Larval Assumptions = Grown-up Threats


I have blogged several times on the subject of how assumptions are the larval form of risk (particularly threats).  Whatever judgements you make about the scenario of your project (or for that matter, your business) are actually pre-statements of risk identification.

For example, if you are managing a project that involves a lot of business between the USA and France, and you assume the value of the Euro to the dollar is stable, that is an assumption.  If you acknowledge the fact that the dollar may rise or fall relative to the Euro (and are aware of the implications of that fall or rise) then you have identified a potential risk.  Of course, it’s up to you to record that risk (or assumption) consciously in your project documents.

The point is: any assumption you make should be recorded.  And you should watch them – because they may grow, perhaps like that plant in “Little Shop of Horrors” to become a huge project threat.

I’d like to jump from the Project level to the Planet level for a moment, to expand your thinking.

A front-page story in today’s Cape Cod Times is – literally – a Fish Story.  It’s about how the warming trend of the Atlantic Ocean has caused 50% of the adult fish species in the Northeastern US waters are relocating to cooler waters north and further offshore, as the Cape Cod waters warm.  This is a known, confirmed, scientific fact.  What is ‘newsy’ here is that up until now, there was not much known about how the larvae of the fish have adapted.  Would they stay?  Or will they also move northwards and outwards?  A new study, referenced in the story, revealed that the larvae as well have moved offshore, and/or have changed patterns in terms of their emergence in response to warming ocean temperatures.

This obviously has changed the scenario for the fish.  But any business involved in fishing or overseeing fishing, should be aware that assumptions about fish staying put in the context of ocean warming could be missing out on facts that, in turn, drive business decisions.

A quote from the article says, “Overall, these changes may make some species less productive and scientists may need to re-evaluate population goals used in fishery management.”

So in this case we literally see assumptions as the larval stage of threats.

It’s another direct connection between sustainability thinking and project management.

They aren’t always so direct and literal, but in this case, the “fish story” can teach us quite directly.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Earth – the final frontier


NASA is the United States’ National Aeronautics and Space Administration.  It was established in 1958 by an act of Congress (literally) with this charter:

“The expansion of human knowledge of phenomena in the atmosphere and space”.

And yes, NASA has explored vast areas of space as well as turning its focus back on this planet (yes, Earth is a planet), to discover things like the hole in the ozone layer, and to observe planetary changes with high-resolution time-lapse photography from satellite imagery.

A recent editorial in 170-year-old magazine Scientific American talks to the fact that there are those – politicians –  who want NASA to avert its eyes of Earth science, possibly denying that it is a science at all.  And they have been able to divert monies for the study of our planet to other space efforts.  In one example, they have given NASA much, much more money than they asked for to study Jupiter’s moons, and much, much less money than they had asked for to study climate change.

We think NASA should be in charge of its mission, clearly chartered in 1958.

Have a look at what they have discovered about OUR planet at this portion of NASA’s web page, called “Images of Change“.  It seems some people are afraid of the facts, so they are just pointing the telescope away…

We at EarthPM encourage you to make up your own mind.   Look at those pictures.  Also experiment with NASA’s interactive application:

Climate Time Machine

You decide.  Should politicians be allowed to deny us this type of space exploration?  Is Earth part of space?  Should NASA continue to do this sort of work? We think so.


(By the way, the picture above, which looks indeed like it came from another planet, is indeed of Lake Mead, Planet Earth, showing how this lake has shrunk in the last 16 years)

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Comments Off on Earth – the final frontier

Workin’ on a Chain Gang

“In all projects, a number of decisions are made.  Many think of decision making as the core activities of a project manager; thus, competence in decision making and tools to aid the decision-making process are of crucial importance for project success”.

This is the opening paragraph of the first article (“Project Decision Chain“) in the August/September issue of the PM Journal.  The article, by authors Rolstadas, Pinto, Falster, and Venkataraman, from practical academics at Penn State University and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, is an excellent – and unexpectedly ‘readable’ – one, covering the science and art of decision-making in PM, making the case for more formality and rigor in our discipline.

In effect, we work on project teams (gangs) and oversee chains of decisions.  So yes, indeed, we are out there, working on a chain gang!

But back to the article.  The part that caught OUR attention was the section in which they spend extra attention distinguishing between project success and project management success, just as we do in our upcoming book, Driving Sustainable Success in Projects, Programs and Portfolios”.

Pinto, et al, use the same example of the Sydney Opera House and its long-term considered success as a landmark building even though the project itself was way over budget and exceedingly late.  We like their use of the terms process and outcome models to differentiate the way many look at the world as compared to how we assert project managers should be looking at the world.  The process model focuses on project KPIs like real-time project spending and schedule measurements, versus outcome models, which look at the long-term provision of benefits (or not) by the product of the project.

We highly recommend that you include this in your reading this month.  It would be a good decision on your part!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Workin’ on a Chain Gang

Regardez! La Tour Eiffel a maintenant l’énergie verte!




You will have to look carefully (and that’s the way it should be, of course) but the Eiffel Tower now sports wind turbines.  In this very interesting article you can read about a project to add wind power and other sustainability-oriented features to the French landmark.

What we like about this project is the connection to the mission statement and vision of the leadership of the organization which maintains the tower.  Run by SETE (Société d’Exploitation de la Tour Eiffel) the group plans to to reduce the tower’s environmental impact by 25 percent as part of the City of Paris Climate Plan.  Tying their goals to their projects is exactly what we had in mind for enterprise in our new book, Driving Sustainability Success in Projects, Programs and Portfolios.

Have a look at the article.


Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Regardez! La Tour Eiffel a maintenant l’énergie verte!



I just finished reading a terrific article “The Most Invasive Species of All”, by Curtis Marean in the August 2015 edition of Scientific American. sciamcover

It goes back, way back. Nope, even further than that. Yes, it goes back about 200,000 years, when our ancestor H. sapiens were established in Africa and then to about 70,000 years ago when, in one of the largest unrecorded examples of scope creep, went to almost every corner of the Earth.

There are two project management and sustainability aspects to the article. And it turns out that the two are related.

  1. Consistent findings that wherever H. sapiens went, there followed significant ecological change. Sometimes this meant the extinction of other human species (Neanderthal and Denisovan populations) and the extinction of megafauna (large mammals).
  2. H. sapiens may have succeeded in their expansion due to something the author calls hyperprosociality – a proclivity for collaboration.

The first item speaks to the idea that whatever you think about climate change caused by humans, the evidence is overwhelming that where H. Sapiens have expanded, they have indeed affected the ecology. Interesting, but not the main point of this post.

I found myself fascinated by the theory the author poses – which is that this concept of hyperprosociality is a genetically-encoded trait (not a learned behavior).

PMI tells us about the importance of collecting lessons learned and in setting up a learning organization, in which project managers succeed by NOT repeating missteps and by duplicating things that work. This ancient but extremely human example discussed in the article shows the power of collaboration – power that literally – quite literally – allowed H. sapiens to take over the entire world, in large part because they collaborated, in highly complex coordinated group activities. As the author puts it, “with the ability to operate in groups of unrelated individuals, H. sapiens was well on its way to becoming an unstoppable force”.

Now let’s take it back to t the number 1 point. If we are indeed facing a threat from climate change, and it’s human-caused (or even if not) it probably is going to take that same ‘proclivity for collaboration’ to counter the effects and reverse the trend.

And project managers – we are collaborator coordinators extraordinaire – we need to play a major role in the effort.

Even if you have no interest in those issues, you should let yourself be inspired by our own ancestors – and the power they derived from collaboration. Use that power!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Hyperprosociality