Project progression under PRINCE2’s management stages

If you’ve ever tried to help a child with their mathematics homework or undertaken an unfamiliar task, you’ll understand the value of breaking projects down into small pieces. In fact, everywhere you look projects are broken down into smaller, more manageable chunks. That’s how recipes work, how degrees are passed, and how we learn to drive. One step at a time, until successful completion.

PRINCE2 works on this basis to enable successful project management, with each smaller, manageable chunk called a ‘management stage’.

In this article I’ll look at how this works in practice, and what happens as each stage is completed.

Project initiation

While not all projects are the same and don’t conform to a set number of management stages, every project begins with the initiation stage. It is in this stage that the project board details:

  • The business case
  • The project plan
  • Project management strategies

Project management strategies

The project management strategies that are laid out in the initiation stage are the ‘big picture’ strategies, which include:

  • Risk management
  • Quality
  • Change request procedures
  • Communication methods

Subsequent management stages

When the project is planned, it will be spilt into management stages. Each stage is managed and controlled, and separated by control points.

What happens at the end of each stage?

The project board assesses progress at the end of each stage. It reviews how the most recent completed stage performed and decides whether to continue. If it does decide to continue, it may be that the next stage needs to be revised.

The higher the number of stages, the more control the project board will exert on the project. There is a minimum of two stages to any project (initiation plus at least one more) before the project can be closed (by using a closing project).

Advantages of breaking a project into management stages

PRINCE2 allows the benefits of breaking projects into stages to be fully realised:

  • Smaller stages are more easily managed, monitored, and measured against their metrics.
  • The project benefits from a high level, ‘big picture’ strategy and detailed planning of each stage.
  • Continuous learning can be onboarded throughout the project, helping to inform each subsequent stage.
  • The project retains maximum flexibility, with changes of course more easily embedded.

Project Board and Project Manager collaboration

Finally, by working in management stages, PRINCE2 allows the Project Board distinct review periods and the Project Manager the opportunity to create detailed plans for the subsequent stage.

In my next article, I’ll look at how the Project Board manages by exception.

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