PRINCE2 is a recognised best practice methodology for delivering projects successfully. At first glance when you have had a chance to dig into the PRINCE2 manual, it might seem as if you are going to be stuck with a heavy-handed approach to managing projects. In fact, the very opposite is true.

PRINCE2 provides a light touch for projects that require it. The key is to tailor your approach for each project. In reality PRINCE2 provides for just two types of control. These are:

  1. Event driven controls – predicated on something occurring such as an end of project report
  2. Time driven controls – based on pre-agreed times within the plan such as reporting every Monday at 4pm
How to Control Your Project using PRINCE2

The controls structure very much follows the principle of Manage by Exception which is at the heart of the methodology. Managing by exception means that the project manager does not need to report every little issue to the project board (directors or steering committee) but has delegated authority to deal with them and only needs to report on serious issues.

Also, PRINCE2 dictates that in fact the project manager does not need to meet the project board regularly but should send the reports via email and should only meet the project board in an exception situation.

Of course, the project manager can seek advice from the project board as necessary. One of the designated activities of the project board within a PRINCE2 project is to ‘give adhoc direction’ to the project manager.

So when PRINCE2 is fully understood, it becomes clear that it is a very lightweight touch when applied properly.

Also feeding into the Manage by Exception principle is the PRINCE2 project team structure. PRINCE2 identifies three levels of management with the project. Typically: directing – managing – delivery

Let us consider a simple example.

We are involved in a small project to upgrade some business processes within a department. The schedule is two months long and is dived into two stages and the team have thrashed out the plan. Let us assume the project has little complexity but the project sponsor likes to have regular updates, however the project is not of high importance. What might our controls look like?

  1. Time driven controls
  • Project Manager to Project Sponsor = once a week timed on Friday at 4pm
  • Team to Project Manager = once a week timed on Thursday at 9am
  1. Event driven controls
  • An end stage report at the end of month one from the project manager to project sponsor
  • An end project report on completion
  • Issue reports between the team, project manager and project sponsor as required
  • An exception report from the project manager to the project sponsor as required

With PRINCE2 it is important that you tailor your project methodology to suit your situation. Tailoring largely impacts your project controls. If you don’t tailor your project, it may lead to overkill governance or too little project control.

Controls are central to project management. There is little point in producing an elaborate plan if you are not going to use it as the basis for controlling the project. PRINCE2 has robust guidance for tailoring your controls in all chapters and has a dedicated chapter with tips and examples on how to tailor for any type of or any size project, giving the project manager the best guidance for controlling their projects.