The 7 Principles of PRINCE2®


In our previous blog article, we introduced you to the 7 themes of the PRINCE2® methodology – the key elements that need to be monitored and controlled during the whole development of the project. In this article, we are going to tell you more about the 7 principles of the method, namely: Business Case, Learn from Experience, Roles and Responsibilities, Management by Stages, Management by Exception, Focus on Products, and Tailor to Suit the Environment.

Business Case

We already mentioned this element in our previous article since it is an essential one for PRINCE2®. As we noted last time, a PRINCE2® project is considered successful only if it is achievable, desirable, and beneficial for the organization. The business case contains expected benefits and the reasons for the project’s existence. It is documented in a way that allows the quantitative measurement of the variables throughout the whole project development. Since these variables can change under the influence of different internal (mostly connected to the processes within the organization) and external factors (mainly changes in the market environment), the project must justify its existence by falling within the organization’s limits of tolerance – specific framework, in which the forecasted results match the expected benefits. If the project falls outside the limits of tolerance, it no longer aligns with the requirements of the organization and therefore, needs to be either modified or terminated.

This principle’s main role is to assure that the project is still valuable for the company in every phase of its development.

Learn from Experience

As we mentioned in our previous article, learning from previous mistakes and weaknesses is crucial for the project’s team. These mistakes are recorded in the team’s reports. It is the team leader’s responsibility to look for and identify such “lessons”, to document them, and to deliver them in the so called Lessons Report to the Project Board stakeholders. They have the responsibility of spreading the information to the other involved sides.

Defined Roles and Responsibilities

In order for the project to be executed in the most efficient and effective way possible, the roles and responsibilities of every team member need to be clearly defined and distributed. Every member needs to be aware of what his or her input is, as well as which processes are the others responsible for. The PRINCE2® methodology generally defines and aims to fulfill the interests of three major stakeholder groups: users, business representatives, and providers. The right distribution of the roles helps the team respond and address each of these groups’ requirements. Naturally, this requires a hierarchical structure, at least to some extent. The general structure of the team usually looks like this: Project Board, which we mentioned earlier, Project Manager, and Team Manager. This kind of organization makes the work of the whole team easier, improves the decision-making process, and proves that the project is led by three well-defined levels of management.

Management by Stages

This principle of PRINCE2® is about monitoring, controlling and, if necessary, making changes in the project during its development. According to PRINCE2®, each project needs to go through a minimum of two phases – initiation, which contains the planning of the project, the expenses and the time required for its execution, and at least one more, which controls the project’s execution. The project can be started only if it has gone through the first phase. To facilitate its tracking, the project is divided into small, easily attainable and measurable parts. Every PRINCE2® project has three levels of planning: Project Plan, Stage Plan, and Team Plan, where each level is connected to the relevant level of expertise.

Management by Exception

The project needs to have defined limits that guarantee that the project aligns well with the requirements of each of the stakeholders. In addition to the limits of the company, the stakeholders define their own limits of tolerance in the six major variables: time, expenses, quality, scale, benefits, and risk, where each of the variables’ indicators are being monitored throughout the whole process. These limits also help with the time management and with keeping the deadlines. Moreover, the project needs to be able to respond to unexpected external and internal changes in the environment. Because of this, the limits can be moved in certain situations. However, they need to be first discussed and approved by the Project Board. The Board intervenes only in extreme cases. In all other cases, the process is automatic and the minor changes are approved on a lower level, which saves time and makes the process easier.

Focus on Products

When the final products are delivered, they show the benefits of the project; therefore, it is crucial that these benefits are planned and executed effectively. The expectations of the stakeholders need to be addressed in accordance with the business justification, so all sides involved need to agree and understand the essence of the project’s product.

While some project management methodologies focus on the activities’ planning, in PRINCE2® the planning starts with identifying the products. Planning with focus on the product is one of the major elements of the PRINCE2® project management approach. It helps the project team to minimize the risk of the project going out of the boundaries, as well as to mitigate the negative effects from possible communication problems between the users.

Tailored to Suit the Business Environment  

This principle highlights one of the main advantages of the PRINCE2® methodology – its ability to adapt to the specific needs of the project. Each project differs in terms of culture, geographical location, difficulty level, and scope. PRINCE2® flexibility to the project environment allows the team to take into account all the needs of the project and the business. In adapting the PRINCE2® methodology, it is crucial to omit or ignore some parts of the project. Even in small projects, the risks, the quality, and the management approach need to be assessed. If the method changes significantly, it can become a ‘PINO’ project (‘PRINCE2® In Name Only’ project).

If you want to know more about the specifics of PRINCE2® in details and to learn how to apply the method in practice, ITCE offers PRINCE2® preparation and certificate courses. – Prince2 Foundation and Practitioner Training.


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

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