Chris Croft's Personal Blog

July 15, 2011

PRINCE2 – is it any good?

Filed under: Project Management — chriscroft @ 12:59 pm

I get asked this so often that I’ve decided to put a reference page on my blog, and here it is.
also, I get misquoted (and even got fired from one of my favourite customers for allegedly slagging Prince off – oh yes, the Prince mafia can be powerful – so here is, officially and undisputably, my views on the subject:

Is PRINCE2 any good?

– as a qualification to have on my CV?
– to actually use on our projects at work?

As a qualification

Five to ten years ago Prince2 was absolutely the thing. Now the verdict is mixed – some people love it, some people loathe it. So if you put it on your CV there is a risk, though I would say it’s probably still more positive than negative, but the scales are slowly tipping all the time, and people are starting to think that if they recruit a Prince person they will be bringing bureaucracy into their organisation, particularly if it’s a small private company. Larger companies and public sector organisations still tend to me pro Prince.

The difficulty is that Prince is still the only well known project management qualification, so although it’s generally felt to be too bureaucratic it’s better than nothing. Certainly it shows that you know a bit about project management – though really it’s only proof that you’ve been on the course and learned the terminology in order to pass the test at the end, you don’t have to actually run a project in order to get your Prince accreditation.

There ARE other qualifications, such as the Chartered Management Institute’s ‘Certificate in Management’ which can be based on project management modules, and which has a proper QCA level assigned to it (it’s level 5) unlike Prince. Also, maybe the best of all, there’s the APM (Association of Project Managers) who run an excellent course.

A final thought – Prince courses are pretty expensive, and many people reckon they are pretty boring – lots of forms and terminology to learn. These should only be small considerations, but don’t say I didn’t tell you!

To actually use?

PRINCE2 is brilliant for some things and hopeless for others, so it depends on what you want. It’s great for giving a high level control of all projects, since it’s philosophy is based on gateways which projects have to pass through. Projects cannot be started without fitting the overall goals of the organisation, and without a proper plan, for example. Of course, this means that if you are a project manager, just trying to do your project, then you might find that Prince feels like a burden, an obstruction – and it will be if you’re not doing your project properly! And maybe some paperwork is the price we have to pay to keep all projects under control.

Amount of paperwork: Prince can be very burdensome if you do everything by the book. Many people are using cut down versions, which can work well but need a bit of thinking through, and to some extent the whole integrity of Prince is compromised if you don’t do it all. But versions where you do less paperwork if your project is smaller can work well.

However, if you are expecting a Prince course to tell you HOW to do your project you will be disappointed. Prince has an official list of exclusions which include estimating, planning, monitoring quality and cost, and all people aspects. So Prince’s attitude is that of course you have to submit a plan with Gantt charts and critical paths etc, and you can’t progress to the next gateway if you don’t (I completely agree with this!) but it’ s up to you how you do these, you can learn them somewhere else, but this level of detail is below Prince.

I find this disappointing – they could so easily have done the whole thing properly rather than leaving this huge gap at the operational level. There are Prince courses where there isn’t a single Gantt chart in the whole 5 days, and I’ve had people on my two day project management course who have told me that there was absolutely no overlap between my course and the Prince course – they didn’t cover a single thing about project planning and management on the Prince course!

So if you are going to learn about project management you can do Prince but you MUST ALSO do a course in how to plan and run a project – provided by me or many other trainers!

Evidence of Prince’s complexity: just type in ‘Prince2’ to google images and have a look. You’ll find some amazing things like this:

Also check out the government’s official prince page:
(including the famously controversial don’t-turn-it-on-its–side logo!) … faces.html

I’m going to have a lie down now.


July 8, 2011

The forgetting curve

Filed under: Managing People, Selling and Influencing — chriscroft @ 1:37 pm

There’s a thing called the Ebbinghaus forgetting curve which says that
within an hour you’ve forgotten half of what you’ve been told,
within a day two thirds has gone,
and within a month 80% has gone and there’s only 20% left.


The ramifications for presentations are therefore:

1 – Decide on one clear message and hammer away at that. If they just remember one thing, what do you want it to be? Design your whole talk around that message.

2 – If you can have a refresher straight afterwards and then again a week later then the retention is much better, and with two or three refreshers it nearly all goes into the long term memory. These could be done by talk part 2, a follow-up email, or in the case of training, by the line manager getting involved and having a meeting with the person straight away to ask “What did you learn? What will you do differently?” and then a few weeks later “How have you been getting on with you list of planned changes?” Line managers are really important in getting training to work and to be good value for money!

You can see here that even just three refreshers bring the long term retention up from 20% to 80% – a huge improvement!

3 – taking notes is a way of immediately doubling the number of times your brain sees the message, and then if you go through the notes afterwards and condense them, that’s your first refresher

4 – Another way to get a repeat in a fun way is to get whoever has been on a course to tell their colleagues all about it. And of course this means that the others get a (sort of) course for free; and the person on the course has to pay extra attention because they know that later they will have to regurgitate it.

The above apply to people giving talks or training sessions, people who are paying for training sessions / sending their people on training sessions or to talks, and to those who attend talks and training and want to gain as much from it.

Finally, if you’re delivering a talk and you want it to be remembered, there’s the excellent old chestnut which says that activities are much better than just being talked at – “If I am told it I forget, if I see it I remember, if I do it I understand”…

Onwards and upwards


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