PRINCE2 and the requirement for an individual approach

In this last article discussing the seven principles of PRINCE2, I’ll be looking at how the project method can be tailored (or customised) to the individual project. While PRINCE2 provides an accepted structure for project management, not all projects are the same. Tailoring of PRINCE2 allows the project to be planned, controlled, and delivered according to the context and environment of the project at hand. I’ll also explain what can be tailored and the approach to tailoring when employing PRINCE2 methodologies.

Why tailoring is essential within PRINCE2

By now you’ll be aware that PRINCE2 as a method for project management links principles, techniques and themes. In other words, PRINCE2 is not a series of stand-alone elements. Its success depends on maintaining the relationship between each element.

It’s a little like a car engine: the driver controls the accelerator, which determines how much fuel flows to the engine, where a spark is ignited to turn the fuel into energy, and that energy drives the shaft that determines how fast the wheels rotate. Each element is separate, but all are linked; while they could function on their own, without the other elements there would be no forward motion.

Tailoring, therefore, is not about leaving parts of the method out, but rather customising and adapting certain elements to the project environment. In short, tailoring allows the project manager to create the best and most productive solution while maintaining the standards, efficiency, and effectiveness that PRINCE2 engenders.

What PRINCE2 tailoring does and doesn’t do

Tailoring does not remove any of the seven principles of PRINCE2 – each must be present for the project to be considered a PRINCE2 project. However, all other elements of a project can be tailored:

·         Themes

Usually, project factors and environmental considerations are factored into strategies, management, and control of the project. However, you will need to adapt to integrate relevant corporate policies, processes and standards, as well as organisational biases.

·         Risk management and language

For example, you may need to adapt strategies with regard to:

  • Quality management (monitoring, measurement, review and reporting)
  • Communication management (language used, and methods of communication)


·         Management products

Within PRINCE2, there are management products provided to assist in administering, controlling, and delivering the project outcomes. These may need to be adapted so that it is clear what the function of the management product is to everyone involved in the project.

A company may have its own templates, or adapt PRINCE2 products for specific use.

·         Roles and responsibilities

In future articles, I’ll be examining PRINCE2 roles and responsibilities in more depth. However, at this point it’s enough to understand that both organisational structure and individual roles within the project are likely to need adaptation from the standard descriptions provided by PRINCE2.

·         Processes

There will be an inherent need to tailor processes for the individual project with regard to the environment, goals, roles, customer, and users. For example, a project brief might be supplied with the business case.

Approach to tailoring

Whatever the size of a project, you cannot use PRINCE2 in a ‘pick-and-mix’ fashion. Doing so will inevitably lead to project mismanagement and ultimate failure. If you’ve ever watched ‘The Apprentice’ you’ll have seen this in action − project managers invariably fail to follow a project management process, and results suffer.

The objective of tailoring must be to maintain control of the project while enabling greater efficiency and effectiveness. Adaptation of PRINCE2 elements requires the project manager to think about the project, the organisation, stakeholders, and project environment. The idea is to balance control and administration.

When considering the need for and scope of tailoring, ask questions such as:

  • How can the themes be customised?
  • What language is needed for effective communication?
  • What roles need to be adapted to meet organisational, operational, and project requirements?

In this series of articles, I’ve examined the seven principles of PRINCE2. In my next article, you’ll begin to learn about the seven roles in PRINCE2 (and the responsibilities that go with those roles). While you’re waiting, take a little time to review what has been covered so far:

The 7 Principles of PRINCE2

PRINCE2 – Who is responsible for what project function

Project progression under PRINCE2’s management stages

Managing by exception the PRINCE2 way

PRINCE2 and the focus on quality

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