I sometimes get asked, what keeps me interested in learning and certifying? And that’s a very good question as during my career in projects and programmes I’ve completed PRINCE2® Foundation and Practitioner, MSP® and this year successfully achieved MoP® – Management of Portfolios.
So, for me, it’s about building credibility; giving clients confidence in my ability to effect change and building a sound basis of knowledge, which in turn boosts my confidence.
De facto benchmark
It also doesn’t hurt my contract prospects that PRINCE2 is widely recognized as the de facto benchmark of professional project management – often cited as an essential requirement for project managers and other roles.
But what’s most important in terms of PRINCE2 Practitioner is that it gives you deeper understanding and greater expertise, which you are then able to take into the workplace, irrespective of the industry or sector.
Practical application and benefits
The PRINCE2 Practitioner method gives you structure and a well-established model to manage change. But the key point to remember – and I think this often gets lost – is that a project is PRINCE2 if it follows the seven principles. There is a common misconception that PRINCE2 is admin heavy but if applied correctly this simply isn’t the case. For example, a core principle is that projects are designed to be tailored. It doesn’t make sense to produce every management product for a three-month project; you simply tailor what’s sensible to achieve the end goal. I’ve certainly found the application of individual principles to be of benefit in a number of different project scenarios. The following two examples show how I put focus on delivery of products and management by exception into practice:
Focus on delivery of products
I once worked on a sizeable project (about £100m in total) with the aim to launch the next suite of GCSEs to the market. What I took from PRINCE2 and found incredibly helpful was a focus on products. So, all of the planning led to a defined outcome. This meant that every aspect of the project, whether dealing with the qualification accreditation, teacher guide, pupil books, training or marketing, all boiled down to outputs. It didn’t matter if they were physical, digital or an event – everything was driven towards launching each product to the required quality standard, timescales and budget.
The approach is highly motivating for two reasons. First, it keeps your “eye on the prize” and second, you celebrate each win rather than looking at an endless to-do list.
Management by Exception
At City & Guilds, I was brought in to handle the launch of a new apprenticeship programme which was central to building the organization’s capabilities. Although I introduced a focus on deliverables, what I want to highlight here is effective application of management by exception.
Applying this principle transformed a regular ‘keep-in-touch’ meeting. Rather than a general update meeting, we used this time to track 800 deliverables over the course of the year and hone-in on those areas where there were risks, issues or something to celebrate. In this way, we quickly identified where we needed a decision, direction or additional resources.
As a result, we were able to reduce these hour-long meetings to 45 minutes, at the end of which everyone had their actions and could get on with the work in hand. An approach which made best use of time and I believe is still in place today. Projects managed like this – and the results delivered – make PRINCE2 Practitioner an approach you can rely on, again and again.
Read Mark Stretton's previous AXELOS Blog Post, Gaining the trust to transform: Programme management and MSP.