If you are familiar with PRINCE2 you will know that the method has 7 processes, each of which comprises a number of activities. I counted the activities the other day, and there are 40 of them. I have been quite vocal about the need to apply PRINCE2 skillfully and tailor it to suit, so I thought to myself “What if I only had 5 activities? Which would I choose to best manage a project?”
This proved harder than I expected, but here’s what I came up with, and why.
1. Appoint the Executive and the Project Manager
I think this is probably my least contentious choice. As the PRINCE2 manual says: “to get anything done in the project, a decision maker with appropriate authority is needed”. It then goes on to say (fairly obviously) that “the appointment of a Project Manager allows for the project to be managed on a day-to-day basis on behalf of the Executive.
As I say, probably my least contentious choice. Nevertheless, I do worry how many Project Managers are out there happily trying to use PRINCE2 without a Project Executive, or at least without a Project Executive who understands their role and discharges it diligently.
Moving right along…
2. Update the Business Case
“CHEAT!” I hear you cry. How can I update a Business Case that hasn’t been prepared in outline (SU) or refined (IP)? Well, I could argue that a little poetic licence is a blogger’s right. However, I would also argue that in practice I’d rather people have a proper focus on the business case while the work is underway than do it at the beginning of a project just to get funding then sit it on the shelf, forget about it and press on regardless.
Whichever activities you would choose for your 5, the business case had to be addressed somewhere. After all, that is the purpose of a project – delivering products according to an agreed business case. Hands-up those who currently have an up-to-date rock-solid business case which everyone knows in essence – you do all have your hands up now don’t you?!
3. Plan the next stage
I’m quite proud of myself here, a bit of a sneaky choice this one. You see, “Plan the next stage” in PRINCE2 doesn’t just involve producing the Stage Plan for the next stage. Among other things it also involves reviewing:
- any change to the customer’s expectations, acceptance criteria or project approach;
- the relevance and suitability of the strategies and controls; and
- any change in the project management team or their role descriptions.
The PRINCE2-pedants reading this will pick me up on the fact these things haven’t been created but the same basic argument as I put forward for updating the Business Case applies – better late than never!
The other great thing about this activity of course is that it invokes the product-based planning technique where the real planning work occurs and the team gets clarity of what actually needs to be done.
4. Review the stage status
There are 8 activities in the process Controlling a Stage but for me this one (Review the stage status) is the heart of the machine.
The objective of the activity says it all – “to maintain an accurate and current picture of progress on the work being carried out and the status of resources”. If you care to delve deeper, the PRINCE2 manual recommends a comprehensive range of actions to be undertaken to form that picture, and based on that analysis, to decide whether any actions are required.
5. Give ad-hoc direction
Not much point having a Project Executive if you aren’t going to engage them so I felt I had to pick my final activity from the process Directing a Project.
I have seen more than one project where the Project Manager doesn’t speak to the Project Executive between one formal stage boundary meeting and the next. The PRICNE2 manual identifies a variety of circumstances that might prompt ad hoc direction, including:
- responding to requests, e.g. when options need clarifying or where areas of conflict need resolving;
- responding to reports; and
- responding to external influences.
Which 5 activities would you choose?
Well, there’s my suggested list of the 5 most important of the 40 PRINCE2 activities. 5 was a totally arbitrary number but it certainly exercised my brain picking the list. I’d like to hear from you about which activities you would choose and why.
I know there are a number of my fellow PRINCE2 trainers and consultants out there who keep an eye on my blogs so they are welcome to throw their views into the ring also.