The 7 Themes of PRINCE2

If you want to manage a PRINCE2 project successfully you must follow the 7 Principles of PRINCE2, follow the 7 Themes of PRINCE2 and use the 7 Processes of PRINCE2. In today’s post, we are looking at the 7 Themes of PRINCE2.

The themes of PRINCE2 describe the qualities that make up project management that you must address to have a successful project. All the themes can be tailored to suit the project (as we saw in the 7 themes of PRINCE2).

The 7 Themes of PRINCE2 are as follows:

  1. Business Case – Why?
  2. Organisation – Who?
  3. Quality – What?
  4. Plans – How? How much? When?
  5. Risk – What if?
  6. Change – What is the impact?
  7. Progress – Where are we now? Where are we going? Should we carry on?

1. Business Case

All projects start with an idea.

The idea should provide something useful to the business. The Business Case is a document that says what makes this project useful.

Wondering why you are doing this project? Check the Business Case.

Need to know if changing the direction of the project will still be useful? Check the Business Case.

Need to know what the end product should look like? Check the Business Case.

2. Organisation

All projects involve people.

Some people will benefit from the project. Some people will manage the project. Some people will create the products of the project.

The Organisation theme tells you all about all the people, who is doing what and who is getting what.

3. Quality

For Projects to have been worth it, they need to be high-quality.

The project manager (PM) must agree with the people benefiting from this project (the stakeholders) and the people making the products, how good the product will be. Then the PM makes sure that level of goodness is what the stakeholders get.

If the stakeholders need a lower cost, then the PM will have to get them to agree to lower quality and vice versa.

4. Plans

For a project to succeed, you must know how to do it and when to do it.

Plans go hand in hand with quality. Once you know what to make, you need to know how to do it well.

The plans are the matched to each person at each stage of the project. Everyone should know what to do and when to do it, regardless of their status.

The PM will also refer to the plans when they communicate updates on the project to the stakeholders. Things going according to plan, is good. Not going to plan and we have a problem.

5. Risk

Projects go wrong. But, you can make it less wrong.

Operations have likely been perfected over a long time of figuring out what works and what doesn’t.

A project is generally new. New is uncertain. Uncertainty leads to things going wrong. Some of these things can be predicted and maybe even prevented.

Managing risk is vital.

6. Change

Projects aren’t set in stone.

Situations in the business change so the projects change to keep up.

This theme deals with changes that can be managed in a project. This could be the PM responding to changes the stakeholders want or the products not suiting the Business Case.

7. Progress

Projects cause things to change, positive change is progress.

This theme explains how the project matches the plans for the project. Is the project performing going well? Does a problem need to be escalated? Is the project as far along as it should be?

Progress also tells you if the project should continue. Perhaps you have spent too much time and money and not got enough results. Ending a project that produces no results is valuable to the business too, in the resources it saves.

The book goes into each of these themes in detail in their own chapters, but now you have a high-level idea of what each theme is and how it’s important to project management.

If you have any questions, please let me know in the comments below.

Networking For People Who Hate Networking

Best business-card-swapping-scene ever

Do you hate networking? Does it feel slimy to you? I’m the same. I love making new friends and meeting interesting people, but I hate approaching people only to see how they can help me.

Luckily, Adam Grant, an organisational psychologist, has some great advice for this very situation, in his Podcast: Work Life with Adam Grant.

Become the Person People Want to Meet

If you have nothing to offer, people won’t want anything from you, so they won’t want to talk to you. Everyone wants to know what they get out of every conversation. It’s sad but it’s true. I imagine you’re only reading this because you want to know some networking tips, right?

If you build expertise in a subject, then anyone interested in that subject will be interested in what you have to say. Grant says this is just human nature.

If you want to know what it’s like to live in France, you ask your friend who lived in France for a year. They are someone you see as an expert on living in France.

So if you master a skill or become an expert on a topic, people who know this will seek your opinions and recommend you to others, so your network builds without you doing any slimy self-promotion.

Grant cites a study in this episode where the radiologists in a hospital that were the most knowledgeable in radiology made more friends in the first 9 months of working at a new hospital and went on to have better job roles than their less expert peers.

The second part seems obvious, but think of your workplace, I bet you have or have had terrible managers who got promoted for being an expert in their previous job. Sadly, being a subject matter expert doesn’t make you a great manager though.

What Kinds of Connections do People Make?

Grant describes 2 levels of connection:

  • Low Level: These tend to be transactional in nature. You do something for me, I’ll do something for you. You both get something, but a meaningful friendship doesn’t form.
  • Deep: You will help this person, even if you get nothing in return because you either care about them or share some core values with them. Maybe they want to save the turtles, you also want to save the turtles, so you are happy to help them. Or maybe they’re your mum and you would do anything for her.

I’m at a Networking Event, What Do I Do?

Networking events sound intimidating. Imagine a bunch of suits grinning, boasting about where they summer and handing out pristine business cards. Sounds hideous.

In reality, this does not have to be the case. Just approach the event as a way to meet some interesting people in your field or a field you want to be a part of. Simple.

Quality Over Quantity

You are better off aiming to have 1 or 2 quality conversations. People don’t remember the person who handed them a business card then disappeared the rest of the night.

People do remember the amazing story they heard about your travels through Iceland or the new system you started at work that saved thousands of pounds in admin time.

Be a “mini-helper”

“So what do you do?”. This is the most boring question. You will probably bore yourself by the end of the night if you keep asking it. Instead, ask what problems they are trying to solve.

If you can solve it in 5 minutes, you have made a meaningful connection at next to no trouble to yourself.

If you can’t help, maybe you know someone who can. The value you added then, is the introduction. Now you have made 2 people happy, the person who’s problem will be solved and the person in your network who you just helped meet a new connection.

Give More Than You Take

Grant actually has a whole book about this topic, I highly recommend it and may even do a post about it one day.

Focus on what you can give to other people.

Don’t match them.

Don’t take too much.

The more you give, the more people will value you. The trick is to actually care, people can sense insincerity. So don’t fake it if you don’t care, just don’t do that thing. Do something you do care about instead.

Do you hate networking? Have any of these tips made it seem less horrible? Let me know in the comments below.

The 7 Principles of PRINCE2

The principles of PRINCE2 are what make a project a PRINCE2 project. The principles are not designed to be ironclad rules, but rather a guide on the best way to approach projects.

The PRINCE2 principles are:

  • Universal – They can be applied to any project
  • Self-Validating – They have been proven to work by being used in many projects over a long time
  • Empowering – Knowing you are working with effective tools gives you confidence in your work.

What Are The 7 Principles?

The 7 principles I will describe in this blog post are:

  • Continued Business Justification
  • Learn from Experience
  • Define Roles and Responsibilities
  • Manage by Stages
  • Manage by Exception
  • Focus on Products
  • Tailor to Suit the Project

Continued Business Justification

The project manager must make sure the project is still going to provide a positive value and is still needed by the users at each stage of the project.

Cutting a project short that won’t be worth the time, money and effort is good, because it frees up that time, money and effort for projects that are worth it.

Learn from Experience

  • Beginning – Learn from similar previous projects
  • During – Learn from what has happened so far on the project
  • After – Learn from the project once it is finished

Defined Roles and Responsibilities

Everyone on the project needs to know what they should do and what they should not do. This stops people wasting time, money and effort doing the same work, or work someone else is better suited to.

Everyone also needs to know the best way to communicate with other people on the project. Got some remote workers? Best to know upfront, so you can arrange to speak virtually or on the phone.

Manage by Stages

A “management stage” is a single block of the project, like gathering requirements or developing the welcome screen.

Shorter management stages are easier to control, larger ones require less direct management, so can be reduce the workload on the Senior Manager (only really applies to huge projects).

PRINCE2 projects all have at least 2 management stages:

  • Initiation (the start)
  • Anything after that

The end of each management stage is when documents should be updated and the project should be checked to see if it is providing enough value to be worth continuing (Continuous Business Justification)

Manage by Exceptions

Set boundaries for the project, that if passed, mean it has failed and should end. Generally these have a little wiggle room.

The most common exceptions are:

  • Cost
  • Time
  • Quality
  • Scope
  • Benefits
  • Risk

Focus on Products

Projects that focus on producing something are more likely to be successful. You can justify to a client an application you have built much more easily that some generic improvements you made to worker productivity. A product is thing that has been made.

Agreeing on what the final product will look like with users make it less likely they will be unhappy with the final product as they told you that’s what they wanted. It also helps to stop users adding new features and ideas through the project, which can lead to the project never finishing because there’s always one more thing.

Tailor to Suit the Project

All projects are different, so make sure you adjust your project management accordingly. If the project is smaller and simpler you may be more hands on, if the project is large and complex you would likely need to delegate more and keep track of people rather than getting stuck in yourself.

Now you have a top-level definition of the 7 principles of PRINCE2, do any of these sound wrong to you? Do they sound right to you? Has it changed the way you will manage your projects? Let me know in the comments below.

How to Manage Projects: An Introduction

Projects are everywhere. You have to solve a problem for a client? That’s a project. You want to build chairs in your spare time? Each chair is a project. You want to write a series of blog posts? Those posts are a project. But how do you manage a project to make sure it’s a success? I don’t know. So I am going to learn about it from “Managing Successful Projects with PRINCE2” and share what I learn with you.

Time For Some Jargon

What is Prince2?

PRojects IN Controlled Environments. I realise that doesn’t tell you much, but the whole book is about PRINCE2, so we will have a better answer at the end of this series of posts.

What is a project?

PRINCE2 defines a project as: “A temporary organisation that is created for the purpose of delivering one or more business products according to an agreed business case”. Seems unnecessarily wordy to me.

A Project is something you (or a team) do in a limited amount of time to make something valuable. It’s that simple.

The Power Of 7

PRINCE2 loves the number 7. There are:

  • 7 Principles – What makes a project PRINCE2
  • 7 Themes – What must be managed to make a project successful
  • 7 Processes – What must be done at each stage of a project and when to do it

That is the exciting journey that lays ahead. Projects are the best way to create positive change, so learning how to make them a success seems like a worthy goal. Come back next time to read about the 7 Principles in detail.

How Your Hobby Can Boost Your Career

Your hobby can make you a more rounded person, make you more interesting and even make you more successful. I am not talking about turning your hobby into a side-hustle, no, this is a post about how blogging can improve your performance at work.

The Many Benefits of Hobbies

Hobbies have been found to improve creativity, lower stress and prevent burnout. Work shouldn’t be the only thing that defines you, because if it is, then what happens when you leave that job or get fired? A good hobby can give you another side of your identity, so when you lose one part (your job) you still have many other parts (your family, your friends, your hobbies).

It just takes one hour a day of engaging in a hobby to make you feel refreshed and more fulfilled. The hobby can be anything that actively engages you, I can’t tell you what you liked doing. That said, I recommend anything where you can learn and improve. It can be creative like drawing, playing an instrument or writing a blog or it can be physical like running, lifting weights or playing football. The important part, is it’s something you enjoy.

Why Hobbies Help

  • Firstly hobbies break up your day from all the spreadsheets, meetings and office bullshit you have to put up with. Just taking a break is a helpful for your poor frazzled brain. It allows you to recharge, so that when you are at work, you can focus.
  • Hobbies make you more rounded as a person. You’re not just John the accountant, you’re John the guy who paints, runs and does some top notch accounting work.
  • Hobbies allow you to achieve outside of work. Once you finish that 5k you can say “Wow, I ran 5k today, that’s pretty impressive” or you can look back at the wooden ducks you whittled and feel proud of yourself.

I can say from experience these things are true, I sketched for the first time in a while the other day. It’s not my best drawing, but whilst I was doing it, time and the world around me melted away, leaving just me, the pencil and the paper.

A quick sketch of Auri from The Kingkiller Chronicle

What hobby could you restart? What hobby have you always wanted to try? Let me know in the comments below.

Facts and Figures Don’t Work: How To Persuade Someone You’re Right

I’m telling you, this phone isn’t plugged in!! Hello?! HEEELLLOO?!

It’s a tale as old as time, you are wrong, they are right. How do you make them see the truth?

It seems intuitive that if you want to win an argument, you prove the other person wrong. Logic and reason will win out, sadly this is not true. People will defend their opinion until they die once you attack their beliefs, no matter how logical your arguments.

There are 3 ways to actually convince someone though.

1) Don’t Make The Other Person An Idiot

People are prideful. Your opponent (or friend or lover) doesn’t want to look (and more importantly feel) like an idiot. So don’t make them an idiot.

When was the last time you enjoyed admitting you were wrong? When was the last time you looked forward to pointing out how stupid you have been?

If you can take the sting out of them being wrong, make them see that anyone would have thought the same given the information they had, you can let them change their mind without looking stupid. Giving a person a pain-free way out, is key to changing their opinion.

The moment you chastise them for their beliefs, you have lost them (I am very guilty of this) and you are not getting them back. They will dig in and fight you harder.

2) Look At Things From Their Point Of View

In some cases there isn’t a clear right or wrong. Sometimes you are even working towards the same goal as your opponent but you have different ideas on how to reach your goal.

If you can understand why they believe what they do, you can start to work with them.

Where I work, we recently tried to implement a new filing system. Both sides wanted to make it easier to find the file you needed, when you needed it.

We did not listen to each other, we attacked each other’s methods, rather than trying to understand each other’s points of view. As a result we got into a heated argument and never reached a solution.

If instead we had realised we both wanted to just make finding files easier, rather than defending our own favourite methods, we could have come to the best conclusion. Then we would all have a better filing system as a result.

3) See More Of The World

You never learn anything new if you do the same things every day, talking to the same people, reading the same blogs.

Talk to people you disagree with, with the intention of listening to what they have to say. Try asking someone to explain why they believe something you don’t believe. Don’t offer your own opinion, see how it makes you feel.

If you want to change minds, be willing to change your own. Admitting mistakes isn’t fun or easy, but it’s necessary for growth.

Let me know in the comments below if anyone changed your mind or why they didn’t.

4 Simple Steps to Stop Procrastinating

This post will teach you why you procrastinate and how to stop procrastinating. It is part of my series of posts detailing what I learned on the Learning How To Learn course on Coursera.

Why We Form Habits

Habits save you energy. Your brain is only a tiny part of your total weight, yet it manages to use 20% of your energy. Sadly, this doesn’t mean that thinking really hard will help you lose weight. However, it does mean that your brain does whatever it can to save energy, like automating tasks it knows how to do. A habit is this automation.

The 4 Stages of a Habit

Habits have 4 stages, if you can understand them, you can learn to use them to your advantage, rather than letting them use you. Want to start a habit of exercising? Learn the 4 stages. Want to stop your habit of eating twenty chocolates a day? Learn the 4 stages. You have been kept in suspense long enough, these are the 4 stages:

  1. The Cue
  2. The Routine
  3. The Reward
  4. The Belief

The Cue

The cue is the thing you see, hear, smell or whatever that sends you into the automatic trance known as a habit. The Cue is the only stage where you need to exercise willpower. That’s great news, my whole life I thought people who conquered bad habits just had an iron will. Instead, they had better systems than me.

Common Cues include:

Your phone vibrating – makes you check for notifications

Seeing your to-do list – makes you watch TV instead of doing work

The smell of your favourite bakery – makes you go in and buy those pastries you love, but know you definitely can’t have

Resisting a Cue causes an actual pain response in your brain, but if you can overcome it, the pain fades very quickly. This is the time to start a better Routine.

The Routine

The Routine is very powerful. The Routine is you actually acting out a habit, it’s browsing YouTube for ten seconds, only to find out that mermaids do exist!! And that 4 hours have passed and you still haven’t done your assignment!!

Next time you see an unpleasant thing you need to do, but really don’t want to. Just work on it for the smallest amount of time you can handle. Since the pain fades so fast, you may find you actually end up doing more work than you thought you would.

The Reward

Now celebrate.

Celebrating helps you convince your brain that you did a good thing, but don’t be too hard on yourself if you fail. Habit changing can take time, it gets easier with each victory though.

The Reward is the immediate feeling of pleasure you get when you start your habit. It’s the warm gooey centre of your favourite chocolate cake, or that endorphin rush after a workout. Creating a good reward is key to avoiding procrastination.

Good Rewards can be a tasty treaty, some tantalising TV or telling yourself “well done, pal”.

The fun thing you do when you procrastinate is it’s own Reward, so you’re fighting a master of it’s craft. Your own brain!

If you’re struggling with rewarding yourself, try having the reward at the same time or same point in progress. This creates an expectation in your mind of reward, like you are training your brain to expect it.

The Belief

This is how you feel about a habit, if you don’t believe you can change a habit, then you can’t. If you do believe you can change a habit, then you can.

If you’re struggling with this part, then don’t worry. Beliefs can be changed. The first 3 steps will help you.

Once you have been trying to build a new habit for a while but it hasn’t become automatic yet, it can start to feel difficult and the allure of giving up becomes stronger. This is when you need to remind yourself that your system works and you are doing better with this new habit.

Process Beats Product

The Product is the thing you hope to achieve by starting a session of work, such as an item on your to-do list, a piece of homework, an assignment at work, the list goes on.

The Process is you actually doing the thing, it’s you lifting some weights, writing some words or cleaning some plates.

If you focus on the Process like “I will write for the next 20 minutes”, you never mentioned the finished Product you want to get out of it and you are less likely to produce the pain response in your brain so you have less of a Cue to procrastinate.

Let me know in the comments below if any of these ideas worked for you, or if they were total crap.