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The 2012 PRINCE2 Manifesto - Free eBook

John Howarth

We have pulled together all the content we have shared about PRINCE2 on our blog this year. For those that are close followers of our work, you’ll notice that we have simply collated some of our blog posts and put it into a handy format.

What that means is we haven’t scrubbed and polished it so that it reads like yet another boring theoretical project management manual. Instead, this eBook pulls together our real-world advice.

The kind of hints and tips we give to people over coffee or on-site while consulting or in the classroom. Practical not pretty.

The articles are designed to answer the most common questions and challenges we see you facing as you use PRINCE2 in the real world. As such, they can be useful conversation starters for how you and your team apply PRINCE2 and how you can get the most out of it.

So feel free to share it as you see fit. If you only want to share one or two articles then head along to our blog where you can then share the individual page.

A big thanks to Dave Bryant, Dave Schrapel, Adrian Booth, Gavan Murphy and Ray Broadbent. They all contributed blogs throughout the year and I am very appreciative that they were willing to share some of their views with you.

A big thanks to myself also as I wrote most of them (modesty has never been one of my strengths).

I hope you find it useful.

Do you have a unique environment with unique challenges? Or have you always been a little unclear about an aspect of PRINCE2? Then simply let me know by leaving a comment below.

I would be happy to write a blog post addressing it for you.


How to Handle Project Issues

Daniel Oyston

This is a guest post by our good friend Gavan Murphy.

Issues!

We’ve all got them, and projects are no different. They’re like weeds - you can pretend they don’t exist until they take over your garden (or project).

Some projects are so dynamic there’s a multitude of issues to juggle on a daily basis. Other projects work at a different pace, or have much longer time frames and potentially fewer issues.

Regardless of the style of project you’re running, a Project Manager ignores issues at his or her own peril. 

Don’t fall into the traps

Like most things in life, the more mistakes you make experience you have the better you become at noticing the weeds in and around your project environment. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that lots of project issues is a bad sign for your project.

Nor is the opposite true, that few issues means the project is running well.

It’s ultimately your judgement, responsibility, and dare I say it, honesty as a PM what you choose to notice, raise and manage through to resolution.

How do you tell if you’re dealing with issues effectively?

Three measures I regularly use are:

  • if I can’t succinctly tell a stranger what the three major issues I’m dealing with on a daily basis are, I’m not on the ball;
  • if I wake up in the middle of the night thinking about work, whatever it is that woke me up is an issue that needs some (more) attention; and
  • if an issue hasn’t been updated in more than a month, I’m in denial or it’s not really an issue.

I’ve also discovered, the better systems I have in place for managing issues the more willing I am to be honest about them.

Make sure all the verbs are covered

From the good book (PRINCE2) your issue management system needs to cater for all the verbs: 

  • capturing;
  • describing;
  • prioritising;
  • assigning responsibility;
  • monitoring;
  • reporting;
  • resolving (as quickly as you can); and
  • escalating issues if they get beyond your remit. 

The importance of software

I’ve been using Atlassian’s JIRA for managing my project issues for more than 18 months now. In short it’s brilliant! It handles each of the issue management verbs competently, except automatically recording issues for me J.

There’s a large number of tools available for PMs to use, but issue management software is one of the most important in my opinion, because it will do all the heavy lifting for you.

If you have the discipline to capture and update issue details then:

  • reporting becomes pain free;
  • prioritisation is much easier because you can see all the issues in one place; and
  • escalation is a matter of assigning the issue until resolved.

Using an issue management tool leaves you free to focus on project delivery - the stuff you get paid for!

Garbage In and Garbage Out

Of course the old adage applies: garbage in and garbage out. Your issue management system won’t replace face-to-face conversations or the need to wear out shoe leather engaging those involved in issue resolution.

But it does record history, reduce email spam, diminish finger poking and blame. If used effectively, it makes people accountable for their part - you included!

Effective issue management won’t necessarily guarantee a successful outcome for your project, there’s a lot more to it than that. Some project issues are so intractable, for all sorts of reasons, that they require constant advocacy and energy on your part to get them resolved.

However without a willingness to tackle them, or get a handle on their management, it will be increasingly difficult to see the garden for the weeds.

What approaches work best for you with issue management? Have you got any horror stories to share?

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Gavan started his passion for Project Management 20 years ago, initially in engineering projects, and then following his interest into ICT communications, infrastructure and software development projects. 

He has a knack for building high performing project teams and when given enough rope, has delivered some really challenging project outcomes. Most of his project success has come from a preparedness to learn (and learn fast), anticipate where things are heading, diligence and seeking out opportunities to build strong working relationships. 

He shares common sense insights based on his experience, hard knocks and snippets of brilliance he has picked up from other PMs along the way.

How To Apply PRINCE2 Better, Immediately

Daniel Oyston

Last week we hosted a webinar: How To Apply PRINCE2 Better, Immediately. Thanks to everyone who logged in and participated.

For those that missed it, or those that want to see it again,  I recorded the webinar and have posted the video below. I’ve also uploaded an audio only file and posted it along with a copy of the slides. 

Our next webinar is going to be a cracker - 6 Things To Avoid When Implementing PRINCE2 on Thursday 15 November 9:30am (30 minutes).

This webinar is an excellent opportunity to hear from the world’s foremost expert on PRINCE2. Known as the ‘The Yoda of PRINCE2’ (well that’s what we call him in the office), Colin Bentley wrote all the early versions of the PRINCE2 manual and was the lead reviewer and mentor to the 2009 revision to the PRINCE2 manual for the OGC. He was also the Chief Examiner for The APM Group until his retirement in 2008.  

Colin’s latest publication is titled PRINCE2 Rollout Approach and in this webinar he will address the things that are essential to avoid when rolling out PRINCE2 to into an existing environment. Don’t miss this opportunity.



WEBINAR VIDEO - How To Apply PRINCE2 Better, Immediately



SLIDE DECK


Click on the icon below to download the slides. 

 

 
Click the icon below to access an audio only file of the webinar.

 

Bold ideas for newly trained project managers

John Howarth
You have just attended a training course to get your project management qualification. It is your first day back at work, and you are keen to put your newly acquired learning into practice.  Here are some bold ideas which you may not have considered to get you started.

Rub shoulders with the leaders

As you will have learned on your course, project managers do not make the big decisions – project sponsors and project board executives do.

So why not ask your boss’s boss if you can be an observer at a few Steering Committee or Project Board meetings?

This will give you insights into how projects are governed in your organization and what will be expected of you when it is your turn.

Take over from the guru

If you have been in your organization for a while, or you ask around a little, it shouldn’t be too hard to find a gun project manager who everyone acknowledges for their skills.

Buy that person a coffee and ask if you can run their project for them for a week.  Even if they politely explain that won’t be possible, you can always ask if they could do a dummy handover meeting as if you were about to run the project.

It should be interesting to hear how what they do on a day-to-day basis matches what you heard on the training course.

Invade the PMO

The PMO is the hub of activity in your organisation for all things related to project management.
It’s a great place to learn how things really work.


Wander over there, and ask if you can work at one of their desks for the next couple of weeks.  If you volunteer to give them a hand you will probably pick up some great tips which will be invaluable for your own project.  

Throw away your PC

It might be tempting to go looking for templates and start typing, but I always think people looking for templates immediately after a training course is a bad sign – because methods such as PRINCE2 are process-based not template based, hence filling in templates doesn’t created a shared understanding of what is happening and what needs to be done.

So rather than do the template thing, how about you throw away your PC? (I admit just switching it off might be safer for your career!).  What I mean is leave the PC alone, and instead take a good old-fashioned notebook and spend a week talking to everyone who has ever been near your project or who has an interest in it.  The longer they have been around the project the more you can probably learn from them.  If it is a new project so much the better.  You can find out from your stakeholders what they really want and why.

Spend the night with your sponsor

Well alright then, perhaps not the night, but at least a good few hours one evening over dinner.

Project Sponsors are usually very busy people, but you need as much time with them as you can get, especially at the beginning of a project.

Meeting outside the usual work environment in an informal setting with no interruptions or paperwork is a great way to find out what people really think, and what they see as important.

If any freshly-trained project managers try these bold ideas please let us know how you go.

Too busy fighting the war with bows and arrows to buy a rifle?

John Howarth

"Too busy fighting the war with bows and arrows to buy a rifle?" is one of my favourite sayings, and although it is an old one, I still think it has plenty of applicability in this day and age to the way we manage the programmes and projects in our portfolios of change.

Busy

“I’m flat out”

“I’m under the pump”

“We’ll need to reschedule”

If you are working in the world of programmes and projects you will be all too familiar with these phrases and what goes with them – long hours, the feeling of being overwhelmed, the feeling that you are not on top of things and that life is racing along and you do not have the time to do anything properly.  This is the modern working environment.  A world full of pressure and challenges and not enough time to deal with them.

Bows and Arrows

So what is our response to this environment?  My observation is that it is fairly chaotic, and under pressure, many of us revert to ‘bows and arrows’ to run our change initiatives.  Let me give you some examples.

Email

The weapon of choice for many.  You can create them at all times of day and night, pack them full of what you think needs to happen and then fire them into the unsuspecting crowd.

Impromptu meetings

Actually meetings is a generous term.  Accidental discussions might be closer to the mark.  Someone raises a matter, and the manager says “right, lets have the conversation now” and pulls whichever team members happen to be in the vicinity into the room to “sort things out”.  Two hours later and you have a full whiteboard which will serve as the plan for the next couple of weeks.  Or at least until the next impromptu meeting.

Templates

Those who know me or read my blogs regularly will know that I have hit this one many times before, but I think it bears repetition.  Are you unable to make things happen in your organisation?  The easy answer is to sit in a corner and spend a couple of weeks filling in a template that paints the perfect picture of what you would like to see happen.

And why do we work this way?  “Because we don’t have enough time for all that project management stuff. It just creates an overhead and paperwork and I need to press on and get the job done”.  Then off the project warrior goes into the fray, firing off emails, holding impromptu meetings and filling in templates.

Rifles

I am no weapons expert, but my understanding of a rifle is that there are a few key elements such as,  

  • Training – you need to know how to use it.
  • Loading – there is a brief but important sequence of things you need to do before the rifle is ready.
  • Aiming – making sure you are pointing it at the right thing.

I would like to suggest that the Cabinet Office frameworks Management of Portfolios (MoP), Managing Successful Programmes (MSP), PRINCE2 and Portfolio, Programme and Project Offices (P3O) can serve as well aimed rifles for the delivery of change – if you are trained, and spend time on the brief but important sequence of activities involved in definition/initiation.

Avoiding death-by-template

John Howarth

“We have to fill out reams of templates and I don’t see the value in that” – this is one of the most common criticisms levelled at project management frameworks in general, and PRINCE2® in particular. So I would like to offer some thoughts as to why this perception is so common and how to avoid ‘death-by-template’ on your project.

The PMO made me do it

You are a Project Manager.  You went to the PMO. They said you have to fill in the templates. So you did. Shame on both parties, say I…

As the Project Manager, your job is to pull together a shared understanding of what the project is going to do and why – in other words, a plan and a business case. You need to do this by getting the right people - stakeholders, decision-makers and so on – together in such a way that they have a meeting of minds. Once you have done that you will need to record everything, and that is what the templates are for. But if you try to achieve this primarily by filling in templates you are going about it the wrong way.

If you work in a PMO, your job is to help the Project Manager do their job. There might be a compliance element to that and you may also have a need for gathering some corporate information about what a project will do. Nevertheless you should be focussed on ensuring that the Project Manager has the skills and support necessary to get the project off on the right footing. Pointing them at the templates is a cop-out. You should be asking what they think they need in order to get the right people together and be asking how you can help facilitate that.

The same then applies to the management of progress, change, risks and issues once the project is underway – for the project manager it is about keeping minds aligned and for the PMO it is about helping them do that. Templates are simply a tool of the trade.

Will the person in charge please step forward

So who is to blame if a project has too much paperwork? The Project Manager? The PMO? As it happens, neither is to blame in my opinion. The person who is to blame is the person who has the role of Project Sponsor (or Project Board Executive if you are using a PRINCE2®. That person is ultimately accountable for the project, and therefore they should be the one to determine how much paperwork is appropriate and how corporate templates should be used/tailored to suit.

“But they don’t have the time/understanding to determine those things!” I hear you cry. Well, have you asked them? If your answer is yes and you still drew a blank, perhaps you could get a peer-level executive with some project management credentials to have a quiet word with them.

Our framework is mainly about templates

You may have a deeper problem on your hands. Take a deep breath, have a look again at the framework, and see what it says about the processes to be followed and who should be involved. Talk to the PMO to see what advice they can give you about processes, who should be involved, key concepts etc – find out as much as you can about anything other than templates.

If you find that your framework really is template-centric I believe you have a systemic corporate issue that requires the attention of top-management in your organisation.

For the record, PRINCE2® is a process-based approach, not a template-based approach. The most recent refresh of the method – the 2009 edition – makes this abundantly clear and I invite the doubters to have a very close look at it before levelling the accusation that the method is about templates.

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