PRINCE2 Principle Manage by stages 

 November 15, 2023

By  Dave Litten

PRINCE2 Principle Manage by stages

A PRINCE2 project is planned, monitored, and controlled stage-by-stage.

A stage is the section of a project that the project manager manages on behalf of the project board at any one time.

The focus on managing by stages ensures that the project is adequately initiated before work starts on delivering its outputs.

Every PRINCE2 project should have at least two stages: an initiation stage and one further stage.

Many projects benefit from having more than two stages.

The advantages of managing by stages are:

It enables adaptability to changes in the project or business context

It provides review and decision points, allowing the project board to assess its viability at defined intervals rather than letting it continue uncontrolled.

It provides the ability to ensure critical decisions are made before the detailed work is implemented.

It clarifies the impact of an identified external influence, such as the organisational budget-setting process or legislation finalising.

It facilitates the principle of management by exception by delegating authority to the project manager at each stage.

The choice of appropriate stages for a project will depend on several factors, including:

minimising risk exposure through the project lifecycle

the size and complexity of the project (shorter stages offer more control, whereas longer stages reduce the effort for senior management)

Any significant decisions and control points required during the project’s lifecycle will often be linked to critical investment, business, or technical decisions sector or business policies and standards.

The project board authorises one stage at a time and delegates the authority for day-to-day control of the stage, within agreed tolerances, to the project manager.

The project manager can adjust as required as long as the stage is forecast to remain within tolerance. The project board only authorises the next stage if there is sufficient business justification and funds to continue.

If the project’s business case is no longer valid, the board will determine whether and how to recover or prematurely end it.

An example of applying the ‘manage by stages’ principle is when teams work in ‘sprints’ or ‘timeboxes’ while operating incrementally and iteratively to realise the agreed features and user stories.

PRINCE2 can be tailored to work with sprints and user stories instead of work packages and product descriptions. The project manager will define how many sprints are required for each stage. In this way, the project is consistent with the principle of manage by stages.

Dave Litten

David spent 25 years as a senior project manager for USA multinationals, and has deep experience in project management. He now develops a wide range of Project Management Masterclasses, under the Projex Academy brand name. In addition, David runs project management training seminars across the world, and is a prolific writer on the many topics of project management.

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