‘Agile is King and PRINCE remains the heir’? Not always…Project Design Choices.

At first glance the following sentence, or statement, will seem self-evident: “The project design will have a significant  bearing on the project’s success”. Fair enough I hear you cry! But what does the empirical evidence-base say about when, or what variables or factors determine when you should ‘design in’ adopting an Agile approach.. as opposed to say a more traditional approach like the classic PRINCE2?


In this blog I’d like to focus on the team and project complexity factors. So I will ignore the organisational and the customer factors. I’ll cover those off in a later blog.

What do we know?

Firstly, that there are discernible team factors that should be analysed prior to adopting an Agile approach. These are as follows:-

  • Project teams committment (affective and psychological)
  • Internal project communication style/methods
  • Project teams expertise in the technical knowledge and actual delivery experience
  • Team dynamics and composition/maturity

What we know is that when the team is less mature, relatively inexperienced, and with low levels of technical skills and delivery experience and where the team dynamics are less collaborative and more ‘silo’ focussed then the evidence is that…traditional PRINCE2 project management is the best project design and this will predict project success. This holds true even when the project complexity is low and the project length and scope are short and narrow. A fascinating reality.

However, the opposite also holds true for Agile. What we know is that we should ‘design in’ an Agile approach in contexts where we have well established technical experts that have actual grounded experience of the given project’s demands. We also know that they all need to have worked ‘outward focussed’ and in typically more multi-vendor project designs in the past. In situations such as described and when these skills and experiences are found… but where the team is new then a professional PM can add value by developing the new team successfully in an Agile method as the Scrum Master.

This latter set of variables also holds true in project contexts where there is a need for pace, or urgency as well as innovation in the technical ‘fusion’ or integration of multi-suppliers. In this ‘innovation space’ Agile is ‘King’ and Prince remains in his younger, less mature but none-the-less ‘royal’ household!

I would add to this latter point that having a PM with actual experience of collaborative methods as well as some grounded, actual delivery, of complex projects (multi-million pound)would also be a critical success factor to this end. She, or he, can literally add value to the project outcomes in the ways outlined.

Happy project design!

As you can see your choice will have evidence-based consequences. Choose wisely!

All best Jason


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