A dangerous trend in PRINCE2® v7
PeopleCert, the new owner of PRINCE2, released its new version (version 7) to trainers a little over a month ago, and it's been available to the public just recently.
I spent a couple of days reading it immediately after receiving the file, and since then, I've been thinking about it and wondering about its future. I'm going to tell you why.
I'm not going to explain and criticize all the changes in this new version, as I'm sure many would do very soon; e.g., the "people" and "sustainability" elements are clearly misplaced; the first one should have been in the existing themes rather than in parallel to them and the latter a requirement category or a principle rather than a performance target parallel to time, cost, scope, etc.
I'm mainly concerned with a more fundamental trend: The methodological aspects of PRINCE2 are reduced and replaced with general guidance, i.e., isolated pieces of advice for the topics they've considered important.
Moving away from _____
As a methodology, everything in PRINCE2 was functionally connected to everything else. For example, when it was talking about setting tolerances, it was not an isolated concept, but it was the realization of one of the principles and contributed to how different concepts such as justification and quality were continuously checked, formed the way progress was measured and deviations were recovered from, and you could see its footprint in many process activities and documents. In other words, PRINCE2 couldn't work without it. Most concepts in PRINCE2 were like this.
In the new version, however, we're bombarded with isolated mentions of random ideas, techniques, models, etc. Nearly none of them has any role in the methodology at all, and you can remove them without causing any problems.
Most of the current structured project management systems are guides rather than methodologies. We need to have more methodologies rather than guides. Yet, they are turning a great methodology into a guide.
The new content doesn't match the true nature of PRINCE2 and is a distraction for its primary purpose, and therefore harmful. If this trend continues in future updates, after a couple of updates, PRINCE2 won't be a methodology at all.
On the other hand, PRINCE2 was never the simplest method in the world, but for good reason. Now, it's become even more complicated, and this time, without a good reason. It feels like the changes in the new version were all about providing content for its exams rather than helping practitioners run their projects more efficiently.
It's easier to criticize than to provide solutions, and since I love PRINCE2, I'm going to share what I think should be done:
- It's best to change the status of the current document to draft and open it to public review. Then, comments can be collected, and the document can be adjusted in at least two rounds.
- I think many of the changes were driven by business‑oriented/marketing people rather than subject matter experts, and that influence should be minimized, and the experts in the team should be allowed to work freely. The team may need to be adjusted as well.
- All the non-methodological elements should be removed, and the manual should be turned into a [relatively] simple, functional core. The trimmed content can be collected and expanded in a separate publication.
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