What is the PRINCE2 Progress Theme?

PRINCE2 Progress Theme

PRINCE2 Progress ThemeLet us take a look at what you will learn in the PRINCE2 Progress theme

The purpose of the PRINCE2 Progress Theme

  1. to check the progress of the project compared to the plan
  2. to check project viability
  3. and to control any deviations.

What is Progress?

What are Progress Controls?

What are Exceptions and Tolerances?

The PRINCE2 approach to Progress

The PRINCE2 approach to Progress and the four main controls provided by PRINCE2:

(1) Delegating Authority,

(2) Using Stages,

(3) Time & Event-driven reports, and

(4) Raising Exceptions

The 3 Project Controls used by the Project Board and Project Manager, i.e., Authorizations, Progress Updates, and Exceptions & Changes and how they differ.

Management Stages and why Management Stages are used by the Project Board as controls.

Points to consider when deciding on the number of stages on the project and how long a stage should be.

What are technical stages? How do they differ from Management Stages? and How it is possible to manage Technical Stages from Management Stages?

How does the Project Manager review progress? How do they use the different management products such as the Checkpoint Reports, Daily Log and Issue Register?

How the Lessons Log and the Lesson Report are used from a Progress point of view.

The three reports used by the Project Manager to report progress to the Project Board.

How the Project Manager raise exceptions and why.

And lastly, the Progress Roles and Responsibilities.

What happens to progress in the real world?

Progress is all about how to control the project and know where you are against the current plan. Each company and Project Manager will have different ideas on how best to do this and if you are Project Manager in a company the, one good question to ask your Project Board is: “how do I best keep you informed of the progress of the project?.

The answer to this question will tell you a lot about the maturity of project control in the organization.

I believe the most important points that a Project Manager has to keep in mind are:

  • The format of reports used to provide information to the Project Board (this should be provided)
  • How best to keep track of issues, changes and risks
  • How to check that the Business Case is still valid etc…
  • And constantly check the current progress compared to the current plan

Most poor Projects Managers make the following mistakes

  • Don’t have a good system in place to track progress
  • Feel responsible for issues as they arise and try to solve them, thus they end up firefighting and not managing the project
  • Are afraid to escalate issues as they may work in a shoot the messenger environment or work for a Project Board that does not understand their role.

You will find this chapter on PRINCE2 easy to read and understand and you will also learn how tolerances are used to help each management layer manage the layer below. The last point I would like to make is that the Project Manager should make sure they have time during the project to manage progress and control the project.

Purpose of the information in the PRINCE2 Progress Theme

The purpose of the information in the Progress Theme can be explained in three parts:

  • To establish how to monitor and then to compare actual achievements against those planned during the project
  • To provide a forecast for the project objectives and the project’s continued viability
  • To be able to control any unacceptable deviations.

Progress is about checking progress compared to the plan, checking project viability and controlling any deviations.

How many of the Principles are represented in the Progress Theme?

Three of the seven principles are represented in the Progress Theme; they are:

  • Manage by stages: the Project Board is to use stages as a control point
  • Continued business justification, as the Business Case is continually checked that the project is still worth doing
  • Managed by Exception. Where tolerances are used, refer certain issues up to the next management level.

Now let us get a picture of who needs to control who, as this will make it much easier to understand. Recall that there are four levels in a project organization and three levels in a project team.

Well, each above-level wants to be able to control the level below and there are three levels of control in a Project Organization and two levels of control in a project team.

Control or progress is all about decision-making and is central to project management ensuring that the project remains viable against its approved Business Case
11.4 Progress, Progress Controls, Exceptions and Tolerances

What is Progress?

Progress is checking and controlling where you are compared to the plan. This is done for the Project Plan, Stage Plan and Work Package.

What are Progress Controls?

Progress Controls are used by one layer to monitor the progress of the layer below it. For instance, the Project Board is to monitor the progress of Project Manager or Project Manager to monitor the progress of the Teams that create the products.

The layer above can do the following:

  • Monitor actual progress against plans
  • Review plans with forecast
  • Detect problems and identify risks
  • Initiate corrective action to fix issues
  • Authorize further work to be done. Example: The Project Board can authorize a next stage and a Project Manager can authorize a new Work Package.

What are Exceptions and Tolerances?

An Exception is a situation where it can be forecast that there will be a deviation beyond the agreed tolerance levels.

Tolerances are the deviation above and below a plan’s target. For example, the project should take 6 months, with a tolerance of ±1 month. Tolerance levels could also be set for all six tolerance areas, i.e., Time, Cost, Quality, Scope, Benefits and Risk. These are also known as the project variables.

Question: What do you think would be the result if Tolerance were not used in a project between the Project Board and the Project Manager levels?
Answer: In that case, every small issue that would occur, the Project Manager would escalate to the Project Board and they would end up working on the project 8 hours a day and therefore would be doing a lot of work for the Project Manager.

Remember the Project Board are busy people and we don’t want the project to take up much of their time. Setting tolerances allows the Project Manager to handle smaller issues and only bother the Project Board for bigger issues (more efficient use of time for Project Board)
Tolerance Example: A 6-month project with a tolerance of ±1 months. If the project is forecast to be 1 week late, the Project Manager would deal with this and not escalate it. But if the project is forecast to be two months late, then they would escalate it to the Project Board.

When are the Six Tolerances set?

Let us look at when tolerances can be decided on:

  • Time and Cost Tolerances: These are decided in the Project Plan, Stage Plans and Work Packages
  • Scope Tolerances: Decided in Project Plan, Stage Plan and Work Packages. Note: Scope changes would require change control
  • Risk tolerances will be first defined in the Risk Management Strategy document and the Project Board can change risk tolerance for the Stage Plan. The Project Manager may change risk tolerances for the Work Package
  • Quality Tolerances are defined in the Project Product Descriptions and the Product Descriptions, as Quality is related to the products.
  • Benefits tolerances are defined only in the Business Case and this is kept up to date during the project. The Benefits are also defined in the Business Case

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About the Author Dave Litten

David spent 25 years as a senior project manager for USA multinationals, and has deep experience in project management. He now develops a wide range of project-related downloadable video training products under the Primer and Projex Academy brand names. In addition, David runs project management training seminars across the world, and is a prolific writer on the many topics of project management.

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