Innovation, Government, Sustainability, and Project Management

book-ISWe recently had a unique opportunity to see the United States’ former CTO (Chief Technical Officer), Aneesh Chopra, discuss his book, “Innovative State” (see image – click on it to go to Chopra’s dedicated site).

We also got to briefly discuss our book, Green Project Management with him.

Turns out, Mr. Chopra’s dad is a PMP(R)-Credentialed project manager.  So there is a strong connection there.  Also, in interviews with the author we’ve heard, he frequently refers to the importance of project management – good PM practices, that is – to government projects, such as  In that case, he says, the project was lacking good PM practices.  Evidently.  But there are a couple of major points that are made in this book as well as in TED talks and other interviews with Chopra.

In this blog post, we’ll focus on one: Open Data.  This is Chapter 5 in the book, by the way.

Not from Chapter 5, but appropriate to the subject, is a great quote from UC Berkeley professor Henry Cheesborough, “before you can effectively innovate in any open way beyond the boundary of your own firm, you have to become more open internally within your own firm”.  We like that quote because we have been huge proponents of “LinkedIn”/”Facebook”-like communities inside companies for their communities of project managers and have see the benefits they reap in terms of sharing project wisdom.

What is fascinating about the chapter on Open Data, is that it begins with Thomas Jefferson.  But not Thomas Jefferson the President, Thomas Jefferson the weather nut.  He was a meticulous record-keeper when it came to meteorology.  Read the chapter for more detail but the funny thing is, when Chopra is talking about open data, climate (and by extension sustainability) was the driver even in this example from the 1770s.

The book goes on to describe the collaboration with French ministries, the application of the telegraph and eventually the internet to weather data, and the formation of the National Weather Bureau and National Weather Service.  But the most important point is that the multibillion dollar industry around weather (think, your local TV station’s glitzy weather forecast) is all based around a single open data set provided by  The point?  The connection?

Project managers trying to make sustainability a central theme to their project offices, to their project management communities, have the same need for information, education, wisdom, knowledge, whatever you want to call it.  And we think that Open Data is appropriate at this stage for the collaboration of organizations working in this area.  Just as there is a multibillion dollar industry around weather, there is enough monetization to go around in terms of making project management a more triple-bottom-line oriented discipline.   And this is without considering the altruistic nature of making project managers a more long-term-thinking bunch.  The message, to our colleagues in the area of project management and sustainability is simply this: consider buying in to Aneesh Chopra’s idea of Open Data for the benefit it brings us collectively and to our discipline holistically.

If any of this intrigues you at all, please watch this free video where Aneesh Chopra talks about Open Data and Open Innovation, and consider how this could help promote what needs to be a stronger intersection of sustainability and project management:




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Free Green IT Webinar. Right here. Right now. Or whenever.

Simple short post.  We provide for you free below a 1-hour webinar on the subject of sustainability and IT (or popularly called GreenIT) through our partnership with the Sustainability Learning Centre.





Please enjoy.


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So close – and yet so far

cannotcatch Since we wrote Green Project Management in 2010 (and since 2011, when it was recognized with PMI’s Cleland Award for Literature), we have seen our colleagues increasingly buy in to the importance of sustainability in business and the importance of sustainability in projects.  From time to time we even  run into like-minded individuals and groups who really grasp this intersection.

But it’s elusive. Like a fly ball just… just… a little too far above your glove that could be your game ending out instead turns out to be a game-winning, stand-up triple for your opponent… it’s so close, and yet so far away.    Even when our book cover was being selected, the publisher wanted us to choose between various covers which (literally) had daisies and windmills and solar panels because of the aspect of “green” overpowering the true message we brought – the integration of sustainability thinking into projects.  In short, the idea of thinking past the end date of the project to the project being in operation for the steady state, and even thinking through to the disposal of the project’s product.

By the way, the book cover ended up being a tree (see below), but a tree that generated cash, reinforcing the idea (just as those 93% of CEOs figured out) that doing the right thing helps you do things right.   Focusing on the TRIPLE bottom line does indeed help the classical economic bottom line.


How our book cover actually came out…

Yes, of course, when we discuss projects, it could be a project to tackle poverty, save a species, build a wind farm, increase fair trade, find better, more efficient shipping routes – you name it – yes, of course it could be a “sustainability project”.  But it could also be a simple introduction of a new version of software (or a new app), a bridge, an advertising campaign, a product launch.  Our point was the same no matter the project: think long-term while planning your shorter-term project.  Understand your organization’s sustainability goals and align your project’s objectives to those goals.

So we were happy to see a feature story in the current issue of PMI’s PMNetwork magazine, entitled “Taking Responsibility”.  We particularly like the opening statistics: 93% of CEOs believe that sustainability is important to their business.

In fact, stop right here and listen to that again.  Ninety-three percent of CEOs, that is, the people who SPONSOR YOUR PROJECTS, most likely, believe that sustainability is important to their business.  So, it better be IMPORTANT TO YOUR PROJECT, which is part of a program/portfolio of projects all under the auspices of that same CEO.

However, the article, instead of talking about the overall integration of sustainability into projects, focuses on the (also important) aspect of CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) projects.   And only those projects.

In other words, the article – and much of PMI’s attention to sustainability – seems to be too ‘segmented’ or pigeon-holed into stories and themes like this article and not enough focused on the overall, holistic integration of sustainability into projects.

Sensing this, our next book, Sustainability in Projects, Programs, and Portfolios: Realizing Enterprise Benefits and Goals, will take extra time to make this clear and will even provide a tool set to measure the depth of integration in your organization – and to provide a means to shore up the areas in which you have the most room for improvement.

We are enjoying the process of writing it and trust that you’ll enjoy reading it as well.

Stay tuned to EarthPM, we promise to provide teasers and even a little content.  It will almost be like reading the book.  So close, and yet, so far away…

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Hacking Algae



This week, a strange combination of two different stories with a common thread caught our attention.

The first, we already blogged about on our “People, Planets, Profits, and Projects blog -  “All our patents are belong to you“.

In that post, we discuss how Tesla was giving away its patents for electric vehicle innovation.  Since we posted we’ve heard other interesting angles (including this one from the Naked Scientists) on that event and how it was good altruistically but also made good business sense.

The second story is here.  From the Washington Post, it’s about a company named Algenol, which has developed a patented process to create biofuel from blue-green algae.

Here’s how the story opens:

About 16 months ago, a Florida-based biofuel company called Algenol noticed that its Internet service was slowing down. In checking that out, Jack Voth, Algenol’s information technology chief, stumbled on something odd: a telnet connection to its videoconference camera from an Internet Protocol address in China, a country where Algenol has never sought to do business.

That was only the beginning. Ever since, Algenol has been on high alert for what Voth describes as “nefarious activity;” the company estimates that hackers have attempted to break into its computers 39 million times in four months this year, triple the level of a year earlier.

The most serious of these were more than 63,000 attempts that came directly from China, including 6,653 attempts over 15 months from IP addresses and servers that Algenol says are the same as the Peoples’ Liberation Army addresses identified in a public report by Mandiant, a leading computer security firm.

This indicates the demand for this type of technology.  However, there simply has to be a better way to collaborate than to hack.

We think China, or any country, is better than this.  Why not partner with Algenol rather than hack into their systems, slowing down their IT systems and distracting them from their mission?  We’d encourage those who are undertaking this attempt to “aggressively borrow” the intellectual property of Algenol to instead seek to collaborate.  And we would encourage Algenol to consider the model developed by Tesla in our other story.  Perhaps this business model would work for them as well.

Here’s a brief video about the process Algenol uses to produce fuel from algae with their founder, Paul Woods.Probably not enough detail for the ‘hack-inclined’ but still very interesting…

The project management angle is the theme of mission/vision and how it’s connected to the portfolio of projects that an enterprise undertakes to accomplish them.

Should one of the subtending programs in the portfolio be… collaboration?


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It’s about time… <<** UPDATE 2 **>>




<**UPDATED**> To  show the feedback from our presentation (see below).

A long, long time ago, there was a television show that was about, well, it was about “a long long time ago”.  The show, “It’s About Time”, didn’t last long.  You can judge for yourself why by watching a full episode here.

But it is appropriate for this post, because we wanted to talk about the aspect of scheduling – in particular project scheduling, which indeed is about time, that has to do with sustainability and long-term project management thinking.

We were asked to present at the Scheduling Community of Practice (PMI’s Scheduling CoP) Annual Conference and actually recorded our session – on schedule – today.

It aired on the CoP’s session on July 10.  We were on for 2:15 to 3:15 PM Eastern US time, see the chart below; see the feedback right under that.




reviews of Scheduling CoP preso



The session is  available for replay.  It’s 45 minutes long with questions and answers but here we’d just like to give you the core message by giving you a sneak peek at one slide.


We know the blog post title is “It’s About Time”, and it is.  But this core message – the message of or talk at the Scheduling CoP – is that within time management, it’s about perspective.  Here you see a PM focused as he should be on the alarms, headaches, tasks, and milestones of his project.  But he has his back towards the future and is blind to it as he focuses intently on the present.  If he stays in this position throughout the project, not only does he risk a spinal injury, he fails to take advantage of the perspective to be gained by looking at the steady state of his project.

Now look at this PM’s alter ego – the one wearing white, peering ahead at the future with – gasp – binoculars.  This PM is letting the project (the blue area) temporarily get ‘squished’ so that he can see the future (the green area) in more detail and take back lessons, information, stakeholders, risks, and context back (ironically – back) to his project.

So if you were wondering about the possible relationship between the Scheduling Community of Practice and our long-term perspective of PM (featured in our book, Green Project Management), there you have it in very short form.

The Scheduling CoP conference is to take place on 10-July 2014 AD.  Click on the image below – or here - for details.  See you there!  Be on time!



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