Prince2 – Stick to Your Principles

We often hear top sports coaches and business leaders being interviewed on TV and radio. The question usually put to them is – what is the secret to your success? Much of the time the answer is – I follow my principles.

Prince2 is a project management methodology which has be formulated following years of observing good and bad practices in project management, learning lessons. The result is a  proven best practice methodology.

If you follow the Prince2 blog here at you will know that Prince2 is a principled approach to project management. But what does this mean and how does it apply to you as a project manager? Before I attempt to answer these questions let us consider what a principle is.


What is a Principle?

According to the Oxford Dictionary a principle is ‘’a basic idea or rule that explains or controls how something happens or works’’ It is considered a rule of basic truth. Something which governs behaviour. Synonyms: concept, theory, idea.

Based on this definition examples would be:

  1. My principles are honesty and integrity, and these govern my behaviour
  2. Two principles of happiness are smile a lot and be kind to others
  3. As a business we put the customer first

We can see that a principle is based on fundamentals and can be quite basic in nature.


How does this apply to Prince2?

If we stick to this fundamental concept, we will understand that Prince2 is basic in nature and does not enforce or impose any hard and fast rules on the project manager. It is not prescriptive (narrow or rigid).


What are the Prince2 Principles?

Prince2 has seven principles and all must be applied to a project.

  • Continued business justification
  • Learn from experience
  • Defined roles and responsibilities
  • Manage by stages
  • Manage by exception
  • Focus on products
  • Tailor to suit your environment


Why have a principled approach to Project Management?

If we consider for a minute what project management is, it might shed some light on this question. Project management is (in my experience) getting things done through others in a structured manner. Every project, industry sector, organisation and team are different. Also projects can range from very complex to very simple in nature. There are many influences (external and internal) and constraints projects must operate within. Therefore no manual, guide document or standard can possible be prescriptive on how to manage a project. This would explains why the principled approach to managing projects is best.


Benefits of the principled approach

  • They empower project managers
  • They are self-validating because they are proven
  • They give the project manager added confident to manage projects
  • They give the project manager flexibility when managing projects
  • They guide the project manager when tailoring the project
  • They can be used by the project manager to reflect on project challenges


How does the principled approach work?

If we get back to the definition of a principle. It works by offering the project manager guidance on how to manage projects at a high level with few rules, procedures and processes. In turn this gives the project manager flexibility and added confidence to tailor the method to suit their situation.


Example of how a Prince2 principle might work in a project

Take a scenario where a project has been kicked off and is delivering on the requirements of the business. The team is inexperienced and is finding the going tough. As a result repeated mistakes are being made and there are similar inconsistencies in what is being delivered. The project manager in turn is frustrated with this situation.

Reflecting on this the project manager should come to the conclusion that they have not stuck to their principles one of which is Learn from Experience.

Later at we’ll consider how you use the Prince2 principles to good effect on your projects.

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