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PRINCE2 - Directing a Project (DP) part 1

Fundamental principles

Senior management who have the authority and responsibility for:

  • Defining what is required from the project
  • Authorising the funds for the project
  • Committing the resources
  • Communicating with external interested parties

Will typically delegate day-to-day charge of the project to a Project Manager.
However, the Executive must exercise overall control and be responsible for the key decisions.
The levels of authority and decision-making processes are clearly identified.


This process runs from Starting up a Project (SU) until project closure and includes the work to:

  • Authorising the initiation of the project
  • Provide management direction and control throughout its life
  • Liaise with corporate or programme management
  • Confirm project closure

It does not cover the day-to-day activities of the Project Manager.
This process is aimed at the level of management above the Project Manager, that is the Project Board.
The Project Board manages by exception.
It monitors via reports and controls through a small number of decision points.

The Project Manager will inform the Project Board of any exception situations.

There must be a flow of information from the Project Board to corporate or programme management during the project.
This should be reflected in the Communication Plan as part of the Project Initiation Document.

Process description

The objectives of Directing a Project (DP) are:

  • To ensure the ultimate success of the project, as judged by:
  1. The ability of the products of the project to deliver the business benefits set out in the Business Case
  2. Delivery to agreed time, cost and quality parameters
  • Manage the identified risks to the project
  • Ensure the effective management of all people and resources concerned with the project
  • Commit the required resources
  • Make decisions on exception situations
  • Ensure that the project and the products remain consistent with business plans and the external environment
  • Sponsor appropriate external communication and publicity about the project

This process covers the direction of the project throughout its life cycle.
The Project Board will manage by exception.
Demands on their time should be kept to a minimum.

The key responsibilities are:

  • Overall direction and decision making
  • Resource commitment

When the project is part of a programme the authority to direct the project is delegated to the Project Board.
If authority to make decisions is outside that defined the Project Board must refer the matter to the programme management.

The Project Board involvement is driven by events and consist of a small number of key decision points as well as informal discussions.

The key processes break down into four main areas:

  • Initiation (starting the project off on the right foot)
  • Project re-evaluation at stage boundaries or following an exception situation (commitments to further work after checking results so far)
  • Ad hoc direction (monitoring progress, providing advice and guidance)
  • Project closure (confirming the project outcome and bringing the project to a controlled close, or premature closure of the project should the Business Case no longer be valid)


The Project Board will decide on how formally it will handle its controls.
Medium and large sized projects or those with external suppliers it is recommended to use this process formally.
That is, with meetings written reports and stage approvals signed by the Project Board.

For smaller projects the Project Board may decide to:

  • Receive some or all reports orally
  • Have an oral exchange of information and decisions instead of formal meetings

For later audits all decisions should be documented.

Three points in the process are strongly recommended:

  • A check (at the end of initiation) to ensure there is clear understanding of what is needed, preferably in writing
  • The establishment of tolerances and the exception procedure
  • Confirmation at the end of the project that an acceptable product has been delivered and that there are no loose ends

This process depends on Setting up Project Controls (IP4) well. Therefore this sub-process needs Project Board involvement.


Corporate or programme management should confirm the appointment of the Project Board and other project management team members.
This is done in Appointing an Executive and a Project Manager (SU1) and Appointing a Project Management Team (SU3).
Everyone must be committed to the project.

Initially, the Project Board will only approve the initiation stage, which should be short.
The purpose of the initiation stage is to product a Project Plan at a high-level, document the Business Case, examine the risks involved, make management decisions about them and approve the plan for the next stage.

Planning an Initiation Stage (SU6) is where the initiation Stage Plan is prepared.

At the end of the initiation stage the Project Board must decide if the Business Case is strong enough to continue with the project.
If this is satisfactory the Project Board will approve the Project Plan and the next Stage Plan.
The Project Board will give the go-ahead to the next stage.

Stage boundaries

The Project Board and the Project Manager will agree on the division of stages as part of the initiation stage.
This will usually follow a draft Project Plan and proposal by the Project Manager for the Project Board to agree.

The Project Board will only authorise the Project Manager to proceed with one stage.

At the end of a stage it is reviewed by the Project Board and the next stage is approved provided the Business Case is still valid.

Should a major problem occur the Project Manager will issue an Exception Report and the Project Board may then request an
Exception Plan that will bring the project back under control.

Ad hoc direction

The Project Board will provide direction and guidance throughout the project and to make sure it is consistent with the Business Case.
The Project Board will monitor the project progress via reports from the Project Manager.

The Project Board will also maintain feedback to programme level if necessary and keep a watchful eye on external influences that may affect the project.

Project closure

The Project Board will close a project once it has been confirmed:

  • Everything expected has been delivered to the correct level of quality
  • The product is in a state where it can be used, operated, supported and sustained

There may be follow up actions as a result of the project and the Project Board must make the appropriate decisions and refer to the appropriate bodies.

The date and plan for the Post-Project Review will be agreed.
This is a future point where the benefits and performance of the end product can be assessed.

Any lessons learned which can be of benefit to other projects are also directed to the relevant body.

Finally, the project support structure is disbanded.

This process can be modified if the project is terminated prematurely.
In this case there will be follow-on actions but not all products will have been produced and there may be little or no actions.
Whilst there may not be post-project review the lessons learned from the End Stage report and the Lessons Learned report may prove invaluable for future projects.

This product contains EVERYTHING in the publications:

Managing Successful Projects with PRINCE2 - 2005 edition
Managing successful Projects with PRINCE2 – 2009 edition
Directing Projects with PRINCE2.
The Complete Project Management package.

And much more besides - at a fantastic price.