Learning Prince2 with a serious game
In my previous article, I was describing how agile project management could be learned through a serious game, in order to enhance the learning experience, more efficiently adopt the associated processes and transpose them back in one’s work context.
I am now going to illustrate how the same approach can be applied to another well-known project management methodology, namely Prince2.
First, I would like to make a brief comment on the relevance of Prince2 and Agile methodologies with respect to the project context.
These two approaches are sometimes opposed to each other, whilst some pretend that they can be used interchangeably. There are indeed a large number of situations, where both methods can be used.
However, certain considerations can help identify when each technique is more likely to produce the best project outcome.
The determining criterion is probably based on whether the delivery of the product or service resulting from the project requires its elements to reach a certain level of definition, before proceeding further in the development. This can be the case, when contractors perform certain tasks on the project and/or it involves the procurement & installation of pieces of equipment.
In other words, when the project can be assimilated to the construction of a house, for example.
On the other hand, when the project delivery is more akin to a movie shoot, made up of scenes, which can be shot independently from one another, reworked several times over, edited and mixed towards the end of the process to get the final product, an agile approach may be more appropriate.
We saw in the previous article how such an agile approach could be learned through a serious game, simulating the preparation and participation in a sailing race around the world.
The principles behind Prince2 can also be learned and practiced with the same simulation.
The similarities between a business project and a sailing race make it possible to create a lot of analogies between the two worlds, which can be used to illustrate and work on a lot of situations faced by project teams during the development of a project and transpose them back into the work context.
Also, sailing is often used as a business metaphor, in which the boat is a project, a race represents the journey towards an objective, the crew is the project team and the environment with its risks and uncertainties represents the business context.
When using a serious game to learn Prince2, the purpose of the race is to validate the quality of the boat design process, whereas the boat configuration stage is designed to practice the Prince2 delivery steps from starting up to closing a project, with all the intermediate stages in between.
As there is no set number of prescribed stages in Prince2, one way to manage the delivery is to split it into critical stages, according to major milestones and risk areas for the final outcome.
The boat configuration part is therefore split into 4 stages: initiation, feasibility, concept definition and execution, as it is known that a project outcome will be strongly influenced by the management of risks, key deliverables and decisions during these steps.
At the end of each stage, the work done and the produced deliverables are assessed by the project sponsors, as would be the case in the “managing a stage boundary” activity of Prince2. Throughout the game, the participants also play the various roles described in the process: project manager, team managers or senior users and senior suppliers sitting on the project board.
The initiation stage is used to define the business case for the project, based on its objectives and the value drivers, to identify the risks, the requirements and other constraints, such as performance constraints, safety tolerances and budget limitations. It forces the players to think about the link between their product (the boat they are designing for the race) and the strategy imposed on the team by the project board.
The feasibility stage is used to identify the design options (the features) the team will add to their boat to make it competitive and assess their feasibility against the imposed constraints and the risks they pose to the boat’s performance.
During the concept definition stage, boat features are weighed against each other, based on cost, functionality and quality trade-offs, in order to achieve the optimal balance between value, design and risks.
Finally, in the execute stage, the project close-out and handover are being prepared in the form of the actual boat configuration and the definition of the race strategy based on its features and risk profile.
Learning Prince2 through a serious game makes it possible to confront the participants with situations known to be critical for value realisation during project delivery and it therefore helps develop the mindset to recognise them and adopt the right attitudes to resolve these dilemmas in an optimal way, by leveraging the Prince2 process to the best of its potential.