Delivering Projects Through Persistence and Intelligent Disobedience

Posted on August 31, 2021

One of my favorite stories of intelligent disobedience involves a marriage proposal – that is, the 6th marriage proposal.

Norman was persistent, repeatedly asking Suzie to marry him every few months. Suzie, equally persistent, would reply no, citing differences regarding managing finances and future plans they needed to resolve. Deep down, she wanted to get married, but only if she felt comfortable they were aligned on important life matters.

Suzie decided to change her tactic without compromising her beliefs or her desire to align their views. The next time Norman proposed to her, she exercised intelligent disobedience by replying “yes, with conditions.” Norman was elated, then stepped back when he absorbed what Suzie said.

Suzie then shared her recommendations for managing finances and plans for their future. While Norman didn’t accept her recommendations initially, they both were energized by the conditional acceptance of the marriage proposal. Persistence continued to be their approach. Two months after Suzie’s conditional proposal acceptance, she accepted “formally.” They have been married for 15 years.

The lessons for project managers from this example are substantial…using persistence and a bit of intelligent disobedience can be the difference between a project idea that fades away, and project outcomes that move your business forward.

Don’t give up if you truly believe. If you feel in your head and heart that something is right, don’t back down easily. Be persistent – try different ways to present your idea. Recruit others to get support. Emphasize that you are debating your points for the sake of the business you support. 

Find the common ground, then work through differences. Suzie and Norman had significant things in common – they both loved each other and wanted to be together. That became the basis for moving forward to establish the foundation of their marriage. Establishing a common agreement and desire for project outcomes, and fully understanding the impact of those outcomes provides the impetus to move forward. Let the drive for improvement motivate the discovery of a pathway through your differences. 

Respect each other’s “truth.” Your truth is based on your experiences, victories, and setbacks. The stakeholders you are influencing each have their truth, built in the same manner. Striving to understand and accept the truth of your stakeholder with the same passion you accept your own truth helps create solutions that are amenable to everyone. 

Let the differences build relationships. Understanding and appreciating each other’s truth and delivering a project by working through differences or adversity can create strong connections with your stakeholders. Foster deeper relationships within the project pathways you traverse – it will make you a stronger project manager.

These tips are taken from my book Intelligent Disobedience: The Difference Between Good and Great Leaders and my Leading with Intelligent Disobedience course on LinkedIn Learning. It’s one of over 20 courses I have on the LinkedIn Learning platform. You can access the course via this link:

Not a member of LinkedIn Learning? You’ll get to view the introduction to the course and will be given the opportunity to get a free trial which will give you access to the entire LinkedIn Learning Library of courses.