Passion in Project Management

One concept that seems to be associated closely with project managers is passion, especially in the volunteer leadership circle of PMI.  As a membership based association PMI relies on passionate advocates for project management to help advance project management.  I’ve talked about volunteerism in an earlier post however I wanted to explore the concept of passion from a different angle this time and that is within the parameters of the practice of project management.

Is there room for passion within project management?  Can the project manager be both logical and passionate?  Webster’s has many definitions for the word passion but perhaps the most relevant to the concepts I’m discussing is the following:

“intense, driving, or overmastering feeling or conviction”

Interestingly additional words can also come to mind when thinking of passion including emotion, devotion, and even anger. In many work situations we are often encouraged to separate our emotions from the business of getting the job done.  As such, emotion, at least in the western context, can be seen as a negative attribute of the professional.  Separating our actions from our emotions seems to be a must.

The logic behind this is that it is especially necessary to do so because we often interact with “emotional stakeholders” who may be resistent to the project.  So the idea is that rather than lash out at them, we need to accept that in the process of doing our job we may make people angry at us.

Is it possible however that in the process of trying to be logical or presenting ourselves as impartial we lose passion.  Perhaps this forces us to become more like robots going through the motions of delivering tasks without caring about the ultimate outcome of the project or the impact on the stakeholders.  Certainly we don’t want to exhibit the kind of passion that projects itself as anger toward others.  The type of passion that I am thinking of can include the following:

  • Passion toward the project objectives.  Believing that the project was undertaken to transform people’s lives (the stakeholders) for the better.
  • Passion for the organization.  Devoting our work to ensuring that the organization that initiated the work receives the benefit that it deserves in return to its investment in the project.
  • Passion for the project team.  Committing to the team working on the project to align their needs with the organization and help them succeed in their work.
  • Passion to do things right (project management).  Embracing the necessity to achieve excellence on the project both from the project management perspective and the product/service delivery perspective.
  • Passion to do the right things (portfolio management).  Ensuring that we make decisions that are fair and just in a way that takes into consideration the best interest of the organization.

I believe that the trick is to balance the need to appear “professional”, in other words not emotional, and at the same time to demonstrate that we care about the outcome of the project.  Passion in this case does not have to translate into blind emotion but rather a desire to succeed and help everyone involved achieve a winning position.

Passion is about proactive action.  Without passion, project management practitioners have no incentive to act but rather are happy to be reactive to the environment around them.  Indeed, even passion for project management and the profession can and will play an important role in ensuring that the organization’s projects are successful.

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