Friday, 16 January 2009


By Graham Devine, Training Consultant

In my work as a Project Manager and trainer I increasingly hear criticism of PRINCE2…”It doesn’t work!”, “It’s too bureaucratic”, “We don’t like to tell our staff about PRINCE2 – it’s too much for them – we ‘hide’ PRINCE2 in our own project management method”, “We are looking for something better!"

I don’t have problems with these views – but what’s behind them; that does worry me.

In its simplest form PRINCE2 is a book that describes a view of the ‘best practice’ approach to running projects – it’s presented as a ‘framework’ so that it can be tailored appropriately (not prescriptively). Now, the book is based on long standing pre-existing principles, concepts and methods drawn from ‘learned’ sources such as the Association of Project Management’s ‘Body of Knowledge’ (with some equivalence to the PMI in the USA) and the real-world ‘lessons learned’ and creativity of experienced professional project staff from many sectors.

Surely the critics of PRINCE2 cannot want to ditch all of human thought on projects as bunkum? Let’s get some facts straight:

Firstly, there is the view that PRINCE2 is a ‘tool’ when it is not – a Michelin star chef’s recipe book is not a tool. It’s essential ‘knowledge’ – but reading it alone does not make a person a master chef (I know I wouldn’t want to eat in the newly opened seafood restaurant run by the entrepreneur who read the recipe book the previous weekend and has never cooked anything more than a boiled egg!). Secondly, PRINCE2 presents a multitude of things that should be considered in project management but it does not tell you how to do them for your projects. Similarly, although a recipe may give you some tips about how to create the dish, it will not give you the detail (‘first, fillet your Sea Bass’ [but how?]). Nonetheless, the recipe guides you towards a better, more structured way of cooking (you know, first crack the eggs open, and then put them on a frying pan). This is exactly what PRINCE2 does: teach you what the steps are so that you, with practice, can work your magic to deliver better projects!

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