Building organizational capability with PRINCE2 and other frameworks

Group of work colleagues standing in front of a project board with Post-Its debating the course of their project

John EarwoodWhen considering your ability to deliver projects, programmes and manage portfolios, you should always consider things from an organizational perspective first.

Sounds obvious, right? Though this thinking is not new, it has been gaining a lot more traction in recent years as project management progresses on its journey to becoming a mature, Chartered profession.

My own research into organizational capability shows that culture, structure and strategy will strongly impact on how individuals and teams achieve.

This warrants a whole new look at what we can do with project management as an organizational component.

Organizations in a turbulent world

For contemporary organizations, things aren’t getting any simpler. The deliverables that both internal and external customers expect are becoming increasingly complex, requiring skilled a capability to deliver them.

Although organizations still need to train their people in project management, they must also rigorously embed project management capability at the same time, if they want to generate long-term sustainable value.

This is challenging in a turbulent climate of constant change in which culture, structure and strategy are themselves being continually reinvented: an environment that can result in an inability to impose one, fixed way of maintaining project capability across the whole organization.

Organizations are now realizing that the training they’ve traditionally given people in project management is not an end in itself, but has to be deliberately developed into the dynamic skills and experience needed to realize corporate objectives and meet regulatory requirements.

For this, organizations need a capability that not only delivers change, but survives, evolves, and adapts through the change as well.

PRINCE2®: retaining its relevance for organizations

Before the mid-1990s, project management was the domain of niche experts; then the arrival of PRINCE2 introduced a project management framework that everyone could understand and which changed the dynamic of project management.

In theory, PRINCE2 – by now – should have served its purpose and completed its lifecycle, but it’s still going strong.

Why is that? If we trust the theory that starting with your organization is the way to develop project management capability, then PRINCE2 fits that model.

Over 20 years, the PRINCE2 process has been simplified and become easier to use whilst, at the same time, the guidance provided to help implement PRINCE2 has grown. This has culminated in the PRINCE2 2017 Update which is even more flexible and offers greater guidance on the principles of adoption and adaption.

Indeed, PRINCE2 is extensible: in other words, designed to accommodate unique applications within its own framework, which means you can change it to match the exact needs and naming conventions of your organization. For example, it gives you the ability to change underlying product descriptions: so, you can rename key documents like the Business Case in PRINCE2 to integrate with your organization’s own terminology and approach, while retaining its project related purpose.

That brings us back to the idea of the organization: as long as you stay true to the principles of PRINCE2, what you’re working with is directly adaptable to your organization.

PRINCE2 and/or agile?

The agile approach fits well with development-style projects; in IT it’s ideal and being able to do things iteratively makes sense. However, it doesn’t necessarily work with a major construction project, which is a completely different project scenario.

That said, in the organizational concept, agile and a framework such as PRINCE2 are complementary. In fact, the guidance contained in PRINCE2 Agile® shows exactly how these things work together.

Again, if you look at it from an organizational perspective, most different frameworks will work well together if you focus on integrating them into, rather than imposing them onto, your organization.

Building organizational capability today means taking the best components out there and building them into how your organization works. Start with your organization and adapt the frameworks to it (not the other way around).

PRINCE2 is still around for a reason: it changes and adapts over time and is adaptable to your organization. You make this work by staying true to its principles but choosing what works best within your unique scenario.

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