Frenemies?

cop21pic

Working with stakeholders of various backgrounds… with varying degrees of buy-in –and bones to pick with you as well as each other… getting them all to focus on a common goal.

Sound like project management?

Sure does. That’s why this article posted just a few days ago caught my attention. That stakeholder theme drew me in – as well as the fact that it was using the COP21 meetings in Paris as the context.

The article opens: “The business community is well-represented at the United Nations climate summit underway in Paris — and it will be much more engaged in finding positive solutions than ever before.”
Brief history lesson here:
1n 1992: Five thousand delegates at the first climate summit in Rio, 13 people — were representing the business sector in that first meeting. Why? Business was considered the cause of all evil and was seen as an enemy.  Moving forward to 2015, to COP21 in Paris, and what do you have?
“More than 1,000 business representatives will be in Paris and most will be supportive of climate action, says Edward Cameron, who represents We Mean Business, a nonprofit coalition that is working with companies on climate change.”
That’s quite a change! And here comes the other project management-y piece to this story. It doesn’t take too much imagination to conclude that 1,000 businesses focused on climate change are going to be launching tens of thousands of projects geared to make climate-change-oriented (and of course profit oriented!) goals. Goals that used to be considered at odds with each other, and now, by orders of magnitude, considered to be quite aligned.
As we said in our first book (Green Project Management, which, by the way,  has a cover which features a tree that yields paper money) and now our second book (Driving Project, Program, and Portfolio Success), the two endeavors of social and planetary “good” and making money are not enemies.

They’re not at odds with each other at all – rather, they are complementary and (for lack of a better term) synergistic.
It’s yet to be seen if the stakeholders of COP21 can come up with an agreement – after all, another interest group represented is government – but we see good news in the fact that business is participating not as an enemy but as a partner; and we hope that the project management community recognizes this partnership and the focus on sustainability not as a threat or a set of new constraints but rather a whole new set of opportunities.

So we would argue that business and sustainability are not friends, nor enemies, nor frenemies, but rather partners.  And although climate change presents a very real threat, the solutions that will be brought to bear will require project managers in vast quantities.  That being the case, we should be thinking about the partnerships we can build as PMs to make these solutions reality.