Ever checked the number of management products PRINCE2 shows...: 26.

Ever checked how many outputs the PMBOK lists...: 80!
I certainly have miscounted, so if you can correct me, please let me know the correct number... Note that PRINCE2 explains that a product is an output of the project. So Management Products and outputs here are considered synonyms!

As an organization we certainly do not want that every project, the expected content for these management products is reinvented or rediscussed. So we create (even better, reuse) templates for each of these management products. A great help for an organisation, what an invention! Templates...!!

Wrong, so wrong... Let me explain.

An organization puts in place a team responsible for developing a single standard for all management products. If we're lucky, that team will go on the web, download a set of templates, puts the company logo on these, and finished. In a lot of cases though, this first part takes a bit more time...

Next step is making the templates available: publishing on the organization's intranet; and with a bit of luck a notification is send to the project managers.
So now they know! Now each and every single project will document everything needed!

Wrong, so wrong..!

First of all, the project managers will probably not even download the templates from the intranet(unless audit comes along in the coming week... No offense, really). Assuming that the project managers do use the templates, what information will they put in? Do they all understand (the same) when they read a section title...? Do they have the required information? Do they know where or how to find the correct information? ...

Result in most cases: the templates are completed; every single document, every single section, but the quality of the content...

A few years back a project manager (Bart) came to me, proud to show his project brief and asked me what I thought of it. After reading the document I was puzzled. Being in the company for quite a while, I had a fairly good idea about the expectations for this particular project but I didn't find this back. A brief chat with that project manager revealed the problem. He did download the template and completed all sections; on his own. We planned a coaching session.

A template without a process on how to come to the correct information is a real risk: it takes time to complete, without any certainty on the usefulness of the information.

What an organisation really needs is usefull and reliable project information that can be used in decision making by the different stakeholders. In order to make sure the correct level of quality of the information is captured, provide guidelines, coaching, training,... And as a last step, provide... a template to document the high-level quality information.

Back to the coaching session. Bart and I went through the entire project brief template: what is the purpose of it; what does every section really mean; who is best placed to provide information; what questions to ask to the different stakeholders; ...

A week later, Bart was back. With a great project brief. He went to the different stakeholders; asked key questions; went into discussion to clarify open points; documented his understanding in the different sections of - yes, the template; went back to the stakeholders to ensure he had correctly reflected their input; and finally subjected it for approval.

Guess what, the project board was pleased with the result; and the document was 3 pages shorter than the original version... Now totalling 3 pages...

Please keep using templates... wisely.

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