Why would you run a project as PRINCE2?

It may sound daunting to run your project as a PRINCE2 project, but it is really just adapting a structure, and then focus on WHY and WHAT.

  • You would never start a Project just to spend money and time just because you have too much of it, would you?
  • You wouldn’t want to initiate a project and let go of all control?
  • You want the project result to reflect your ambitions, right?

 PRINCE2 is actually not so much of a mystery. It is common sense project management put in a framework of control and vision.

 Initial Project Framework  – how do you get started?

To ensure a successful project, there are certain steps to be taken.

Basically, you need to know (in this order)

  • WHY are we taken on this project – what benefit do we want as a result?
  • WHAT are we delivering, how shall it work, and which quality standards must it meet?
  • WHO are in the project organisation? We need clear roles and responsibilities
  • HOW and WHEN are we doing the project work? This is the activity planning and schedule – a part most unexperienced project managers jump to from the beginning, without getting the framework and fundament ready first. (And, you might notice that PRINCE2 focus on deliveries – products- not activites.)
  • From a business point of view, it is necessary to set up controls, to ensure that the project is on the right track, delivering as expected.

I have seen so many projects that are started without a clear visualization of what we really want to achieve. The different stakeholders have different ideas of the result, but they seldom take the time to really dig down in how this future result actually will work – and what results we do agree on wanting. This leads to unclear Business Case, blurry criterias and foggy goals.


PRINCE2 is a UK developed method, initially meant to manage IT-projects. Now it is modified to be useful for all kind of projects.

To qualify to be called a PRINCE2-project, you need to cover all 7 of the principles:

1) Continued business justification

This means that all the way through the project, the Project Manager and the Project Board ensures that the project is still viable, and that the benefit still is relevant and obtainable. To ensure this, the project is set up with control points, where the Board approve to continue the project. PRINCE2 do not use “milestones” or “decision gates” as a term, but this is basically what it is.

2) Learn from experience

This is both collecting relevant info from previous projects, and register learning points from this project. If the things you experience do not result in change, it is not “lessons learned”, just “lessons identified” PRINCE2 claims.

3) Defined roles and responsibilities

This is  – in my view –  the most important element of any project success. Establishing a Project in a line organisation will almost certainly lead to challenges about who will do what, and who will decide what. Most of the conflicts I work with in project, relate to unclear roles from the beginning.

In a small project (less than 10 people) you still need a clear organization – basically differ between the two mail roles:

  • Who is making the decisions about the project (starting, changing, closing) AKA the Board or Project Owner
  • Who is running the project, being responsible for the main delivery, AKA the Project Manager, reporting results and progress to the Board.

4) Manage by stages

This is basically what all projects do: Divide the project into different delivery stages (or phases), to make it possible to plan detailed for the nearest stage, and just have a more overall planning for the future stages. A small project might have just one or two stages, but anyway, the point is to take a “time out” to consider what is delivered so far, and make the Board able to make a decision to whether

  • The project is on track, and can be continued as planned, and
  • The Business Case is still viable.

5) Manage by exception

The reason for this principle is to ensure that the Board or Project Owner is not overwhelmed by detailed questions and need for decisions during the project. Initially, the Board define tolerances for time, cost and quality, and as long as the project is running within these frames, there is no need for either status meeting with the board or frequent decision request.

But of course, this put quite a bit of responsibility on the Project Owner in the beginning of the project, actually defining tolerances that is relevant to the Project Manager, as a framework for the project.

6) Focus on products

This is one of the things I like best about PRINCE2. Instead of the traditional “activity planning” -focus on projects, the key element here is the product that will be delivered. “Product” is used in the wides possible meaning – all sub-deliveries, main delivery, and also management products (baseline plans and strategies, reports, and records) are defined as products.

And why do I like the product focus? It is because all projects are defined as “Cross functional” – meaning that you put together a team with specific competence on their area. Because of that, you can never expect the Project Manager to have in-depth knowledge of every area covered in the project. So instead of trying to plan the project based on acitivities that the PM never can know in detail, the focus is on “what will we deliver”? Functionality and quality requirements: Define them to the specialist, and let it be up to them to decide exactly what needs to be done, it what order.

7) Tailor to suit the project

And this last principle is the comfort for everyone who is thinking “But my project is not big enough”. It is. As long as you have the two main roles: The Board making decisions, and the Project Manager running the project – it is easy to establish the rest of the principles.

PRINCE2 suggests 26 managmenent products, but they are to ensure that all the big projects are covered. In the new 2017 Manual, the focus is extensively on tailoring. There is no point in having a heavy methodology that no-one is able to use in real life.

Adjust and use PRINCE2 for your projects.