Do you believe in this project?

I often receive really interesting issues on project management courses however one recently was new: I have been asked to work on a project I do not believe in. What should I do?

This course participant was involved in what was termed by her sponsor and the senior managers as a ‘key departmental project.’ There was a project team of her plus 3 others and she felt the whole project should be canned.  She admitted to the project management course that she did not feel too motivated to deliver this project.

We looked at the options she had:

  1. Accept the view of sponsor and senior managers’ swallow your pride and get on with it
  2. Challenge the view that it is a ‘key project’; really follow this through and ask those awkward questions
  3. Have a debate with the sponsor ensuring she and they understood what was meant by the term ‘key project’ actually means to them and to her
  4. If she feels so strongly then ask to be moved off the project or as one person put it; “ you can always resign!”


To do or not to do...that is the question OR maybe there are other options!

To do or not to do…that is the question OR maybe there are other options!

What became clear throughout the discussion was that this project manager felt strongly that it was not a key project. She was challenged by a couple of course participants to say why. But, apart from generalisations she could not say why other than she thought it was a low priority project.

It was suggested that she really needed to be able to articulate how she felt and what she felt before attempting any of the points 1-4 above

But, it raises the question what would you do if you disagreed with need for running a project? Would you do anything? I’d be interested to hear!

Photo: courtesy of


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10 Responses to Do you believe in this project?

  1. Pingback: Do you believe in this project? | #PMChat

  2. Hi Ron- If I am hired as a PM, I will perform the role as a PM. In other words I will work on the project I am assigned. The project may or may not be important, but let sponsor decide that.
    Praveen Malik

    • Ron Rosenhead says:

      Thanks Praveen for the comment. The comment came from a person who was a full time employee within the business. Her reasoning (which as you read, is not too clear) was that there were more important pieces of work to do. Without that internal knowledge you would not know of course. Speaking to a few ‘contracting’ PM’s, one or two have said to me they are a bit choosy about assignments. Not quite the same thing however they are making choices….

      Thanks again, appreciate your time in contributing.

  3. Mark Ritchie says:

    Great blog post Ron – thanks!

    If you don’t believe in the project it can be challenging – although if you don’t see how the project can be delivered that’s an even bigger problem!

    Often the problem is one of communication and understanding. Spend some time with project sponsor (never a bad thing anyway) and understand their motivations and what they are trying to achieve. Get to know and understand the benefits the project will deliver. Speak to some stakeholders and try to appreciate what’s happening now and what the project will mean for them. If at the end of all of this you still don’t believe share your concerns in a tactful way with the sponsor (with whom you hopefully now have a good relationship) you may be persuaded. If you still don’t believe ask yourself honestly whether you are able to deliver the project. If you cannot then there is only one action you should take.

    • Ron Rosenhead says:

      Hi and thanks for this Mark. I agree completely with what you say however…I am NOT trying to plug my book – Strategies for Project Sponsorship – but the research suggests that the there is too little communication from the sponsor to the project manager and vice versa. Often, the sponsor is absent, uninterested themselves (a great motivator), untrained, or maybe part of a committee of sponsors….You get the drift!

      It does not detract from the very good points you make. The project manager needs to somehow shorten the gap between them self and the sponsor. It takes time, effort and good influencing skills.

      As for the one action that the person can take, I must be honest and say i never heard from the woman who was mentioned in the article….I often wonder!

      Cheers and thanks again Mark.

      Ron Rosenhead

    • I appreciate the insight, professionalism and truth which are driving the original post and the follow-up comments.

      Many years ago, a sponsor (good friend of my boss – in another department) asked me to PM an impossible project. I agreed with the need and the vision, but the scope, resources and timeframe were ridiculous. I politely and frankly told the sponsor that this was unrealistic and could not be done. Within the next 24 hours, she shared this with my boss, and she (my boss) told me that I would not tell the other sponsor “no.”

      As I recall, I organized some work in the direction previously discussed, achieved some improvement to her processes/business communication… until they had other priorities.

      NOT the way to run an organization (or projects).

      • Ron Rosenhead says:

        Hi David. many thanks for your comments.

        Unfortunately, this is not the first time someone has told me this however look at the wasted effort….we are all too busy …but doing what?

        I have suggested before using some of the tools within project management to help:

        linking the decision to the risk log – what is the risk of doing this project- especially if there are others you are working on
        using the quality, cost and time triangle to look at the impact on other projects of the one mandated to do
        using a Gantt of Gantt charts – linking all the Gantt charts (or milestones of each project) to show where the ‘pinch’points will be

        However in order to do those, you have to raise your head above the parapet. Challenge and some project managers have told me that’s OK for them., others not so!

        Thanks again David.

        • Great suggestions, Ron. Those will work in a maturing organization; unfortunately, not all organizations are maturing – or even “functional” (as opposed to “dysfunctional”).

          • Ron Rosenhead says:

            David, the interesting point about maturity. I often link this to logic which seems to disappear when talking about projects….dysfunctional?

            Thanks, much appreciated.

  4. Utpal says:


    Your post connected me with a similar situation I had to deal with about four years ago. I had to work on a project that I did not believe in.

    It was internally challenging but then I found out a way of getting it done anyways.

    I don’t know if it was “right” or not but it worked. I’ve shared my experiences of working on a project that I did not believe in on my blog.

    Thanks again for raising a great question that most of the project managers / entrepreneurs encounter in the project / business.


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