PRINCE2 Project Board

prince2 project board

Among PRINCE2 project team roles, the executive has sole accountability for the project´s success

PRINCE2 project board members should display the following four characteristics.

  • Authority. Their position in the organisation should be senior enough to include decision-making powers at a strategic level.
  • Credibility. Project board members should have a record of using their authority to make correct decisions.
  • Ability to delegate. They should be willing to delegate part of their authority to the project manager as appropriate. Proclivity to micro-management or authority-hoarding is a disqualifying trait. The project manager should have the operational freedom for the day-to-day running of the project.
  • Availability. Particularly the executive must be available to respond to the project manager´s requests for ad hoc advice whenever necessary and without delay.

Imagine a situation. The project menager turns to the executive for urgent advice. But all he hears in return is: ‘Hey, Mike, I´m on a scuba-diving trip off Bahamas and can´t talk to you now. I´ll get in touch when we get back to Nassau in three days´time.” That executive is hardly worth her/his salt.

Now consider a different story.

A project that I ran in my project manager’s teething years became engraved in my memory. I worked for a large international organisation with a global span. My executive then was a high-flying character. Literally. Displaying a pronounced taste for the non-conventional, he could be found most of the time cruising at 38,000 feet in his first-class seat. Wherever he landed, he summoned chiefs of the local duty station or office to a chat at the airport conference centre. Issues and concerns were resolved on the spot. Strategies discussed and agreed. People hired and fired. And after a couple of hours on the ground, rounded off by a hearty meal, off he went again into the blue skies.

When appointing me to the project manager’s role, he expressed his work philosophy in sparse words: ‘In case of doubt, better ask than be sorry later.’ And he insisted I called him on a satphone number any time I was in need of his advice. ‘Any time,’ he stressed. Even in those good old times, first-class passengers had access to some pretty efficient communication channels.

The first time I decided to call the executive, I got sweaty palms. It felt like ringing my country´s President.

Swallowing hard, I punched the phone keys. The executive answered on the third ring. He sounded sharp, alert and fully awake. He listened to my three-minute briefing without interrupting. Then he asked a few pointed questions. And in continuation pronounced his verdict on the case. The only thing I had to do was to do as I had been told. And the executive´s decision proved to be spot on.

While the project was running its course, I called the executive on three more occasions. Each time, with less and less trepidation. And each time, with the same result. Clear-minded and alert, the executive gave precise instructions that I followed to a T.

During the next couple of decades, I had a spate of executives of a more conventional breed. Some were fusty, supercilious and hidebound. Some others just plain incompetent or uninterested. Only a handful came even close to that guy in the sky in their understanding of PRINCE2 Project Board member´s responsibilities.

Mind you, staying available to respond to project manager´s doubts in real time is also in the best own interest of the executive.

This role is appointed by the corporate, programme management or customer level of management and is personally accountable to the latter for project success. If the project manager is in doubt about the right course of action and the executive is not there to offer guidance, two things may happen.

One, for any of many reasons the project manager decides not to wait and goes out on a limb. It´s like playing Russian roulette. Consequences to the project can be disastrous. And in all circumstances, the executive will have to shoulder the accountability for the disaster.

Two, the project manager decides to stall project delivery and wait for guidance. That is likely to disrupt the stage plan and possibly lead to the breach of time tolerance. The knock-on effect can create a disruption after-shock further down the line, too. And once again, the executive will have to accept the accountability for the disruption.

True, the executive can opt for a halfway solution and appoint a deputy. In the executive´s absence and acting on their delegated authority, the deputy would then deal with the project manager´s requests for ad hoc advice. But that is hardly a perfect solution. The executive can delegate the necessary authority to the deputy but will still remain accountable for the deputy´s decisions.

PRINCE2 Project Board members availability – particularly, the executive´s –  is absolutely key to the project´s success.

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