Tailoring MSP and PRINCE2 to
suit your Programmes and Projects

Tanner James recognizes the frustration of experienced SES officers who understand the value of MSP and PRINCE2 but see the frameworks being ineffectively applied in an increasingly complex policy environment. This frustration can easily be avoided by effective tailoring of the methods.

What is tailoring?

Tailoring means adapting a method or process to suit the situation in which it will be used.

PRINCE2 is tailored to suit the project environment, size, complexity, importance, team capability and risk.

Tailoring can be applied to processes, themes, roles, management products and terminology.

The PRINCE2 2017 update features extensive guidance on tailoring, organisational adoption and application in practice.  It explains exactly how the method can be used for agile projects, simple projects, projects in a programme, and projects involving commercial suppliers.

If you are not tailoring, you are not using PRINCE2.  Similarly for MSP.

Simplicity not Complexity

Is PRINCE2 all about process and templates?  Definitely not.  Here are some quotes from the PRINCE2 2017 manual itself:

“If PRINCE2 is not tailored, it is unlikely that the project management effort and approach would be appropriate for the needs of the project.”

“Processes may be combined or adapted.”

“Requiring each project manager to work directly from PRINCE2 to create a management approach and controls for each project is wasteful.”

“Reports do not need to be documents.”

“The overarching objective for adopting PRINCE2 should be to improve business performance”. 

Agility not Bureaucracy

Tailoring is why PRINCE2 works extremely well with Agile delivery approaches.  Here are some examples of guidance from the manual:

“PRINCE2 management stages can be aligned with a series of sprints or releases, introducing management control points to support a fail fast environment.  In situations that have a higher risk or higher uncertainty, the management stages can be of a much shorter duration.”

“Product descriptions (sometimes written as epics or user stories), quality criteria and quality tolerances can be prioritized and decomposed to provide flexibility in what is being delivered.”

“What does ‘fail fast’ mean?  Using timeboxes/sprints in agile delivery enables fast detection of possible failure of products.  This fail fast effect reduces waste of resources and can be a useful learning experience.”


Where to begin when tailoring MSP or PRINCE2

It seems obvious where to begin - sit down and create or update the departmental programme / project management framework, correct?  No.  While starting with the framework is a very common approach, in our experience it is the wrong place to begin.  Doing so tends to create theoretical models, enshrined in templates, and it risks creating an elaborate bureaucracy.

Instead, the correct place to start is with individual programmes or projects.  Pick some pilots with different characteristics (for example complexity, importance, team capability, risk, agile projects, simple projects, projects in a programme, projects involving commercial suppliers).

Tailoring takes skill and experience to make the correct judgements, but everyone must start somewhere.


What would you like to do next?


Related blogs on Tailoring:

Avoid Elaborate Bureaucracy: How to Tailor PRINCE2

Bureaucrats Beware: If you aren't tailoring PRINCE2, you aren't using PRINCE2

Robots versus heroes

Avoiding death-by-template