7 Principles of Prince 2

7 principles prince 2

Prince2 is made up of 7 Principles, 7 Themes and 7 Processes that can be tailored and applied to different projects and organisations. The first step in understanding Prince 2 is to be able to describe the 7 principles. In this article, I take each of the principles in turn and explain each one. By the end of this post, you should be able to describe each of the 7 principles of Prince 2.

Why You Need 7 Principles

The idea behind 7 principles is Prince is very output focussed in that you do something which creates something. The things that are created are called products. Having products is one of the seven principles of Prince 2. If you do not produce products, then you can not say that your project is Prince 2. One of the products that is created is the business case, and as part of Prince 2 you need to confirm that as the project progresses, the business case remains valid. Another principle is having clearly defined roles and responsibilities. Regardless of whatever project approach is being taken clearly defined roles is common to all approaches and is often seen as the key to successful project delivery.

Prince 2 as an approach breaks the delivery of a project down into stages with another key principle being learning from what has happened at the end of each stage as well as at the start and finish of the project. Both the breaking down into stages and the learning of lessons are principles of Prince 2.

Given the structured approach to running a Prince 2 project having a project frequently stop to gain approval due to resource time or budget overrun would not be helpful in allowing the project to flow. Therefore one of the principles is the management by exception and this essentially means that tolerances are set and if a project exceeds those tolerances then the project is escalated for approval of additional funds or resources.

The final principle is the tailoring of Prince 2 to suit the project environment. Some projects may need more or less of the Prince 2 framework, and it is a fine balance to get this right. The culture of the organisation will heavily impact on the project environment.

I hope this gives you an idea of why the 7 principles are important. Below I break down each principle in turn and explain each one in a bit more detail.

The first step in understanding Prince 2 is to be able to describe the 7 Principles. Click To Tweet

7 Principles of Prince 2

Continued Business Justification

Every project must have a business case that justifies why the project is needed and what benefits it will deliver.
There are 3 things to remember about the business case in Prince 2:

1. The project can not begin without a business case.
2. The business case should be reviewed periodically throughout the project. I do this by evaluating the business case after each completed project stage.
3. If the business case changes the project should be stopped and re-evaluated again to see if should continue.

Learning From Experience

Everyone in the project is responsible for learning from experience. To ensure success learning from experience should happen at 3 key points.

1. When the project starts
2. At the end of every delivery stage
3. When the project closes

The purpose is to learn lessons to improve the chances of the project being successful.

Defined Roles and Responsibilities

There are 3 primary stakeholders on a Prince 2 project:
1. Business
2. User
3. Supplier

Due to projects being temporary and cross-functional having well defined roles and responsibilities are critical to the success of the project. With these roles clearly defined it can be adapted to different size projects and environments by combining and sharing roles.

Manage by Stages

To ensure projects continue to be worth doing the project board approves continuation and the commitment of resources on a stage by stage basis. The three things to remember are:
1. Planning only what is foreseeable and sensible (known as the Planning Horizon)
2. Project is run on a stage by stage basis
3. Decision points between stages for the project board to approve

Manage by Exception

There are 3 levels within a Prince 2 project:
1. Project
2. Stage
3. Work Package

For each level there are different tolerances set that project team members are allowed to work within without asking for approval to continue. For example a work package may be planned to take 4 days to complete and have a 25% tolerance level. That means the work package can take 5 days without anyone on the project needing to get permission to work the extra day.

Focus on Products

Instead of being focused on the activities Prince 2 is focused on the outputs, the products. The three things to remember about products are:

1. Product descriptions are used for each product
2. Each description is agreed and approved
3. The complete set of products form the scope of the project

Tailor to Suit the Project Environment

Prince 2 can be used for any size or nature of a project, however, in order to be successful it must be tailored to each project. This prevents:

1. Disproportionate effort
2. Inappropriate approach
3. Reduced chances of project success

In summary, there are 7 Prince 2 Principles:
1. Continued business justification
2. Learn from experience
3. Defined roles and responsibilities
4. Manage by stages
5. Manage by exception
6. Focus on products
7. Tailor to suit project environment

I hope you can now see why the 7 principles are important and why they are needed to underpin a Prince 2 project. Remember that you can not have any of the principles missing and a project not conforming to all of them is deemed not to be managed using Prince 2. Having gone through this article you should now feel confident being able to describe the 7 Prince 2 Principles. I have also created a guide that you can download along with a slideshow series that you can use to refresh your memory at a later date.

That is all there is to the 7 principles next we will move on to look at the 7 themes of Prince 2.