Owning and using best practice guidance – a single point of truth

John Edmonds – PPM Portfolio Development Manager, Axelos

Why does it matter to own a book containing professional, best practice guidance? 

Managing projects before defined, project management methods like PRINCE2 existed was like being lost in a forest without a map.

As well as not knowing where to go next, project managers – like I was – tended to repeat the same mistakes that many others had made before. 

While projects had been around for thousands of years, without the collected learnings from previous projects we had no definitive guide.  

At the time, I took training courses of varying quality and limited perspective about project management and asked colleagues for their advice, which provided a mixed bag of responses and personal bias.

So, though I had something to work with, I ended up with gaps in my knowledge and practice. Then, the British government created a project management method called PRINCE. 

Managing projects with credibility

The PRINCE project management approach provided project managers with guidance from a trusted source. 

It was comprehensive, made a lot of sense and gave independent credibility to ideas that, previously, might have been difficult for project sponsors to accept. 

For example, the way the guidance structured project management teams and the project board gave people an implicit trust that it was the right way to work. 

And another important part about PRINCE guidance was its existence as published material. This paved the way for it to become useful and valuable to people managing projects beyond Government and IT and, ultimately, the PRINCE2 best practice book. 

The benefit of owning a best practice book

Creating a best practice book is a gamechanger and moves the knowledge into a different league.

People studying the guidance can see the investment made in a book and recognise the credentials behind the authors and editors who have considered the content carefully and developed a coherent piece of work that needs to be taken seriously. 

And wherever a PRINCE2-certified student keeps their book, it serves as a permanent reference guide. Why is this important? Statistics about knowledge retention after training claim that “people forget approximately 50 percent of training within just one hour, 70 percent at 24 hours and 90 percent within 30 days”. 

In projects (and programmes) there are so many situations to manage where you’re unlikely to recall the detail from your training. With the book, you have somewhere to go and reference the best practice guidance. 

Going back to it, using it and sharing the knowledge with others means you engage with the material after your training; and it then becomes part of your long-term memory and something you use actively. 

Therefore, both the individual and the organisation they work for begins to see value and tangible outcomes from the training they’ve invested in. 

Books in the age of the Internet

So, when many of us turn to Google search for the information we want, why does it still matter today to own best practice guidance – either as an e-book or hard copy?  

While there are useful online resources such as blogs with tips and advice about applying best practices, online searchers need to beware of – and filter – the disparate quality and accuracy of information they might find. There is no shortage of distorted views about all types of best practice, often based on a biased position.  

Owning and using a best practice book as your source material offers a single point of truth. And having access to a book during your training means you can add your own notes and clarifications which personalise the book to you and your own learning journey.