PRINCE2 is dead… Long live PRINCE2.

Those of you in the project management world may already know that AXELOS (the joint venture organisation between Capita plc and The Cabinet Office) is introducing a new, updated for the modern age, version of PRINCE2®, the de facto project management certification standard in the UK. The new manual is now available here.

Let me give you a crude, potted history of what AXELOS calls “the world’s most-practised method for project management”: The first PRINCE guidance was published by the UK Government agency CCTA in 1989 and became the UK standard for all government information systems projects, replacing a really old methodology from 1975, PROMPTII. It was reworked and reissued in 1996 as PRINCE2 - The Revenge (not really, that’s an alternative fact). A major revision was done in 2009, and PRINCE2 became known as…PRINCE2. Ok, PRINCE2 2009, if you want to be pedantic.

All images thanks to @graphicchange

All images thanks to @graphicchange

So what about this latest revision? Well, it’s going to be called PRINCE2 2017, to give it its full royal title. Catchy eh? Don’t worry, you can still refer to it as PRINCE2, but in a few years’ time you’ll probably feel the need to clarify whether you mean the 2017 version or the old (current) 2009 version.

As I take on board the subtleties or otherwise of the incoming changes to the qualification (that’s for another blog), I keep coming back to one overriding thought of concern…

It’s not that you can take an intensive course in just a week and sit both your Foundation (multiple choice) and your Practitioner exams in this time, and then add ‘PRINCE2 certified Practitioner’ to your CV/LinkedIn status, without the actual real life practice part. Nope – that’s just one for the ‘buyer beware’ checklist when recruiting. It’s certainly not the intention behind the certification either.

My overriding thought of concern is that PRINCE stands for…

PRojects IN Controlled Environments.

See what they did there? I know, it’s rare for the first two letters of a word and a small word like ‘in’ to become the only reason an acronym works. But it’s not even the acronym taken too far that worries me.

It’s this…

Have you ever really worked in a Controlled Environment?

You might think you do. You might think your organisation is extremely well managed, with mature processes in place. Or you might think because you work in a tightly regulated environment (like my background in banking and financial services), that this is a Controlled Environment.

But you and I both know that it’s not. Because of…people.

On a positive level, we know that because of people, projects get delivered. And it’s true - working with good people is what makes a project manager get up in the morning. But the flipside of that particular coin is that managing people is also the biggest challenge you will face in a project. People are unpredictable and not always rational or logical. Sometimes they can be downright emotional, even though they’re at work! They don’t always do what they say they will do. They sometimes make mistakes. They sometimes don’t admit to those mistakes until it’s too late to fix.

Now of course you should be encouraged to adopt some structured, tailorable methodology like PRINCE2 (other methods are available) to give yourself the best chance of success, regardless of people’s behaviour. But people, not processes, often dictate a project’s success.

Whether it’s a Project Board who strangely know the exact day they want the project delivered by before they really know what’s in the box, or the Sponsor who pays no attention until something goes wrong (then spends energy laying the blame at someone else’s door, natch), or the expert who pops up after you think you did a really robust job on requirements and drops in what turns out to be a showstopper at the end of testing, it’s people who make what perhaps ought to be a Controlled Environment an ultimately not-really-very-controllable environment.

So to reflect this, I humbly offer up some new naming conventions for the revamped project management methodology:

PRIME: Projects in Messy Environments. An honest name. Easy for most people involved in projects to relate to. Slight risk of upsetting a certain online retailer.

PRIDE: Projects in Dysfunctional Environments. I like this one because the acronym is positively disarming, and hides (from your bosses, for example) the grim reality of life in your organisation. We could even develop a secret handshake from this.

PRINGLE: Projects in Gullible Leadership Environments. You know what I mean…just how dark is that amber status? Has that project really become 8 months late in just 2 days? You utter the words, “everything is going really well”, when you know the project team’s behaving like they’re trapped in an elevator with a killer bee. But this name does also have slight branding issues, between the crunchy salty snack and the men’s jumpers.

PRIUS: Projects in Uncontrollable Surroundings. Slight break from naming convention here (and I think Toyota may have bought the website) but this is honest and conveys a suitable lack of hope for the future…all is beyond help.

…and finally, here’s one to reflect the fact that it’s now 2017, everyone:

PRINCESS: Projects in Chaotic Environments of Spiralling Stress. We’ve all been there. (We’re still there now.) There’s a whole heap of change going on and this is just one more project on top of the others. And we suspect things will never be the same again. See how that’s reflected in the name, too? See what I did there?

Go on…give girls a real Princess role to aspire to. 

You think the boys won’t like it? Of course they won’t mind…we’ve just spent 28 years referring to it as male royalty, so let’s swap it out for as many decades…who could object to such equality? We can swap back again in 2045.

(*for further, slightly more serious information on the upcoming PRINCE2 changes, I recommend going directly to the AXELOS site, which also includes a brilliant video on the changes. Great to see them getting visual with communication. And no, I don't get anything for this recommendation.)