What is success, updated,


At EarthPM, we do some serious thinking about projects, project management, project managers, and their stakeholders.  One of the recurring questions which interests us is this one:

What is project success?

It’s much more complicated than it sounds, but it can be as simple as the smile you see above.

We will be presenting in several venues over the next few months: at the New England PMI Summit, at the APCON2013 conference in San Jose, Costa Rica, at the PMI North America Congress in New Orleans, Louisiana and at the PMO Symposium in San Diego, California.  As we develop the workshops for these sessions, more and more we are discovering that the intersection of PM and sustainability has to do with punctuation.  By that, we mean that as a discipline, project managers like to put a period at the end of our project.  Or perhaps an exclamation point.  But perhaps it should be a comma.

Heresy!  Heresy!  We already hear you saying it.  Projects, by definition, have a definitive start and finish.  They can’t end in a comma!


(See… we did it!)

Well, project managers can end their projects with a comma.  And they should.  And we’re going to leave it like that, hanging there, like that, for now, and have you stay tuned.  The smiling young lady at the top of our post is a clue – a strong hint of things to come,


(and yes, we ended in a comma),


The most recent issue of PM Network magazine has a fantastic article called “The Value Proposition”.  Below is the opening quote, from Elizabeth Virdin, PMP(R), one of the better, and most ‘sustainability-oriented’ quotes we’ve seen in a long time:


It’s her view of value – and aligns with a mature view of “success”.  The smiling girl at the top of our post is indicative of a sustainably happy stakeholder set – happy with the value that the project brings in its steady state.  THAT IS SUCCESS.

And this is not just happy academic stuff.  It’s extremely real and extremely tied in to cash.

Have a look at this graphic, also from the same article:


That’s a significant difference.  And all it’s saying (like we [and others] have been for years) is that if you connect your project’s objectives to those of the organization – including sustainability objectives – you do better.  And it’s doubly about sustainability, because as Elizabeth so eloquently put it, you save wasted effort, energy, and materials if you’ve developed maturity in this area.

We’ll have much more to say about this at our upcoming presentations,


Schools – taken to school – about sustainability and sustainability projects

umass-sustainability initiative

Our Commonwealth’s flagship public university – The University of Massachusetts, Amherst, was just selected as one of 22 schools in the US (out of nearly 400) to get a perfect score on The Princeton Review’s Green Colleges rankings, earning it an Honor Roll position.

It’s nice because it’s the Alma Mater of one of EarthPM’s co-founders, but more importantly there are lessons learned from the press release.  Pay particular attention to the criteria.  These are the same sorts of criteria you can hold up to your projects, programs, and portfolio of projects, especially as they are handed off to operations.



Press Release:

NEW YORK, August 5, 2013—The Princeton Review – known for its education services helping students choose and get in to colleges – today reported its annual “Green Ratings” of colleges. The project, now in its sixth year, offers a measure of how environmentally friendly the schools are on a scoring scale of 60 to 99.

The Company tallied the scores for 832 colleges this year, based on data it collected in its 2012-13 surveys of schools concerning their sustainability-related practices, policies and academic offerings. (Criteria follow.)

The “Green Rating” scores appear in the profiles of the colleges posted today on www.PrincetonReview.com and in the profiles of the schools in the 2014 editions of two Princeton Review guidebooks that go on sale tomorrow, August 6: “The Best 378 Colleges” ($23.99) and “The Complete Book of Colleges” ($26.99), published by Random House.

The Princeton Review’s “2014 Green Rating Honor Roll”
Twenty-two colleges that received the highest possible score (99) in this year’s tallies made The Princeton Review’s “2014 Green Rating Honor Roll.” The list, which appears in “The Best 378 Colleges” book and online at www.princetonreview.com/green-honor-roll.aspx, includes:

(in alphabetical order)

  • American University (Washington, DC)
  • California State University, Chico (Chico, CA)
  • College of the Atlantic (Bar Harbor, ME)
  • Columbia University (New York, NY)
  • Cornell University (Ithaca, NY)
  • Dickinson College (Carlisle, PA)
  • Georgia Institute of Technology (Atlanta, GA)
  • Green Mountain College (Poultney, VT)
  • Lewis & Clark College (Portland, OR)
  • Middlebury College (Middlebury, VT)
  • Pomona College (Claremont, CA)
  • Portland State University (Portland, OR)
  • Stanford University (Palo Alto, CA)
  • University of California – Irvine (Irvine, CA)
  • University of California – Los Angeles (Los Angeles, CA)
  • University of California – Santa Barbara (Santa Barbara, CA)
  • University of California – Santa Cruz (Santa Cruz, CA)
  • University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (Urbana, IL)
  • University of Massachusetts Amherst (Amherst, MA)
  • University of South Florida (Tampa, FL)
  • University of Washington (Seattle, WA)
  • University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point (Stevens Point, WI)

Said Robert Franek, The Princeton Review Senior VP/Publisher, “The schools on our “Green Rating” Honor Roll demonstrated truly exceptional commitments to sustainability across key issues we looked at from course offerings and recycling programs to plans for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. We salute their administrators, faculty, and students for their collective efforts to protect and preserve our environment.”

Franek noted the increasing interest among students in attending “green” colleges. Among 9,955 college applicants The Princeton Review surveyed in 2013 for its “College Hopes & Worries Survey,” 62% said having information about a college’s commitment to the environment would impact their decision to apply to or attend a school.

The Princeton Review has dedicated a resource area on its website at www.princetonreview.com/green for students interested in attending a green college. There, users can also download “The Princeton Review’s Guide to 322 Green Colleges: 2013 Edition”—the only free, comprehensive guidebook to the nation’s most environmentally responsible colleges. The free guide is a project The Princeton Review has done for four years in partnership with the U.S. Green Building Council (www.usgbc.org). Published April 16, 2013, this year’s 215-page guide has profiles of schools that received scores of 83 or higher in the Company’s “Green Rating” tallies for 2013 (reported August 2012). The guide can be downloaded at www.princetonreview.com/green-guide.aspx or at www.centerforgreenschools.org/greenguide.

Criteria for The Princeton Review’s “Green Rating”
The Princeton Review tallied its “Green Rating” scores based on data it obtained from the colleges in response to a 2012-13 institutional survey that asked:

1) The percentage of food expenditures that goes toward local, organic or otherwise environmentally preferable food.
2) Whether the school offers mass transit programs, bike sharing, facilities for bicyclists, bicycle and pedestrian plans, car sharing, carpool discount, carpool/vanpool matching, cash-out of parking, prohibiting idling, local housing, telecommuting, and condensed workweek.
3) Whether the school has a formal committee with participation from students that is devoted to advancing sustainability on campus.
4) Whether buildings that were constructed or underwent major renovations in the past three years are LEED certified.
5) The school’s overall waste diversion rate.
6) Whether the school has an environmental studies major, minor or concentration.
7) Whether the school’s students graduate from programs that include sustainability as a required learning outcome or include multiple sustainability learning outcomes.
8) Whether the school has a formal plan to mitigate its greenhouse gas emissions.
9) The percentage of the school’s energy consumption that is derived from renewable resources.
10) Whether the school employs a dedicated full-time (or full-time equivalent) sustainability officer.

The Rising Tide of Climate-Based Projects

sox worry


We’re not telling you to worry.  We’re telling you that people are worried.  People with money.  People who launch and sponsor projects.  They’re worried to the tune of nearly half-a-trillion US dollars.  Where is this worrying taking place?

Deep in the heart of Boston.  Thus, the image of the very worried young Red Sox fan in this post.

On the same day that John Henry, one of the owners of the Boston Red Sox, buys the Boston Globe, the front page story covering that news item is dominated by another, larger-headlined front page story by Casey Ross, entitled: A Rising Tide of Concern.


The article discusses reaction to climate change by real-estate owners and developers based on real and predicted sea-level and extreme weather changes.

You don’t have to believe ANYTHING about climate change – whether or not its real, who causes it, what the science behind it is or isn’t… all one has to do is look at the article and the amount of money at least imagined to be at risk, and the projects that this concern is launching, to realize that as a project manager, it’d be smart to be smarter about the subject in general.  That’s the point of EarthPM and the point of  our book as well as new chapters in books like the one just participated in, Sustainability Integration for Effective Project Management, and an upcoming chapter on sustainability in the AMA Project Management Handbook.

Being SMARTER (actually one of the concepts from the book Green Project Management) is the right thing to do.

Start by reading the article and you let us know if you do NOT see the intersection of climate change and project management – of sustainability and PM.




We have always asserted that vocabulary is particularly important for project managers.  Why?  Glad you asked.

It’s because we end up overseeing – coordinating – animating – conducting work in which we are not necessarily the leading expert.  What that means is that we must know the SMEs (Subject Matter Experts) to seek out to be able to run our projects properly.  And to do that well, we need to be able to gain their trust and confidence and of course we need to be able to ‘talk the talk’ of the particular practice area, even if we are not the experts ourselves.

So yes, we hope you agree that for our discipline of Project Management, vocabulary is important.

And today we want to focus on a word not used every day (other than perhaps in the film industry): juxtaposition.

Here is the Dictionary.com definition:




1. an act or instance of placing close together or side by side, especially for comparison or contrast.
2. the state of being close together or side by side.

OK, great, you (may have) taught me a new word, EarthPM, but what the (bleeeeep)* does it have to do with Project Management or Sustainability?  Or are you going to again tell us that it has to do with both?

Well, yes, of course we are.

Have a look at this clip from the just released PM Network magazine:


The articles shown are both interesting and we recommend that you read PM Network.  As a PMI member, the magazine is free and it’s a tremendous resource.

But now, finally, to our point.

The two articles are juxtaposed perfectly – PERFECTLY – to make our ongoing points.  Start with the article on the left, “ANCHORING PROJECTS TO STRATEGY”.

1. Projects (and project managers) are located specifically at that junction between strategy and operations.  We are where the rubber hits the road.  Or in this case, the ship plies the waters (using their ‘anchor’ metaphor).

2. Enterprises are increasingly making sustainability a big part of their mission and vision statements and thus, of course, their strategies.

3. Projects (and project managers) should be connecting (anchoring) their project objectives to the more strategic objectives of their enterprises.

Now, bring your eyes slightly to the right, to the perfectly-juxtaposed article “SMOG CASTS SHADOW OVER RAILROAD PROJECT”.

Looks to us as if this is an example of a project which became ‘un-moored’, ‘un-anchored’ from its strategic objectives, at least a little.  And we think it’s quite relevant that the objective in question is a sustainability-based objective.

It’s not the articles themselves that’s so important – it’s their juxtaposition.

And if nothing else, you have learned how that word – juxtaposition – can be used and put it into your vocabulary.  Who knows.  Your next project may involve a film director!

 *you already know this word

Hypoxia Revisited

We blogged about hypoxia (this seems surreal) more than three years ago, at which time we referred to our book, Green Project Management, as “our upcoming book”.  A lot happens in three years.  The book is out, has been recognized with PMI’s highest award for literature, and has been used in University courses on sustainability.   And, that book directly covers the topic of hypoxia in the Gulf of Mexico, and today it (hypoxia, that is, not our book) made it into the CBS Evening News:

You may want to visit our older post, here.

Or, for your convenience,

From PlanetSave.com, there is this very good and concise description:

Dead zones — whether hypoxic (very low oxygen) or anoxic (no oxygen) — are caused primarily by high-levels of nutrient pollution. This nutrient pollution — mostly the fertilizers used in industrial agriculture — causes large algal blooms which use up all of the oxygen in a given environment. As a result, the environment becomes devoid of life — a “dead zone”. These deadzones have been increasing in frequency and scale since at least the 1970s. More than 1.7 million tons of potassium and nitrogen make their way into the Gulf of Mexico every year as a result of agricultural runoff — via the Mississippi river.

If the 2013 Gulf of Mexico dead zone becomes as large as is being predicted it will cover an area the size of New Jersey. The 2013 predictions were made by modelers at the University of Michigan, Louisiana State University, and the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium.

As we will be in Louisiana – New Orleans in particular – at the end of October, for the PMI North America Congress, we bring this again into focus as an example of a trigger for projects in the area of sustainability.  Anything that can reduce the flow of chemical fertilizers into the Mississippi, any ‘outcome’ that contributes to the decrease of hypoxia, is a ‘green by nature’ project, so it gets our attention.

And that’s not where it stops.  Not by a longshot.  Because hypoxia is a good example of the lessons to be learned for the other end – the ‘green in general’ part of the sustainability-in-PM spectrum.  We say this because it’s a very real example of how long-term thinking can and should be part of ANY project.  If your project produces a steady-state outcome (think: fertilizers into the Gulf) you can work this back into your risk register and an expanded definition of project success that will have you thinking – properly – like a a sustainability-oriented PM, an evolved PM.

In any case – it certainly cannot hurt to get educated about the science of hypoxia.

We look forward to meeting some of you in New Orleans!