PRINCE2 101: The 7 Principles of Prince2

I come across a lot of people who fear Prince2… it has a bit of a reputation of ‘death by documentation’ and it’s true, some Prince2 projects can get rather bogged down in a plethora of product descriptions and complex business cases… but not all Prince2 projects are like that, and it’s important to understand why some of these things are done (and when not to do them).

This is the first in a series of articles I’m going to write on Prince2. The aim is to demystify some of the common misconceptions and build up a resource of easy to understand concepts that will help you pass the Prince2 Foundation and Practitioner exams.

7 Principles of Prince2

The 7 Principles of Prince2

Prince2 projects are based on these 7 Principles. They form the underlying structure for the entire Prince2 Methodology and act as the foundation for your project.

Continued business justification

You have a reason for stating the project… right??? Well, the Prince2 methodology requires you to maintain that justification over the life of the project.

Learn from experience

We are always looking to see what lessons we can learn from other similar projects and how we can improve every facet of the current project. Lessons Learned are a big part of Prince2 projects, we all do better by learning from our mistakes (and successes).

Defined roles and responsibilities

Does everyone know what they are supposed to do? Are the right people empowered to make decisions? Are the right people involved? Are they involved at the right time? Does everyone know what is expected of everyone else? Prince2 projects have defined roles and responsibilities that need to be undertaken over the life of the project.

Manage by stages

Stages allow a Prince2 project to maintain a series of assessment and control points at major milestones during the project. A Prince2 project must have a minimum of two stages – an Initiation stage and a delivery stage (or other similar product management stage).

Manage by exception

Prince2 projects typically have 3 management levels. The low level development tasks are managed by a Team Manager (or several TM’s if the project is large enough). The next level up is the Project Manager and above that is the Project Board. Each of these management levels delegate authority based on tolerance levels across time, cost, quality, scope, risk and benefit.

Focus on products

Everything in a Prince2 project is a product (including documents – in fact in most Prince2 projects, documents form the bulk of the product list). Each of these products must have a defined set of quality and acceptance criteria and a clear set of expectations on how it will be produced, who will produce it and what will it look like.

Tailor to suit the project environment

The Prince2 methodology is tailored to suit each individual project. While it is true that all 7 of these principles will be present in all projects, the degree of formal controls, involvement and structure will vary depending on factors such as the project size, complexity and risk. All tailoring should be defined in the Product Initialisation Document.

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