Category Archives: Project Management

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.

Project reviews, assurance and governance

If you become responsible for assurance of projects and programmes, Graham Oakes’ book is the perfect starting point.51zn7yGXnrL._SL500_SS225_
This book will help you to learn from your own mistakes and understand what is really going on in your projects. The core of this book is built around a number of models for review processes and governance. These models have been derived from practice and between the different chapters you will find case studies and examples. You will find four parts:

  • Part I, the introduction explaining project success and project failure and the need for project reviews and assurance to help to understand what’s really going on in the projects. This part also looks at the different types of reviews.
  • Part II looks at the Project review process itself. Effective project reviews needs more structure than a simple meeting or checklist. To add most value, reviewers need to be able to do four things: Agree terms of reference with the review’s sponsor, where to look for information, identify what standards and ‘good practices’ they will review against and last they need a clear understanding of what activities they will undertake. These four things are visualized in a systems model for a review. Several chapters will help you to understand and use this review model. The review parameters are explained, organizational learning, the importance of evidence and logistics matter are described. This part was completed with a table with signs of project stress and an extensive review checklist.
  • Part III looks at the challenge to performing effective reviews: getting people to act on their findings. It sets out a simple model for mapping spheres of influence. This so-called ‘governance matrix’ will help you to think about who is accountable for which decisions, and hence what sort of information you need to give them. This three level model: Steer, Manage and Execute perfectly fits with the three levels of Prince2 version 2009. In the Prince2 process model we now also see the levels Directing, Managing and Delivering. Next topic is the importance to frame effective findings and recommendations. Make sure you separate facts, interpretation and recommendations. The last chapter discussed the gaps and overlaps in governance. It looks at the way in which Prince2 looks at assurance (responsibility of the Project board) and what role your PMO can play. Assurance and the PMO must complement each other.
  • Part IV looks at some of the factors that need to be considered when setting up a project review or assurance function within an organization, both from an organizational perspective as from the individual reviewer or review team perspective. A business case for reviews, the establishment of a review process and options for funding a review or assurance programme are explained.

Prince2 Process ModelGovernance matrix

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For me this is a very helpful book, especially the systems model, the ‘governance matrix’, the extensive review matrix and how to perform effective reviews. This book will be placed on one of my bookshelves where I know how to find it when I am performing reviews.

Prince2 in Practice

oms_prince2_inpractice-lrI am happy to announce that my Dutch book De praktische Prince2 is translated into English and published by Van Haren Publishing.

– This book is meant for everyone who has anything to do with project management. It is intended for:
· the line manager who wants to bring about change and base a temporary organization on it;
· the head of the Project Management Office who is looking for handles to create professional tools and templates;
· the project manager who has adopted the PRINCE2® theory and now wants to apply this theory in practice.
– But the book is also meant for experienced project managers who wish to improve their relationship with their executive, and project managers who want to manage instead of getting bogged down in the filling in of endless documents and templates. This book is to be used particularly as a reference book.
– Based on PRINCE2 Edition 2009.

There are many publications on PRINCE2. Most of these publications describe the theory of PRINCE2. This book however deals with a practical approach for formal reports: how can be achieved that PRINCE2 works better in practice? The existing PRINCE2 report templates cannot be used easily.

Of course the process approach in PRINCE2 remains viable, but in this book the PRINCE2 documents are the key. The reader gets a practical help for implementing PRINCE2. This helps project managers and project executives to manage and control in an efficient manner.

You can find an example of the templates in the Box folder ‘Prince2 in practice’. Be aware that these templates must be adjusted to the needs of your own organization. I also take the freedom to adjust the templates if I see opportunities to improve. Based on a presentation of the author Michiel van der molen of the book PRINCE2 in de praktijk, 7 valkuilen en 100 tips I changed e.g. the Quality plan building block to include a product-reviewer matrix. It now shows who approves on behave of the senior User or senior Supplier the products.