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Author  Janet Shockness – Harley J Associates

January 31, 2023 |

 8 min read

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How often does an organization have a defined method of managing projects – and how successful are they?

There are experienced project managers who don’t follow a set method in their work, as well as other people responsible for projects who are left to work things out for themselves.

In other scenarios, an organization may have a method for managing projects, but it’s neither widespread nor embedded. The net result is frustration and people questioning whether they’re doing things right. And they’re often doing more than they need to, as project roles and responsibilities are unclear.

For the organization, this means change takes longer, there is confusion, conflict, people are unhappy and don’t realize there are better ways of working. Some people will even quit their job if there are no processes or structure in place.

Employing project management best practice – PRINCE2

Rather than the chaos that can come from unmanaged projects, best practice methods – such as PRINCE2 – provide a common language and clearly defined approach.

This, for example, enables better communication and management information systems and the ability to devise a business case; giving clarity on what a project is aiming to achieve.

But how do you begin to introduce best practice into your organization?

First, getting buy-in from senior management and the teams who will use the method is vital. When working in a previous company, there were dedicated learning resources people could use to study and learn about project management – as well as gaining access to training and certification in a method like PRINCE2.

You also need to manage potential resistance to changing the way an organization runs projects via regular communication that shows why running projects with PRINCE2 works. And having a project management office with people trained in the best practice helps provide the necessary project support and tools.

Tailoring PRINCE2 – a key principle

Not all organizations or projects are the same. So, it’s necessary to adapt a method like PRINCE2 to the context you’re working in.

PRINCE2 describes this – in one of its seven principles – as Tailoring. This can be applied to different areas of the method and helps to support what organizations are already doing, or the language of project management they use.

For example, a simple project doesn’t need all the “management products” outlined in the guidance (for example, basic project initiation documentation (PID) could be produced instead of a project brief and PID, and a daily log used to capture risks, issues, lessons, and quality results rather than stating these in separate management products). Tailoring saves time, repetition and avoids creating things from scratch – especially if there are already systems in place.

This is about using the method wisely and appropriately to the situation. For example, when working for an investment bank, I was involved in a simple project related to new, anti-money laundering regulations.

The organization used PRINCE2 to manage projects, so we tailored it to the needs of this project. That involved:

  • Concise role descriptions for team members to provide clarity of responsibilities, and the combination of individuals’ roles (i.e. one person taking on more than one role as long as there was no conflict of interest) to keep the team small and agile”
  • Clear requirements which meant the team understood the brief and could start the project quickly.
  • Combining processes and using minimal documentation to save time.
  • Having a lean project board for quicker decisions and smoother project progression.
  • Including fewer management stages to meet deadlines more easily and not prolong the project unnecessarily.
  • A shared team office which aided communications and centralized information held on the intranet enabling ease of access and collaboration, and avoidance of duplication.
  • Tailoring existing templates for documentation.
  • Being a small team, we were able to easily adapt to changes, such as the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority adding new requirements part-way through the project that we needed to respond to quickly.

What to expect from tailoring the PRINCE2 method

As happened in the previous project example, tailoring PRINCE2 means everyone on the team is clear about their role and the way in which it contributes to the success of a project.

It ensures you’re meeting targets and maintaining control of the project but ensuring the work you do makes sense and minimizes management effort. Tailoring saves time, enables more successful outcomes and meeting targets for time and cost through working efficiently, learning lessons, and therefore avoiding previous mistakes through the project lifecycle. In simple terms, tailoring PRINCE2 allows people to get on with the job and adapt the best practice method to any setting – including, for example, in conjunction with an agile delivery approach