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Positioning PRINCE2® in an Unforgiving Business World

By Dayo Sowunmi, Managing Director, The Anode Group Pty Ltd

The objective of this paper is to provide the project management practitioner with some practical advice on ways to gain business approval of PRINCE2®. This paper focuses on practical methods to ‘sell’ PRINCE2® to senior management, particularly in an environment where a number of past projects have failed or were closed prematurely.

When a project fails, how do you separate the methodology from its implementation? Quite often the project management methodology is blamed for the failed project, making it more difficult to recommend the methodology for future projects. This reaction is similar to throwing out the proverbial baby with the bath water.

There is a real challenge in trying to re-introduce a project management methodology after it has been applied on a failed project. The business world is often quick to condemn and slow to forget.

Why Projects Fail
In reality project failure (or premature closure) is quite often the result of a number of factors:

  • Changes in a business’s strategic direction
  • Lack of senior management support and commitment
  • Lack of commitment from project team members
  • Poor selection of project team and board members
  • Unrealistic delivery timeframes and expectations
  • Lack of project management experience

So how does a project management practitioner go about positioning PRINCE2® in an unforgiving business world?

Positioning PRINCE2®
One of my colleagues convinced their senior managers to attend the PRINCE2® Foundation course. This was very enlightening for the senior managers, and also gave them a chance to network and hear about success stories from participants and the course facilitator. The senior managers were more receptive to adopting PRINCE2® after attending the course. I believe that the multiple-choice style examination, in contrast to the written Practitioner exam, also played a part in convincing the senior managers to attend the Foundation course.

In my experience the project start-up process is arguably the most critical factor that determines whether a project will fail or succeed. Nothing much can be achieved without a valid Business Case and the attendant executive commitment. Applying key performance indicators that are SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-based) will facilitate successful project execution and realisation of business benefits.

The PRINCE2® impact analysis method, together with other methods such as SWOT and PESTLE, also come in handy when discussing internal and external factors that impact an organisation. SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, and PESTLE for political, economical, sociological, technological, legal and environmental.

Exposing executives and senior management to catchy acronyms works well and resonates with them. Executives and senior management are thus able to communicate in ‘project-speak’, giving them the view that they have expertise in the area, in addition to their usual field of expertise.

Another approach to get executives and senior management on side is to build a case for applying a standard project management methodology across the organisation. The project management practitioner conducts research into the organisation’s use of standards in areas like risk, quality, business processes, etc.

The intention of this research is to determine the organisation’s propensity to adopt standard methodologies. If the outcome of the research efforts is favourable, the project management practitioner is then able to promote the case for adopting a standard methodology like PRINCE2®.

One other approach is to adopt the good old ‘change management’ techniques, where nominated senior managers act as advocates, change champions/agents within the organisation to ‘sell’ PRINCE2®.

Making the Business Understand
Risk is a familiar concept in the business world. Business owners are regularly finding ways to minimise, avoid or transfer risk in their daily activities. Therefore, risk management resonates well with the business community. PRINCE2® goes a long way in addressing risk in project management. By emphasising PRINCE2®’s management of risk, the project management practitioner will reinforce the advantages of adopting the methodology.

Further, by practising PRINCE2®’s management by exception the project management practitioner is telling the executives that they realise their time is important and will only be required if things deviate from the Project Plan. Executives like to know that other people are aware that their time is precious.

PRINCE2®’s control mechanisms facilitate communication between the project management practitioner and executives. Communication Plans serve as a good tool to manage business involvement, commitment and input. Use of a Communication Plan clearly demonstrates that some thought has been put into the project execution regime, together with providing avenues for communicating project status to the executives.

Reprinted from the from pm4success.com web site.

For more information on this topic, as well as how Corporate Education Group can help optimize your organization’s performance, contact us or call 1.800.288.7246 (US only) or +1.978.649.8200.