By Steven Gardiner
It’s not a rule book! This is a phrase I always use on the PRINCE2 courses I teach. Many delegates
arrive on the Monday morning with this big, shiny new book thinking it’s full of rules to be followed
word for word. They couldn’t be further from the truth.
The PRINCE2 manual is quite simply is a reference manual. It is not there to be followed word for
word. During a project it is to be used when you need some guidance on the PRINCE2 treatment of
key project management topics such as risk and planning. The manual is to be dipped in and out of
when needed. The only time it would be read cover to cover is when you are on the course and
that’s only down to the fact that there are exams to sit!
One of the key PRINCE2 Principles is that it is a methodology that needs to be tailored. The Themes,
Processes and Management Products that PRINCE2 provide are there to be adapted. Take the
Management Products. Many people look at those and all they see are documents. One of the
common misconceptions that many people have about PRINCE2 is that they will spend their whole
time writing documents if they use the methodology. This again couldn’t be any further from the
truth. If you are spending your time on the project just writing documents you are doing it wrong.
The Management Products can be documents but that is just one way of presenting that
information. They could be a slide set presentation, an email and even a conversation, although this
PRINCE2 trainer would stay away from that. They only need to be documents if that is appropriate.
Also another question to be asked is do you need them all?
Another misconception that people have is to say that as they are only a small organisation that
PRINCE2 will not work as it is for big projects with large project management teams. People are
always surprised when I tell them that the minimum number of people needed for a PRINCE2 project
is only 2! The roles that PRINCE2 provide are there to be adapted to the size and complexity of the
project. All that is needed for a PRINCE2 project is an Executive carrying out the Project Board role
along with assurance and the Project Manager to do the rest. Also what is not crucial is the name of
the role e.g. say if the Executive is called a Sponsor – that is not an issue. What is important is that
the individual fulfilling the role understands their responsibilities.
As I always tell delegates what makes a project a PRINCE2 project is the implementing of the 7
PRINCE2 Principles. To me the Principles are just sensible project management. Principles such as
Continued Business Justification and Learn from Experience are the kind of things any Project
Manager should be thinking about. Quite simply follow these Principles and you will become a
better Project Manager.
Finally the key to PRINCE2 and good project management is just using common sense. PRINCE2
provides the tools to manage projects more effectively. However it is how you use the tools that will
make the methodology work for you. Treat the manual as a rule book and you will run into trouble.
Use it with common sense and then it becomes what it is meant to be – a great part of a project
manager’s tool box.