Thank goodness for product-based planning!

As my memory gets worse I find that product-based planning, particularly the Product Flow Diagram, really gets me from a-z without forgetting anything. For example, these days I arrange many golf tournaments. What with early publicity, arranging and costing meals, putting up lists, arranging tee times, prizes, cup engraving, there are many things that can slip through the net. A Product Breakdown Structure and Product Flow Diagram make me think clearly of what I need to do and the order in which they need to be done. A few dates pencilled in by the boxes are all I need to ensure that things go smoothly. PRINCE2 training even reminds me to do risk assessment – and there’s always more at risk than just the weather. Anorak? You should see me when I trust just in my memory!

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The Concise PRINCE2

IT Governance are now selling my book, the Concise PRINCE2, which is a little ‘crammer’ for two groups of people (a) those intending to take the Foundation exam (b) those project managers who would like the comfort of a pocketbook that gave them all the key words, themes and processes, without having to lug the manual around or go chasing off to reference it. It really does fit in a pocket or handbag, and at £9.99 it won’t make a hole in your pocket.

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Bulgarian and Czech versions of The Essence of PRINCE2

Translations of The Essence of PRINCE2 are now available in Slovak-English and Czech-English. Contact Branislav Gablas at or use one of these links

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Practitioner sample paper

I have been debating with myself on whether to create more sample Practitioner papers. It seems that the APMG website has gone down to just one sample, although I thought that we had two. Another thought – the new style Practitioner exams are easy to be marked by computer, ensuring a rapid turn-round, but do they show the same level of in-depth knowledge of the method that the old essay-style papers used to do, e.g. the creation of a product-based PBS and PFD?

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Keeping the brain cells active

I am in the process of re-reading and updating my book, “The Essence of PRINCE2” and “The Art of PRINCE2 Survival”, not only to keep me thinking, but I think that it’s time that I looked afresh behind the words that describe the method. I’m not convinced that all of the authors of the 2009 version were fully ‘au fait’ with every part of the method that was rewritten, and some of it is not that easy to simply implement. I’ve also never had feedback on my suggested simplified Issue/Risk Register. For me it worked well. Any experiences out there?

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PRINCE2 Rollout Approach

Just had a nice quote from someone who bought this book:

“What a brilliant book. Concise, relevant and straightforward. I have over the years used bits and pieces of what you have presented, but nothing as crisp as your Benefits of PRINCE2 approach.”Rollout Prince2

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Rolling out PRINCE2

Rollout Prince2I have a new book on the market, PRINCE2 Rollout Approach. In it I suggest a way of approaching all those live projects that are not currently using PRINCE2. Why let them run on without the PRINCE2 control and structure? Will they give you warnings of problems that might affect quality, budget or delivery date? The book offers a staged, painless way to add just those PRINCE2 features that will bring benefit to these projects; no overkill, no huge upheaval. If you know of a company that is implementing PRINCE2, help yourself to this practical advice.

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In Sept 2010 in a good Tech Republic blog, Patrick Gray wrote “Most of us have seen the famous “three levers” diagram of project management. The story goes that one can move any two of the levers (scope, timeline, or cost) and the other will move independently of the others. For example you could increase the scope of a project and decrease the timeline, but your costs will rapidly spiral up. Or if you cut costs and keep your scope constant, the timeline will increase. The three levers are a nice conceptual tool, but they imply CIOs have more control over their projects than usually happens in practice. For most CIOs, scope is the only factor within their control once a project starts, and the one that should be most jealously guarded.
While cost management, rigorous tracking of deliverables and documentation, and tight resource management are all admirable, many projects take a dangerously cavalier attitude towards scope. I have seen businesses that require signed authorization and an escort to the locked supply closet for a fresh pen, yet allow a junior person from an implementation firm to commit the project to several weeks of additional work (and tens of thousands of dollars) without batting an eye. ….”

I thought the newer thinking was that there was a rectangle with four elements, time, cost, scope and quality. Moving any one of them will affect at least one other and may affect all three others. I would make two points for PRINCE2. If you are using PRINCE2 correctly, there is no way in which ‘a junior person’ can commit the project to any extra work. All changes must go through the change procedure, and the impact analysis will show to the Change Authority what the effect would be on cost, time, scope quality, benefits and tolerances – all this before a decision is made. If the junior tries to carry out the extra work without telling anyone, this would soon be clear by the Team Manager reviewing the time and cost used.

Another corner of the rectangle is quality. I’m sure most of us know that the first thing that workers turn to when time gets short is cutting the amount of time spent on quality checking. PRINCE2 builds quality and its checking into a project from day one, and the Quality Register will soon identify any effort to slip an untested product under the wire. Go with PRINCE2. You know it makes sense!

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Is there too much documentation at the end of a project? Should we not plan to check if the company got the expected benefits? Is it wrong to discuss with the Project Board how well/poorly the Project Manager did what was defined in the Project Initiation Documentation? Should we not pass on any lessons learned to other projects? Should we not document any unfinished business? Project Managers may be anxious to move on to the next ‘challenge’ (or piece of income), but it’s hardly being bureaucratic to say that you must tie up the loose ends and bring the project to a controlled close. There are too many unfinished projects where the Project Manager has moved on to avoid the ‘dirty’ parts of actually finishing a project.

Maybe the idea of bureaucracy stems from the PRINCE2 organisation structure – or, rather, the incorrect idea that every project has to have at least one person for every role. However many times the manual makes the point about the option to combine roles where sensible, there are still those who immediately envisage a large overhead of Team Managers, Project Support and Project Assurance staff, etc. If the size and criticality of the project needs it, then we may need (and use) all these people. But in many other cases we can combine roles. It’s just a matter of common sense.

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Do we need an Exception Report? – remember, no-one says it has to be written. Should we advise the Project Board that one or more of their tolerance limits is under threat? Should we do this as soon as we know about it? Of course we should. Have a look at the information that PRINCE2 suggests should be made available to the Project Board when an exception situation arises. It all looks sensible and necessary.

So where do we look for this bureaucracy – at End Stage Reports? Surely we have to submit to the Project Board an assessment of how we performed in the current stage, what the Project Plan, the Business Case and the risk situation now look like before it will think of approving the next Stage Plan?

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