Project managers, just say no!

But use what is in project management system and your people skills.

Over the last 18 months I have seen more and more pressure placed on project managers. There is a huge demand from senior managers and stakeholder and clients to deliver quicker, with the same level of quality and of course, on budget!

I have seen some pretty stressed project managers and they have expressed it to me in many ways; some direct others not so.

Is there anything a project manager can do? The key is being proactive and using some of the tools within project management. These will all help a project manager say no!

Now before project managers tell me that it’s impossible to do this I want to put a couple of qualifying statements to support this:

  • you will need to use all of your soft skills to ensure success in this area
  • if some of you continue as you will suffer burnout, or simply fail to deliver the objectives set out in your project

There are ways to say no – use the project management approach and these tips

  1. Ensure that you have a clear business case – the business case sets out the business benefits and the reason why you are doing the project. Any changes to the project (some will be positive!) will need to be checked against the business case and benefits and you will need to refer whoever wants these changes to this document
  2. Use the project scope – there is often a request to do something which is clearly outside the scope of the project. If it is outside scope then this needs to be communicated to the person requesting the extra work
  3. Protection – project managers, you need to be protecting the scope, business benefits and objectives. This means openly communicating to anyone who wants changes that impact them.
  4. Risk management – have a clear risk register that is scored with clear actions and responsibilities to manage each risk. Use this to manage extra requests for work and communicate the impact on the project

    Project managers say no and use your project management approach to help you


  5. Stakeholder management and communications plans – ensure you have them and use them both to communicate. I worked in one company where a particular department were always putting extra pressure on project managers. Project managers said that they always wanted to change scope and they did not have any idea the impact on projects. I suggested ‘how about setting up a meeting to discuss joint issues with a view to greater transparency and problem solving?’ Nods of heads all the way round
  6. Stakeholder and client involvement – involve them as much as possible in the project. However, do ensure that everyone’s role is clear. Decisions have to be made can they be made by these people or is it the responsibility of the steering group or project manager? Use a RACI chart?
  7. Effective change control – project management processes have clear change control processes. This means before any change is actioned it goes through some form of evaluation and then, and only then will the possible change be decided upon by the steering group or sponsor (or in some cases project manager). If you don’t have a change control process, develop onbe and have it as an integral part of your processes.

I repeat; you will need to use all of your people management skills; being assertive, listening, asking questions, giving feedback, articulating how you feel. These and more and the tools mentioned in 1-6 above will help you say no….without saying no.

The choice is to be proactive and deal with what’s in front of you. Or, simply leave things as they are; or, if you have any suggestions then let me know.


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