Project Team: The man in the arena

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Theodore Roosevelt, 26th President on the United States, gave a speech at the Sorbonne in Paris on 23 April 1910. The speech was entitled Citizenship in the Republic. Of the speech, I like one particular passage which is known as ‘The Man in the Arena’1

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.

The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Projects encounter resistance. There will be naysayers, critics, cynics, doomsayers, pessimists, disparagers, disbelievers, and others seeking to prevent progress. Ideas and suggestions can be ignored, or put down in ways that might be considered curt and hurtful.

During these times visible support of the Great and the Good is important. The senior individuals in the organisation, the project board and if there is one the programme board, should be seen and heard providing backing to the project team; reminding them that they deserve the credit as they ‘strive to do the deeds’. Encouragement, motivation, recognition, visible support, suggestions for improvement and praise are all important.

In motivating the project team, especially the more junior members who may become dispirited, the words of Theodore Roosevelt are an important reminder. It is they who count, not the critic.  




Posted by John Chapman on 21st Apr 2017

About the Author

John Chapman is Programme Director for Touchstone FMS His twitter is An experienced Programme Director, Programme Manager, Project Director and Project Manager; having led Programmes of business change, implemented Financial Accounting Systems, Spend Control systems, and Document Management solutions International Project implementation experience, with a good understanding of the challenges of working with different cultures, and the logistics of international project delivery. Publications include: Author of a. Your Project Needs You, b. Kafka, Pulp Fiction, Beer and Projects, c. ‘Project and Programme Accounting, a practical guide for Professional Service Organisations and IT’ published by Project Manager Today Publications. d. Member of the authoring group of the Gower Handbook of Programme Management 1st Edition. e. An acknowledged contributor to Managing Successful Programmes, 1st Edition and the APM Introduction to Programme Management 1st edition. The author of a range of educational video podcasts which are published at He is Communications Lead for APM Programme Management Specific Interest Group  (

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