Find the purpose of your project with three simple questions

by Christopher Cook

What is the purpose of your project or project justification? Are you able to build a strong business case for your next project?

Life is difficult. People make it more difficult. If the purpose is known, it becomes much clearer. Rather than turning into a life coach right now, find the purpose of the project.

When the work is no longer the reward, and you do not get paid enough for these kinds of issues, it takes a reframing of why you are doing what you are doing. Finding the purpose of your work helps you to get back on track.

Peter Diamandis, the founder of the X Prize Foundation, gives his audience three questions to help find their purpose. While these questions are specifically related to an individual’s pursuits, I will reframe them in reference to a project.

Three questions to ask yourself when finding your project purpose:

 1. What did you want to do when you were a child before anybody told you what you were supposed to do? (Diamandis, 2016)

A project manager, of course!

I doubt that was your answer. Astronaut, President, firefighter, and model are more likely closer to your answer. Putting out fires in the managing sense probably was not atop the list.

To reframe this question, what did you want this project to be when it first started? I am sure the direction and positioning of things have changed since the beginning but try to remember that kickoff meeting where everyone thinks they are winning the Super Bowl. Every team starts out 0-0. Contenders start to separate themselves five to six weeks into the season.

At this point, you start to realize this project is failing. There is no Super Bowl this year. You are not even going to make the playoffs. Now the goal becomes to play out the season, or project, like it, still matters. Make something from nothing.

2. What was it you wanted to become?

A project manager, of course!

Again, probably not the answer. Happy and successful are probably at the top of this list. Walking the red carpet amongst the rich and famous. Bright lights staring back at you as the world focuses its attention on what you are wearing.

Instead, what was it you wanted this product or service to become? Making the most money seems like a valiant idea until greed comes into play. All of a sudden, your friends at the beginning become your lifelong enemies at the end. The quality of the product starts to suffer because you are cutting costs to make more profit.

3. What did you want to do more than anything else?

A project manager, of course! (Is that joke tired yet?)

Change the world. Make a positive impact on people’s lives. All of these are idealistic and realistic goals.

The same can be said for projects. A $1 product that positively impacts 1 million people is a success. Again, is that what you envisioned starting this project? Some project managers focus only on the bottom line. They make moves based solely on dollars and cents. Others prefer to people manage putting together teams that work well together despite being more expensive.

The environment created around a project impacts the success as well. If money is the object, turnover rates will be high because the human aspect is not considered. Decisions will be weighed exclusively on the money being spent. Even if the benefit is small and affects the minority, the savings becomes worth it.

Refocus the energy on what you want to do more than anything else with this project. Money and notoriety come organically with success. If you are seeking the biggest projects to become the face of project management, that crash landing is going to hurt.


This ideal approach has its benefits. It brings you back to a simpler time when so much thought was not involved. Who knew only a select amount of individuals have the physical abilities to play professional sports? If you are reading this, you probably were not selected in any professional team’s draft, but I appreciate your time.

Refocusing your attention on the project gives you a better understanding of why you are willing to go through the daily struggles. The late-night phone calls and early morning emails do not seem so bad when the objective is clear. When the situation gets murky, that is when things get complicated. Quitting becomes real rather than a threat.

These three questions (What did you want to do when you were a child before anybody told you what you were supposed to do?, What was it you wanted to become?, and What did you want to do more than anything else?) help you to shift that negativity back towards the purpose. When the purpose is clear, the work becomes the reward.

Find your project purpose.

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