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Back to the essence (of PRINCE2 and Agile/Scrum)

I sometimes notice that people get confused implementing PRINCE2 and/or Scrum. Especially PRINCE2 is notorious for the amount of processes and artifacts. Scrum is much more free format, but also with Scrum people seem to lose track over what’s really important. So here’s my view on the essentials of both PRINCE2 and Scrum.

PRINCE2 – product based planning

PRINCE2 as a method is reverse engineered from successful projects. It’s a bid sad that the end result (a PRINCE2 manual) gives the impression of a mostly theoretical approach, but nevertheless there are valuable concepts in there, based on practical success rather than theory.

In my opinion the essence of an effective project management approach is product based planning. There’s a big difference between focus on delivering a product (which is a project result) and focus on performing work (which isn’t the goal of a project). So, please use a product breakdown structure instead of a work breakdown structure. Determine which products are made by the project and which ones are necessary for the end result, but are made by other parties. Determine for each product quality criteria and a quality process. Determine the interdependencies between those products and the roadmap from the first till the last product. Only then start looking at activities. Finally, start delivering products!

Agile/Scrum – delivering production-ready products each sprint

In theory each sprint a number of production level quality user stories (let’s call them products) are delivered. Actually it is more than just a theory, it’s the ultimate end state of a highly effective product delivery process. Each sprint creates business value. It is a reachable end state, but it takes a lot of effort to come to that point. Usually organisations which start implementing Scrum aren’t capable of performing on that level. So usually implementing Scrum is also a process of professionalization which can take months or probably even years.
Once a baseline Scrum implementation is established, the organization should continuously work on improving the Scrum process. Mostly the Scrum retrospective meeting is used for this purpose. In my opinion it is very important to use the ‘production level quality products each sprint’ principle as a reference point for improvements, not only the impediments the team encounters on the current level of Agile maturity. On a management level the organization should also actively steer towards getting value each sprint. Raising the bar this high creates awareness and focus and accelerates your Agile implementation.


As a sideline, you may have noticed the similarities between the essence of PRINCE2 and the essence of Agile/Scrum :-). Both are focussed on delivering products. PRINCE2 uses a more plan-up-front approach whereas Agile/Scrum has the focus on fast delivery each sprint. In reality the differences are not that significant. Agile/Scrum also needs to plan up front when it comes to larger sets of requirements (epics or features or themes or however they are called). For PRINCE2 it is not a requirement to do the planning only once. PRINCE2 actually states that projects are better controllable when the project is split up in stages, each one having its own plan. Personally I’ve combined PRINCE2 and Scrum lots of times where a Scrum sprint equals a PRINCE2 stage and each user story equals a PRINCE2 product. But that’s a different story. :-)

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Lean PRINCE2 presentation @BPUGNL 2014 (Dutch)

Below you’ll find my presentation on Lean applied to project management which I gave last June at the Dutch BPUGNL seminar.
have fun!

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New cool video on leadership: Greatness

Today I found a new cool video on the leadership subject. Inno-Versity created an Inno-Mation based on the book by former US submarine captain David Marquet in which he explains how he turned his submarine from the worst to the best performing vessel in the US Navy. His experiences closely resemble the leadership style needed for high performing agile teams. Of course it also resembles lean leadership principles.

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