It’s the combination of two fundamental factors which create highly successful projects; the project’s value proposition and the motivation to make it a reality.

But which is of more importance Passion or Business Acumen?

Ask any successful businessman and you will get one of three answers:

  1. Passion – a great idea driven by a leader determined to see it happen
  2. Business Acumen- the principle that regardless of the idea a conventional business can be turned into a success through effective systems
  3. Or better- A combination of the two.

History can provide countless examples of projects whose success can be attributed to a single factor either: a sound business model with a sole drive towards the pursuit of profit or conversely examples of projects achieving tremendous success based on nothing but the tenacity to follow a dream.  Though plentiful these examples are the outliers.

Whilst a project can succeed by meeting only one of these elements; it is the harmonistic collaboration of the two which inspires and breeds success.

When considered individually each pose equal amounts of risk:

  • Whilst a project based on a pure revenue model can use business systems to create a cost effective environment, it often creates a lifeless project team, managed and controlled in meeting efficiency targets.
  • Whereas a project fuelled solely on passion often results in failure due to the lack of strategy, planning and effective execution.

So which do you believe to be of most importance?


Ask yourself this: what is primary driving force on your project meeting business goals or something that you are really passionate about?

If you answered:

Business Goals: practically all studies performed on project culture return very similar correlation: if the team isn’t passionate about the goal, their internal drive (motivation) is low- leading to limited productivity.

Passion: Similarly studies show that projects embarked upon with the sole reliance of a great idea or passion when not equipped with proper project management systems and processes yield very poor results.

I hope neither of these are the case in your situation.

Those able to respond with “a combination of both” will be more likely to enjoy success. Ideally the project was based upon principles which your stakeholders are passionate about destined for execution through appropriate project management.

Congratulations if this sounds like your current project.

However their relative importance is should not be the question. The real question should base upon their ability to co-exist and perform synergistically.

As we have discussed successful projects are generally a result of the convergence of both passion and business.

But what happens when they diverge- the business side of the equation is pulling one way and the passion side in the opposite direction?

This often shifts the overall direction of the project and often a trade-off is made.  Do we follow what we are passionate about or do we follow the money?

This is often the story of many new businesses, take the video below,

The best example is in the video below.  It’s a classic example of an idea caught between the passions to provide a low cost product for a cause in which the inventor believes “I work for farmers. It’s what I do, and helping them helps us all,” versus the interest of a business mind questioning slim profit margins.

There is no right or wrong answer here.  What is critical is for the project leader to have a clear understanding of the intended direction prior to commencement.  If this is not in place the project’s path will lead towards the cause of the most influential stakeholders.

3 Responses to Business vs Passion; a Project Management conflict of interest.
  1. Great post, really informative and well written. I was going through your site and interested in your project management courses. I don’t live in Perth but would like to attend a workshop in Darwin, what are the chances?

    • Thanks Geoff

      We haven’t scheduled any courses in Darwin yet, but if there is demand we can arrange. We regularly deliver corporate courses all over Australia so i will keep your details and shoot you an update in the event of any Dip PM courses in Darwin. In the meantime you can enrol online, the online course is still very engaging, with videos as well as you are able to contact your consultant as much as you need-phone email skype etc.

      Kind Regards

  2. Keep up the great work guys,

    It’s amazing the successes that some PM’s have simply due to their passion to see a project succeed.

    I’m looking forward to attending your Project Management Diploma on Perth.


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