This week, I have completed PRINCE2 training. Yes, I am finally a genuine part of the local government project management club. And it feels surprisingly good.
PRINCE2 has become a rite of passage for anyone working on projects in the public sector (and especially local government). It is ubiquitous. A few years ago, at the height of the big, branded, transformational programmes agenda, some authorities even declared themselves “PRINCE2 authorities”. Naturally, this means that most people working in and around the sector are now conversant in PRINCE2 lingo – producing highlight reports, risk registers and configuration management strategies without batting an eyelid. This also means that many people working in and around the sector are highly sceptical about this structured approach to project management, with its jargon, time consuming processes and creativity stifling procedures.
After a week of debating the differences between ‘starting a project’ and ‘initiating a project’ (“can’t we just get on with the work and worry about what we call it afterwards?”, a colleague helpfully remonstrated), I have to admit that I agree with most of these concerns.
However, I also found myself wondering if, in rejecting the sometimes administration-heavy, delivery-light PRINCE2 rulebook, we are in danger of throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
How many of us have worked on a particularly complex project or a programme, knowing that it probably would not be able to deliver the benefits it set out to do at the start? In advocating a continual appraisal of the project’s activities compared to the business case for it, PRINCE2 acknowledges that to quit is not to fail or to lose face, but is a natural consequence of risky and unique projects.
Similarly, how many of us have lost traction in our work, and had projects delayed, whilst waiting for the relevant senior officers to approve outputs, however small? In forcing us to clarify the roles and responsibilities of the entire project team up front, and to clearly outline where a project managers authority ends, we can be empowered to push forward with work and only escalate matters which actually require senior input and advice, saving our time and theirs.
I may not stand up and announce to the entire project team that I am about to progress into ‘Managing a Stage Boundary’ next time I attend a project board meeting and they give us the green light to start work on the next stage, but I definitely will embrace my new membership of this rather un-exclusive club wholeheartedly.