A Beginner’s Guide On How Not To Do PRINCE2®

Insights | 12 July 2016

Organisations from all over the globe continue to embrace PRINCE2® as their preferred project management methodology. The value of PRINCE2® is in the understanding of the method (gained at foundation level), the application of the method (explored in a ‘safe’ environment at practitioner level) and then the tailoring of PRINCE2® to your organisation and project.

To assist professionals relatively new to PRINCE2®, we suggest taking a step back and considering how not to do PRINCE2®. Or if you prefer, consider the following lessons learned from other project managers in successfully applying PRINCE2® to real-world scenarios.

6 tips on how not to do PRINCE2®

  1. Using all 26 documents (management products). No, you do not need to use every single document in every PRINCE2® project you undertake. Upon first exploring PRINCE2®, the number of potential project management documents (artefacts) may seem daunting, however, resist getting caught in the trap of ‘template-driven’ project management. Ask yourself first, what value is the document adding to the project?
  1. Planning everything in detail at the beginning. Years ago, the idea that you didn’t plan the project in detail from the start was not considered to be best practice. Today, this approach is less confronting with the advent of agile practices and ‘just enough’. Still, some stakeholders may not be used to this approach and are likely to expect the project to be planned in detail from the start. Realistically, it is seldom desirable or even possible to plan for every eventuality. Remember, the act of planning is not a once-off; think ‘big picture’ in the project plan, with the ability to then continuously plan one stage at a time.
  1. The once-off business base. We’re all familiar with the analogy of the business case being used for initial justification of a project, only to then get buried under paperwork once it’s signed off. Remember the importance of continued business justification, hence the importance of continual review of the business case. In all seriousness, if an external or internal event occurs that means the project is no longer desirable, achievable or viable, then why continue? A project is a means to an end – if that end is no longer viable, recognise this as soon as possible and don’t throw more good money after bad.
  1. Using tolerance for change requests. I like to think about the tolerances in PRINCE2® as empowering someone with authority to get on with their work within agreed scope before having to escalate to the next level. Instead of having to pose the request of ‘can I have more’, tolerances allow for a clear measure of discretion if things do not go 100% to plan. Tolerance in PRINCE2® is not, however, a licence to change agreed products (deliverables).  A request for change, as opposed to tolerance, is where there is a change to an agreed baseline; something extra, less, or different is required than what was originally agreed to.
  1. Forgetting to brief the executive/board level on PRINCE2®. In PRINCE2®, the project board is meant to be accountable to oversee and help drive influence and buy-in for the greater success of the project. Time and time again, the importance of effective senior management in projects has proven to be a key success factor. To be effective, senior management need to provide appropriate leadership and direction, cognisant of how projects run in a PRINCE2® environment. PRINCE2® is not about micro-management; instead senior management need an appreciation of ‘management by exception’, enabling delegation of project work to the project manager and team. Consider running a briefing session for the project board, enabling them to understand roles and how everyone on the project can efficiently, consistently, and successfully work together.
  1. PRINCE2® in name only. As scary as this sounds, this does happen. Basically, because a project manager has had PRINCE2® training, this often equates to them having to simply make PRINCE2® ‘happen’ in their organisation.  PRINCE2® must be tailored to a business environment, including any corporate policies and standards. Ask yourself, does your organisation currently have risk management policies and procedures? And how will these be applied in PRINCE2® projects?

Click here for more information on our PRINCE2® courses

“The danger of not tailoring PRINCE2® is that it can lead to ‘robotic’ project management if every process activity is followed and every management product is produced without question.”


PRINCE2®® is a registered trade mark of AXELOS Limited, used under permission of AXELOS Limited. All rights reserved.

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