Project management is like a board game and PRINCE2® is the playbook. If you follow it, the project is successfully delivered and you “win the game.” If not, things are much more likely to go wrong.
Guidance is there for a reason
I believe the reason projects fail is largely because the PRINCE2 “instruction manual” has been ignored. And I’ve found this to be equally true in every company I have worked for, regardless of the sector. Every time this happens, the main cause is poor application of the core principles.
It’s true that the world is changing and the ability to be “agile” is ever more important, but we shouldn’t lose sight of the value of governance in PRINCE2. Without this essential guidance, it is all too easy to lose track of a project and undermine the outcome.
So, no matter which industry I am working in, I have found certain things to be fundamental to a project’s success.
1. Define roles and responsibilities
Everyone needs to know what they should be doing, how much time is needed and, most importantly, how the project will benefit them. That’s why I always advocate for people who are not familiar with the project management world to have some knowledge of the methods. Otherwise, it’s very difficult to understand why the project manager is always chasing them to get things done. This approach has proved so successful that I have even convinced a few colleagues to pursue PRINCE2 qualifications – a hugely rewarding outcome for me.
2. Engage the sponsor
If sponsors delegate the whole responsibility of a project to the project manager, then it will fail. So, it is essential that all of the stakeholders are engaged properly in the process, see themselves as an important resource and are aware that they are a vital “piece in the puzzle.” Everyone needs to understand what they need to do and the impact the project will have on the business.
3. Tailor PRINCE2 - but don’t go too far
Organizations must adapt the PRINCE2 structure to their own environment. It’s unlikely, for example, that a small company will be able to have a fully-resourced project office and an extensive governance structure. PRINCE2 can and should be adapted according to business reality, but too much flexibility can end up undermining good project management practice.
4. Build the business case
Once this document is in place, everything gets easier. Scoping the project in detail means that you can always go back and check progress is on track and — just as important — whether it still makes sense to continue. It’s also worth bearing in mind that a small project may escalate, so if you haven’t mapped out the scope at the beginning you will likely end up wasting money.
5. Learn from mistakes
Companies keep making the same mistakes, so it’s important to have a “Lessons Learned” log at the end of the project and to share it, as opposed to letting it sit on a shelf unread.
Ultimately, the advantage of following a proven methodology, like PRINCE2, is that it acts as an essential reference point; enabling you to keep track of the project, identify and resolve issues, and adapt to new challenges which may otherwise change how the “game” ends.