The Seven PRINCE2 Principles

These PRINCE2 principles are based on years of experience and lessons learned from both successful projects as well as failed projects. To conform to PRINCE2, your project MUST adhere to these principles.

The SEVEN Principles are:

  • Continued business justification
  • Learn from experience
  • Defined roles and responsibilities
  • Manage by stages
  • Manage by exception
  • Focus on products
  • Tailor to suit the project environment

Continued business justification

The justification is documented in the Business Case, and this is used to drive all decision-making processes to ensure that the project remains aligned to the business objectives, and that the benefits and Business Case is viable, desirable, and achievable.

The Business Case must be viable to start the project, and remain viable throughout. If the Business Case ceases to be viable, the project should be changed or stopped.

Learn from experience

Everyone involved in the project should proactively seek out lessons rather than waiting for someone else to provide them. The lessons are captured in the Lessons Log when starting the project to see if any could be applied.

Lessons should be included in reports and reviews including End Stage Assessments, the aim being to seek opportunities to implement improvements.

When the project closes, the Lessons Report should pass on lessons identified for the use of future projects.

Defined roles and responsibilities

All projects need resources with the right level of knowledge, skills, experience, and authority. These must be assigned required roles within the project. The Project Management Team structure must have these roles and responsibilities agreed plus a means for effective communication between them.

A project must have primary stakeholders, and all three stakeholder interests must be represented on the project:

Business sponsors – ensuring that the project provides value for money
Users – those who will use the project’s products
Suppliers – they provide the project resources including the specialist team who create the products

Manage by stages

manage by stages

A PRINCE2 project divides the project into a number of management stages – the minimum being two, the initiation stage and one delivery stage.

These stages are partitions of the project with a control/decision point at the end of each – the Project Board need to approve the next stage plan before work commences.

Shorter stages give more control, and longer stages place fewer burdens on senior management.

There is no point attempting to plan beyond the horizon, as planning effort will be wasted.

PRINCE2 achieves this by having a high-level Project Plan, and detailed Stage Plans that are created for the next stage near the end of each current stage.

The project is released to the Project Manager one stage at a time.

Focus on products

Without a product focus projects can be subjected to “scope creep”. PRINCE2 uses Product Descriptions which are created during planning. These include the quality criteria that each product must meet.

Once the products of a plan have been defined, then the activities and resources can be planned in order to create the products.

Manage by exception

Management by exception enables efficient use of senior management time by reducing their time and effort burden – while still having control by ensuring that appropriate decisions are made at the right level within the organization.

It does this by defining distinct responsibilities at different levels for directing, managing and delivering the project with accountability at each level. The situation is escalated to the next management level (up) if the tolerances are forecast to be exceeded.

These levels of authority from one management level to the next is achieved by setting appropriate tolerances (a plus/minus allowable deviation from plan).

The tolerances can be set against the six objectives and constraints for each plan. They are Time, Cost, Quality, Scope, Risk, and Benefit.

Tailor to suit the project environment

PRINCE2 is a universal project management method that can be applied to any project in any industry, organization and culture because the method is designed to be tailored.

Tailoring ensures the PRINCE2 method relates to the project environment, that the project controls are adjusted to suit the project’s scale, complexity, importance, capability and risk

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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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