Exploring the Ramifications of Unexplained Shelved Projects

Back view of thoughtful bearded young businessman sitting and woking with graph and charts on computer

The Silent Impact: Exploring the Ramifications of Unexplained Shelved Projects. There is a big difference between analysis paralysis and doing nothing deliberately.

As I wrote in my June article this year, “Stop Wringing Your Hands,” most of the time, action is required. We find ourselves in positions where a situation has become untenable, and unless we are willing to change, things will get progressively and substantially worse.

However, that is not always the case. Sometimes, the best course of action is no action at all. Occasionally, we do not have the capital, leadership or organisational will to successfully change and trying to do so will cause more harm than good. 

The challenge is understanding the difference and communicating why you have decided to go in a particular direction.

I have sat at many a boardroom table when people decided to do nothing after hundreds of hours and tens of thousands of dollars were spent to develop strategies and gain insights into whatever project it may be. The challenge is that those hours spent are usually not done by those in the room. Responsibility was delegated to others who diligently researched, conducted meetings and interviews, followed up, and wrote concise reports with budgets and timelines to get projects green-lit, to no avail.

Those people were invested in the project and became excited about the outcome, but no result came to pass.

So, what happens when shelved projects include no communication to justify what happened and why?

People become frustrated.

They feel that their effort is for nothing, their work has little value, and they question their self-worth. If this process happens over and over, devastating things will happen. Those charged with creating reports will spend less time doing so and will be less diligent because they don’t believe that their work matters and that the project will ever see the light of day. 

They will become far less engaged in everyday projects and less invested in the company’s success.

This can also lead to pockets of discontent within the organisation that wreak havoc on the organization’s culture and can cause great employees to look elsewhere for employment.

So how do we fix this?


Effective communication is not about the what but about enabling people to understand the why.

It is about enabling people to feel that they matter, and the decision to back away from a project had nothing to do with their great work but rather other factors that came into play.

A ten-minute conversation with the team who put the proposal together with senior leaders can make people feel they matter; they have been heard and valued.

Business is far more about people than it is about systems and processes. You can control systems and processes and predict outcomes based on various inputs. 

People, however, are a different matter.

You can never be precisely sure what will frustrate someone or how they will react.

The more we can realize this and take the time to communicate decisions in ways that people can understand and embrace, the easier business becomes, the faster cultures grow and the more profitable you can become.