Reflections on PRINCE2 certification

I decided to do PRINCE2 certification.

I have always resisted this sort of qualification in the past, being a little skeptical as to the value of a week-long course with a multiple-choice exam at the end. Is that really any substitute for real-world experience and the hard-won lessons from the School of Hard Knocks and the University of Life and other clichés to describe learning at the cutting edge of the coal face where the rubber hits the road?

No, it isn’t.

PRINCE2 logo

A certificate is no substitute, and so often the training course becomes a mad dash at the certification at the expense of actually learning anything, but it is a worthwhile complement to experience, especially when you’re back in the job market and need to get through the first couple of CV sifts to get an interview.

I was quite excited at first. I love learning new things and I was eager to shore up my experience with some solid theoretical knowledge. I like theory, I like having a strong understanding of the intellectual hinterland that sits behind things … so it was a bit disappointing that the subject was so fussy and procedural. It wasn’t intellectually challenging, it was more like a pedantic memory test.

PRINCE2 is a framework for managing projects, it’s about taking control of an uncertain situation (i.e. a project), and is therefore mainly about control mechanisms.

This makes it pretty dry stuff. It can be as pernickety as using the right words (“role” not “job” etc.), and understanding which “management product” belongs to which “process” (the “Project Product Description” is written in SU [Starting Up a Project], the “Product Descriptions” are written in IP [Initiating a Project] for example). This is a bit important – PRINCE2 Practitioners need to be able to speak the same language and precision is important in complicated projects – but it does get a little wearing after a while.

I have used variations of PRINCE2 for years, so I know it’s a solid methodology that works, but I have never got this deep in the detail before, and it’s enough to make your head hurt.

The course didn’t help.

It was rushed through, zillions of PowerPoint slides, one after another, hammering through Principles, Themes and Processes with little time to reflect and understand. This wasn’t the fault of the Trainer (who was fine), it was my fault.

Well, not just my fault, more the customer’s fault.

We (the customer) demand the Certificate which means passing the exams (Foundation on Wednesday, Practitioner on Friday), we don’t demand a great learning experience.

That said, I chose a training specialist because I knew it to be an intensive course, and I wanted a professional organisation that knew some funky training tricks. This means that it was a bit of a let down to be stuck at the back of a long thin classroom and subjected to PowerPoint overload for four days.

It didn’t do any lasting damage.

I have enough experience of project management and of using tailored versions of PRINCE2 in the workplace to be able to fit a lot of the material into context quite quickly, but I suspect if you came to this cold it would put you off Project Management for life.



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