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Author  Daniel González – Head of PMO, Sonnedix

Head of PMO, Sonnedix

August 30, 2023 |

 8 min read

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All projects are not the same and – for that reason – each needs a different level of control. This is why the principle of tailoring to suit the project in PRINCE2 matters.

While adopting certain principles and a framework may be common to managing any project, the amount of process and governance will depend on whether you’re building the Panama Canal or doing something more modest.

Most major construction projects – especially in the oil and gas industries – need many layers of process, control and groups of people keeping track of progress and managing risk. However, managing smaller projects more likely needs fewer layers but a clear definition of the project scope and how to manage it efficiently.

For this, project managers should be thinking: “Are we using the right approach and tools? Do they need adapting?”

The tailoring principle in PRINCE2 is a reminder that it’s not automatically necessary to replicate the same level of project management approach for different projects.

Tailoring and project management flexibility

While PRINCE2 provides a method that needs following to achieve the benefits of best practice project management, the principles create space to tailor it.

For example, you can adapt the types of tools, reports and the level of detailed planning to fit the project in hand. Equally, the way to manage risk can be more or less complex, with the categories of risk being either higher or lower.

Approaches can be tailored too. So, the content of the project plan or business case can be larger or smaller, and detailed, depending on what stakeholders need and the complexity of the project.

The role of the PMO in tailoring projects

Within our project management office (PMO), part of the job when training people on PRINCE2 is to reinforce the need to tailor projects.

There is always room for tailoring and it makes sense to do so where necessary. For example, merging roles on the project team into smaller projects, reducing the schedule, or altering the rhythm for managing risk between either a six-month or a two-year project.

Also, we believe that one-off improvement initiatives which are not core to the business but are being run as projects really need to be tailored.

Therefore, along with PRINCE2 training, we support new project managers with real-life exercises at the same time as they’re reading the guidance. This helps to consolidate their knowledge and allows them to apply the principles, especially tailoring. In practical terms, that might mean a one-month project doesn’t need to have a detailed schedule.

We’ve found that delegating responsibility to the PMO is a more efficient way of tailoring projects; standardizing the way we work with common ways of running projects and reporting progress tends to be much easier.

When tailoring goes wrong

The concept of tailoring can be misunderstood or misapplied. At its most extreme, some people understand tailoring the PRINCE2 method as doing no project management at all.

Just knowing when a project is due to start and finish is unlikely ever to be enough for effective management and devalues the benefit that project management adds.

Therefore, whenever a project manager wants to implement the tailoring principle, it’s worth validating their proposal to avoid the extremes of either over-simplification or over-complication.

In my view, the PMO is probably the right function to do that validation, as it has a stronger awareness and understanding of all projects in the organization and the challenges they’re facing.