Book review: Directing Successful Projects with PRINCE2

At this moment I am facilitating Project board awareness workshops for senior managers from different business units in Central and Eastern Europe.
The theory in these workshops is based on Michiel van der Molen’s book ‘PRINCE2 for the Project Executive’.
During these project board awareness workshops we discuss governance principles of PRINCE2. Based on the 2009 version we now must say the PRINCE2 principles. Explaining the theory of these principles is not enough. What are the current governance issues? How will those principles help us? The discussion of the current set up of project boards and compares those project board compositions with the theory regarding the roles and responsibilities of the executive, the senior user and the senior supplier will give a lot of clearness. And as a result project board compositions will change.

615954Now, with the new PRINCE2 2009 version, there is a new book Directing Successful Projects with PRINCE2. As stated in the introduction, a manual designed;
–    For managers taking on senior project roles
–    As a reference guide for managers who wish to check the detailed guidance on specific topics
–    As a source of information on PRINCE2 for senior managers considering adopting the method.

What does this mean? Can I skip my project board awareness workshops and buy an distribute copies of this book to senior managers?

The book itself starts with an overview of PRINCE2 and the project board duties and behaviours. Next it describes standard intervention moments and corresponding actions during the project. It follows the sequence starting up a project, authorize initiation, authorize the project, authorize a stage or exception plan, gives ad hoc direction, authorize project closure and reviewing benefits.
Especially the project board duties and behaviours and the set up of the project board are very useful. It gives for each role a nice overview of all responsibilities. For all steps it clearly described what the focus must be from every role within the project board. I missed some more detailed guidance regarding the size of the project board. Now it’s very briefly discussed within the seventh PRINCE2 principle ‘Tailoring’ but this is an issue where lots of organizations are struggling with. The appendix contains product description outlines of the baseline management products and most of the report management products. This is a subset of all baseline, record and report management products as described in the ‘Managing Successful Projects with PRINCE2’ guide.
Does this mean that the manual can replace the workshops? I don’t think so. I think that having discussions with senior management about existing PRINCE2 principles issues like the current set up of project boards is much more valuable than only read this book. For me it’s even the question if senior management will read this 160+ page book. Is this really a book designed for senior managers or must we say that the content is very important for managers taking on senior project roles but they will not find time for reading. It’s complex material with lots of lists, actions to perform etcetera. Maybe this was also the reason why corresponding parts from chapter 13: ‘Directing a Project’ from the ‘Managing Successful Projects with PRINCE2’ guide, are not reflected here. Take e.g. the overview of directing a project (fig 13.1) or the responsibility matrices with the producer, reviewer and approver of the management products. I would say that the manual is especially designed for those people in an organisation who are responsible for the implementation of PRINCE2 throughout the whole organisation. Thus training/coaching of project managers as well as senior managers who will have senior project roles like executive, senior user or senior supplier. And for this purpose I will definitely recommend this manual.

In a next article I will discuss the PRINCE2 management documents and I will make a comparison between the 2005 and 2009 documents.

4 responses to “Book review: Directing Successful Projects with PRINCE2

  1. Hi Henny

    A great article and some very important points. The ‘Directing Successful Projects with PRINCE’ provides core guidance for Project Board members and other senior managers using PRINCE2. It is not meant to be a “tutorial in a book” and accordingly is likely to require some complementary learning in one form or another. Reading the book alone will not make someone a great Project Board member – the same way that reading a book on leadership will not make someone a great leader!

    The feedback from the pilots of the PRINCE2 2009 update was that the directing guide was used by the PMOs and some PMs to coach Project Board members. They found it an excellent guide for this purpose. The Home Office (a central government department in the UK) are considering including it as part of their Project and Programme Sponsor (PPS) qualification. Again recognising that complementary learning is required in addition to reading it.

    I commend your approach of coaching project boards in the fulfilment of their role. It is an approach I actively encourage as much as I can. Learning by doing (or kinaesthetic learning) is possibly the most effective form of learning – and this is true for all skills at all levels of expertise!

    Thanks too for recommending the book.

    Kind regards
    Andy Murray
    PRINCE2 2009 Lead Author

  2. Pingback: Book review: Being the project sponsor. A practical guide for executives « Henny Portman's Blog

  3. Hey, I think your site might be having browser compatibility issues.
    When I look att your blog site in Firefox, it looks fine but when opening in Internet Explorer,
    it has some overlapping. I just wanted to give you a quick heads up!
    Other then that, very good blog!

  4. Pingback: Review: The Effective Project board. Keeping projects and programmes on target | Henny Portman's Blog

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