken) at each level and only escalate to the higher level if necessary. This way, each level retains its autonomy and work can continue with full motivation.

6. Focus on Products  

According to the PRINCE2® methodology, a successful project is result-oriented and not activity-oriented. Sounds simple, but again there are mechanisms built into different phases of the project and at different levels of stakeholders to focus on what needs to be delivered. Product requirements are predetermined and will drive project work. Progress is measured by achieving objectives, and this is strongly monitored throughout the project cycle.

7. Tailor to suit the Project Environment  

The great thing about PRINCE2® is that it allows and, more so, expects the methodology to be adapted to the project environment. Dogmatic adherence to PRINCE2® does not lead to successful projects, so it is a mandatory principle. Project by project it should be examined how processes, roles, products, terminology, etc. can be adapted to fit the environment and thus increase the project's chance of success.

Stanwicks expert view: 

  • PRINCE2® is not a methodology you can apply or roll out as an individual project leader. The approach is one for an entire organisation. So it needs to be a conscious choice by the organisation to tackle projects in a PRINCE2® way if it is to be rolled out fully and experience success. Not something to be implemented hastily. 
  • PRINCE2® provides a clear vision of project management ('what'), but mostly leaves the 'how' to the project leaders who get to work with it. This can be a blessing, as it allows you to fill in a lot of details yourself. PRINCE2® may not be the most appropriate methodology for project leaders who would like to have more concrete guidance on the 'how'. 
  • The methodology offers a language for discussing autonomy, decision-making authority and the limits to this. By ensuring that roles and responsibilities are clearly defined, but also that clear 'tolerances' are linked to each role, crucial moments in the project cycle run smoothly.  
  • The great advantage of PRINCE2® is that flexibility is built in to adapt the methodology to the (project) organisation. Every organisation is different and every project has a different angle. PRINCE2® is therefore not just one method, but offers a whole range of possibilities for successfully managing projects. 

These 7 principles already give a flavour of what PRINCE2® is based on, but there is obviously much more to this methodology. Would you like to know more about PRINCE2®, the translation of these key principles within your organisation? Contact us for a no-obligation discussion.

Project & portfolio management

Stanwick supports the client in creating one uniform ‘project management’ approach and language, based on the reality of the client’s organization. Thereby also creating a project-friendly organisational context and installing an effective project portfolio management system.
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