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Case Study - Chester City Council

PRINCE2 and MSP at work in a Local Authority

In 2004, Chester City Council started up a project to establish a council-wide approach to project management. The growing popularity of PRINCE2 in the public sector made it the first choice, but some key stakeholders had reservations, and there was a general suspicion that PRINCE2 might prove too bureaucratic for the Council. To prove that a PRINCE2-style approach could work the Council realised that introducing this method would have to be a project in itself.

In September 2004, Chester engaged ILX Group with a brief to help them make PRINCE2 work ‘for real’.

The first product they identified was to a foundation event so that representatives from all council directorates could learn the principles and language of the method.

The next product was a workshop to demystify PRINCE2 and develop a ‘Prince on a page’ method that would be

  • Easy to understand (1 page for the whole method)
  • Easy to use (make existing documents like cabinet reports part of the process).

The output from the workshop is represented in the diagram below:

PRINCE2 Workshop Output

The workshop also captured Chester’s requirements for a product description, embedding the principle of product based planning at the core of their approach with new projects passing through a Project Definition Workshop. Initially these were delivered by ILX Group but the Council rapidly developed their own materials and processes for running workshops themselves.

The next product was a tailored training package. Staff take a blended learning approach; they study the ILX Group online learning before completing a revision workshop (delivered by an in-house resource) then sit the Foundation exam (invigilated by the same in-house resource). By taking on the work themselves Chester has enjoyed great success rate with the Foundation exam at a fraction of the cost of more conventional routes.

Following the foundation, a 1 day workshop shows how PRINCE2 should be used at the Council. To date, the practitioner qualification has not been promoted as the focus is on PRINCE2 at Chester.

The need to maintain a clear link between project activity and corporate strategy was one of the first learning points to emerge from the transition to the new project management approach. MSP was the logical extension of PRINCE2 and, in March 2005, ILX Group made a presentation to the Chief Executive and Directors outlining an approach that would bridge the gap between strategic aims and project delivery.

PRINCE2 Workshop Output Re-defined

A further workshop in September 05 refined this approach turning it into a method that has since been integrated into core working practices In March 2006 the Council published its corporate plan, a five year strategic vision that divides all council activities in to 6 key programmes. The council is currently defining the programmes that will allow them to address their strategic goals. This process has lead to a review and re-prioritisation of existing projects along with the initiation of new projects with the expected outcome that projects will be moved to the appropriate programme and any that do not contribute to the defined strategic goals will be stopped.

The project to introduce project management has been formally closed and the training outputs for both project and programme management have been integrated into the Council’s Management Development Programme. The approach that Chester developed with ILX Group has been integrated into the ODPM’s Capacity Building Programme as an example of good practice for local authorities.