Along with reading the book and offering the review, I also had a chance to reach out to Mr. Kuvshinnikov for some Q&A on the book and project management in general. I am going to share that info with you here, but if you have more questions for Alexei, please feel free to reach out to him directly or you can send questions to me and I will see that they reach him.
1) What do you see as the 5 top takeaways for readers of this book?
One, that learning PRINCE2 can be fun. Managing projects is a job filled with excitement and discovery and I see no reason why learning it needs to be any different. My motivation was to offset a bit the accredited training material that many delegates find a bit dry and boring. Though while it’s true that a PRINCE2 course is hardly stand-up comedy, I’ve got some tricks up my instructor’s sleeve to make it a bit more lively.
Two, that while learning PRINCE2 involves studying the concepts it equally involves learning the interaction between different project team roles when applying those concepts. PRINCE2 is all about team work, but PRINCE2 training has a strong focus on individual learning. To compensate for this bias, my book offers a reflection on how the project team functions precisely as a team.
Three, that the power of PRINCE2 is in its nuances. Seemingly small and obvious notions can have profound implications on project delivery. One example is placing the onus of accountability for the quality of project outputs on the supplier. In my view, that’s one real game-changer. It absolutely rids any supplier’s efforts to try and “steal the blanket” of any sense. The project can only succeed when both the project business case and the supplier’s business case are realized in harmony.
Four, that closing the project in a structured and orderly way is as important as correctly starting and delivering it. Never-ending projects are the bane of aspirations of change management and strategic growth. Remember, the project is a temporary organization that aims to deliver a specific product clearly defined in the agreed business case. Once that’s accomplished, the project should close. If it can’t be reasonably accomplished, the project should go through premature closure all the same. PRINCE2 recognizes no such thing as project extension.
And five, that the concept of tolerances and the management by exception principle is the PRINCE2 lifeblood. PRINCE2 is predicated on the delegation of authority to free up project delivery. Authority hoarding or micro-management are strictly no-go. I suppose every single one of us had at least once an experience of working with the executive who didn’t let us draw a breath without asking for a permission. Needless to say, how that stifles the project manager’s work.
3) What is your target audience/experience level for “The Deep-Space Oddity Project”?
I hope that just about everyone will find some juicy bit to chew on. Project management involves many roles – executives, users, suppliers, support, assurance – and many of these come alive in my book. In particular, PRINCE2 needs educated executives and I’d be absolutely delighted if the book woke their interest in understanding their role and responsibilities better. After all, that would be in their own best interest as in accordance with PRINCE2 it is the executive who is solely accountable for the project success. Over and above that, PRINCE2 Fiction may give a gentle nudge to all those who are toying with the idea to sign up for PRINCE2 training but are still undecided whether it’s worth the money and the effort. I guess “The Deep-Space Oddity Project” may also make a good choice for pre-course reading for signed-up delegates. Generally speaking, the first information about a new subject creates a lasting impression on your mindset and determines your attitude towards it. So, getting the first impression of the PRINCE2 method through wit and fable might help overcome the later numbing effect of accredited training materials. And last but not least, project managers in the UN system may find encouragement and empowerment in the book to actively seek PRINCE2 training.
4) In your opinion, what are the top three responsibilities of the project manager?
When delivering a PRINCE2 project, the project manager will be convinced from the start that they are delivering top value to the client. The project product description and the business case will be agreed in minute detail by the three principal project stakeholders, execute, supplier and user (client). The project manager can thus completely focus on their core responsibility – deliver the project product on time, cost, to quality, within scope, benefits and risk tolerances. Much of the project manager’s success is predicated on their ability to communicate. Accordingly, another key responsibility of the project manager will involve making the right information available, at the right time, for the right people, to make the right decisions about the project. And a third responsibility will be to recognize and acknowledge that the project manager is neither the star, nor the hero and to reign in their ambitions and delusions about their self-importance.
5) How do you sum up your project management methodology in a couple of sentences?
I am a PRINCE2 trainer and “The Deep-Space Oddity Project” is a PRINCE2 learning aid. I don’t advocate for any different project management methodology. PRINCE2, though, can be perceived quite heretical when compared to other PM frameworks. Let me give you just one example. Over the past decade or so, leadership studies for project managers evolved into an immense thematic field. It has become a big business. Hundreds of books on the subject are published every year by its adepts and devoured by an army of followers. I can understand them and fully sympathize with them. Heroic project management does require strong leadership skills from the project manager as they need to improvise every step of the way. But leadership is a burden. Leadership is stress. Now have a look at PRINCE2. It explicitly steps short of including leadership skills in its method. The reason is, thanks to clearly defined roles and responsibilities for all project team members they work like a clockwork. Precisely and reliably. Does a clockwork require leadership? On top of that, PRINCE2 projects are delivered “by the book”. Just like the pilots fly “by the book” and not by “the seat of their pants”. That’s what makes commercial aviation so safe. Have you ever witnessed the flight captain displaying leadership skills? Procedures are clearly laid out also for the case of an emergency. Even plane evacuation does not require leadership skills from the crew, only diligently fulfilling the responsibilities of their respective roles. And they undergo grueling training to be able to do precisely that. PRINCE2 follows a similar concept. The guidance provides a schedule of proven activities that will reliably lead to the project’s success. I readily admit that such angle is not well-received by everybody. Some critics say, it kind of shrinks the importance of the project manager and their personality in the larger order of things. In my view, it just cuts the project manager’s role to appropriate size.
6) Anything more that you would like to add/tell your readers?
One very human trait is to never listen to others. Consciously or subconsciously, we firmly believe that we know best how things should get done and only us can do them the only right way. That´s a big delusion. It’s a manifestation of cognitive biases that have a tremendous influence on our mindsets and reasoning. There is no shame in accepting that you are biased – because everyone is – and as a consequence treating your own expertise and role in the grander order of things with modesty and humility. The only known remedy against biases is group work and listening to others.
If you have any questions for Mr. Kuvshinnikov, please either reach out to him here, or send them to me and I will see that they are forwarded on to him. Thank you.