Creating a Project Management Methodology? Consider PRINCE2®

For folks looking for a project management approach that successfully navigates them through the project life cycle while focusing on the project manager’s role in delivering a successful project, let me recommend PRINCE2.   PRINCE2 (Projects in a Controlled Environments) is a structured, non-proprietary project management method.  It is a generic, widely accepted approach to managing projects which can be applied to any project regardless of project size or type.  Based upon proven principles, PRINCE2 isolates the project management aspects of the project work from the technical (or specialist) aspects of the project work.  This enables organizations and individuals to integrate the PRINCE2 method with their particular types of projects to build a flexible framework for successfully performing project work.

PRINCE2 focuses on controlling the six key variables found on any project: costs, timescales, quality, scope, risk and benefits.   This control is achieved across the project life cycle using an integrated framework of elements for successful project management: principles, themes, processes and tailoring the method to the project environment.  In my opinion, PRINCE2 offers the best project management “road map” around for getting a project through a successful and controlled start, middle and end.

PRINCE2 is based upon a set of common-sense principles guiding the project manager and the project team.  In order to say that you are working on a PRINCE2 project, all seven principles must be applied in that project. The 7 principles guiding the use of PRINCE2 are:

  1. Continued business justification
  2. Learn from experience
  3. Defined roles and responsibilities
  4. Manage by stages
  5. Manage by exception
  6. Focus on products
  7. Tailor to suit the project environment

PRINCE2 uses themes to describe critical aspects of project management that must be addressed continuously and in parallel throughout any project.  Each theme focuses on a key part of the project management discipline.  Defining and managing all seven themes across the project life cycle is critical to achieving a successful project outcome.   The 7 themes of PRINCE2 are:

  1. Business Case
  2. Organization
  3. Quality
  4. Plans
  5. Risk
  6. Change
  7. Progress

The PRINCE2 method is generally light on the detailed tools and techniques we use for managing people and projects, so many of those need to come from elsewhere.   For instance,  PRINCE2 does not address detailed planning and control techniques that organizations may want to use, such as critical path or earned value analysis.    Leadership, motivational and other interpersonal skills are also not specified in the method. Organizations will need to define and add these “nuts and bolts” aspects of managing projects into their project management approach.  The good news is that there are numerous sources for this information, and it is quite simple to add them in.

PRINCE2 uses processes defining a set of structured activities to direct, manage and deliver a successful project outcome.  Processes provide the project manager and the project team with a step-wise progression through the project life cycle from a controlled start through a controlled middle and on to a controlled end.   Each process comes complete with recommended activities, products and the related responsibilities for “who does what when”. The 7 processes found in PRINCE2 are:

  1. Starting Up a Project (SU)
  2. Initiating a Project (IP)
  3. Directing a Project (DP)
  4. Controlling a Stage (CS)
  5. Managing Stage Boundaries (SB)
  6. Managing Product Delivery (MP)
  7. Closing a Project (CP)

A copy of the PRINCE2 method is required reference material in any project manager’s bookshelf!  The method is documented in the OGC publicationManaging Successful Projects with PRINCE2” which is officially published by TSO.

Serious project managers seeking to enhance their knowledge, skills and professional credibility target should consider PRINCE2 certification.  Learning Tree offers two excellent certification courses for folks interested in becoming a certified practitioner of PRINCE2 or simply starting with the Foundation certification.   I attended the Practitioner course years ago when I wanted to prepare for and sit the certification exams to add more capabilities and credibility to my project management expertise.  I have implemented customized PRINCE2-based project management methodologies for numerous clients since that time, and all of them are still healthy and working very well!

Susan Weese

*PRINCE2® is a registered trade mark of the Cabinet Office.

Related Training: Project Manager Training

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