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Author  Lawrie Kirk

May 19, 2023 |

 8 min read

  • Blog

Certifying in best practices such as PRINCE2 for project management means that, once you’ve passed the exam, you never need to think about it again.

Right? Not really.

Often, practitioners need a “reset”: in other words, refreshing yourself on what the best practice knowledge advises.

Equally, a reset does not always have to be for certified practitioners. If structured correctly, it can also be used to demonstrate to other people without the knowledge what can be expected and achieved using best practice approaches.

This can also be useful for people sceptical about the value of studying best practices and who might harbour some preconceptions or misconceptions.

PRINCE2 is…or maybe it isn’t

Let’s take PRINCE2 and some of the standard misconceptions about this method used by project managers around the world. Common myths include:

  • Heavy on documentation/governance
  • A manager-led not team-led approach
  • Cumbersome
  • Academic
  • All or nothing
  • Can’t be customised
  • Can’t be integrated with other frameworks
  • A legacy approach that is now superseded
  • Not agile

In previous resetting workshops for Synergy Group consultants, we addressed each of these points and, especially, the imperative to seek information, explanation and description of the PRINCE2 best practice from the most definitive sources.

One of the great strengths of PRINCE2 is its ability to be tailored. However, but tailoring versions that are already tailored can result in significant and incorrect adaptations. As consultants who work with various clients that have tailored this approach, it is essential to use accurate and core guidance for any refresh. But where can you get definitive advice?

The PRINCE2 guide is the best source but there are a number of other resources, for example, this guide to PRINCE2 in 1,000 words is a great reference point and highly recommended as a digestible summary. In addition, this white paper gives excellent insight into the role of PRINCE2 within governance and board roles. In each case, the source material comes from the custodians of the PRINCE2 method, which I recommend versus anything else that might be found online. Using AXELOS-badged material ensures that you have the “true north” calibration needed to provide accurate guidance and implementation.

What makes PRINCE2 relevant in 2023?

Another reason to reset and refresh your thoughts about PRINCE2 is to recall why project managers and other professionals responsible for change initiatives used the method in the first place and why it is still relevant.

At our internal workshops, I showed participants the PRINCE2 textbooks from 1996, 2005, 2009 and 2017. I started my PRINCE2 journey in 1996 and, apart from the jokes about this being an ancient history lesson, the key “take away” was this: the desire in 1996 to deliver value to the business and manage change in a controlled manner is just as relevant in 2023.

In an environment of uncertainty and change, all seven PRINCE2 principles are important, but these four in particular:

  • Continued business justification – resources are scarce and highly valued so you must articulate clearly and constantly check how you intend to return value to the business during the project lifecycle.
  • Focus on products – by using product-based planning, PRINCE2 ensures that project teams are both busy (activity-based planning) and producing tangible products to agreed quality requirements that meet a business need.
  • Manage by stages – ensure there are defined review points to check delivery of value or progress towards the desired change. If the project is not delivering value to the business, then changes are possible before the next stage begins.
  • Defined roles and responsibilities – have clearly defined roles and responsibilities which consider the needs of the business, supplier and users. Only through this combined approach will you deliver value to the entire business.

This consultant summer school will be repeated for existing accredited practitioners to provide a forum to review the core guidance, share experiences on tailoring and ways to engage change professionals. For consultants not familiar with PRINCE2, it also introduces the core concepts before they start their accredited training journey.

The scientist Carl Sagan once said: “You have to know the past to understand the present.” Take an opportunity to review the current guidance, cross-check the tailored version(s) that you are using and reflect on the intent of the principles, themes and processes that PRINCE2 provides. This investment in past knowledge and wisdom will help you understand the present.

Lawrie Kirk is an Executive Director in the Program Design and Delivery service line of the Synergy Group, a consultancy firm based in Canberra, Australia. He has been a PRINCE2 Registered Consultant, accredited PRINCE2 trainer and was a reviewer and contributor to the 2009 PRINCE2 text, pocket book and executive guides. He also has had experience as a P3M3® assessor and continues to tailor PRINCE2 for many organizations.