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…