We’ve all been there, a manager taking far too much interest in our every action at work, micro managing our day to day lives. We may have even fallen accidentally into this trap ourselves, spending far too much time in the detail. Either way, it should soon become obvious that this micromanagement approach is unsustainable and ineffective; this is where the Principle of “Manage by exception” comes from.
In PRINCE2 there are 3 main “levels” within the project: Delivery, Management and Direction. As a PM we should live in the middle “Management” zone, where we balance a view of the big picture with an appropriate overview of the detail. But we need to trust our sub-team leaders in the “Deliver” zone to actually do the work to create the project’s product. We do this via “Work Packages”, self-contained items of work which are clearly defined and self contained.
The Work Package should be clearly specified, of an appropriate size and within the skill and remit of the team to complete. Then, as long as it stays broadly on-track, we leave them to it! We should receive periodic Highlight Reports on the progress of the Work Package, designed such that it gives us all of the info that we need. Then, we should go through an acceptance process of receiving the Work Package when it is complete to make sure it was what was required. The format for these processes may vary; email, online tools, forms or a verbal update. But what is important is that delivery teams are given what they need to complete the work and then empowered to do it: centralised intent, but decentralised execution. In agile or adaptive projects this aligns to the concept of a servant leader, where the PM empowers team members to deliver work, and also the 5th Principle behind the Agile Manifesto: “Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.”
The final piece of the pie is the exception process itself: both identification of an exception, and the action then taken. The identification should be because of the breaching of a tolerance as defined in the plan (stage/project). This should then trigger Project Manager involvement with the creation of an Exception Report that details the causes and consequences, options for dealing with it and lessons learned.
What are your experiences of managing by exception, have you every worked under a micromanager or had / great delivery team on your project? Let us know in the comments below!
Stay Healthy - Project Health Check - projecthealthcheck.org
PRINCE2 is a popular UK Project Management methodology, that continues to gain traction in other locations around the world. Now managed by Axelos, it is part of a comprehensive and integrated best practice suite along side other methodologies such as Management of Risk (M_o_R) and Managing Successful Programmes (MSP). As such, is provides as alternative to the Project Management Institute's (PMI) A Guide to a Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK), and it's Project Management Professional Qualification (PMP). Since the author holds both the PMP and PRINCE2 Practitioner Certification , it can sometimes be insightful to compare and contrast the two approaches to see what stands out in both.
The author always thought of the PRINCE2 "Themes" to be equivalent to the PBMOK "Knowledge Areas"; a specific sub-disciple of Project Management that was important throughout the lifecycle; for example they both have "Risk" and "Quality" in common. Then there is the PRINCE2 "Processes", equivalent to the PMBOK "Process Groups" - essentially the flow of phases throughout the Project Life cycle. They are both broadly like any good book or film, in that they have a beginning, a middle and an end - with of course a bit more complication along the way. But PRINCE2 has a third component: "Principles". I don't think PMBOK really has an equivalent, so I think PRINCE2 has an edge here; but what actually is a "Principle"? Without turning to the dictionary, I would instinctively think of then crudely like a "guiding beacon". They aren't detailed processes or procedures, they aren't step-by-step plans or rigorous methods. Instead they are are simple but critical focus points which must then permeate everything else we do in Project Management, something that we strive both toward. Why are they useful? Simple: because once you've got your PMP or PRINCE2 exam in the bag, that old textbook is transition into phase 2 of it's lifecyle: dust collector. You'll apply these methodologies competently of course, but you'll soon forget what precisely is actually in section 18.104.22.168 of the PRINCE2 handbook. But Principles are different; short and simple, if you forget all of the other detail and just focus on remembering them I don't think you'll then go far wrong
Ok Project Health Check you've got my attention, maybe these Principles could be useful in my Project. Tell me about them! Well this is just an initial insight, with our intention to focus on them in future articles - exploring our perspective and add some real life experiences along the way.
What are your thoughts on these Principles, do you agree with them and can you think how they have played a role during your own Projects? Also, do you think anything is missing? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
Stay Healthy! Project Health Check - projecthealthcheck.org
To understand why do Projects Fail and what we need to do differently to stop it happening again.