Juxtaposition

filmjuxta

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:

jux·ta·po·si·tion

[juhk-stuh-puhzishuhn] 

noun

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:

PMNetworkaugust2013

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

Hannover and over and over again

We’re in the midst of reading the newest book by William McDonough and Michael Braungart, authors of Cradle to Cradle.  The book is called Upcycle.  In it, the authors reiterate the Hannover Principles, created by the authors.

Here they are, in short form:

  1. Insist on the right of humanity and nature to co-exist in a healthy, supportive, diverse and sustainable condition.
  2. Recognize interdependence.
  3. Respect relationships between spirit and matter.
  4. Accept responsibility for the consequences of design decisions upon human well-being, the viability of natural systems and their right to co-exist.
  5. Create safe objects of long-term value.
  6. Eliminate the concept of waste.
  7. Rely on natural energy flows.
  8. Understand the limitations of design.
  9. Seek constant improvement by the sharing of knowledge.

Now, we realize that some of these may seem flowery and vague, but their books provide the necessary substance to make them very worthwhile.

And we won’t review them all here, of course, but just look at the list – you’ll see things that should tickle your fancy as a project manager.

For example: Recognize Interdependence… as PMs, this is our strength!  We break silo walls and encourage, cajole, or sometimes even force the parts of the puzzle in our projects to work together, recognizing more than anyone how they need to work together.

For example: Eliminating Waste… as PMs we do this all the time.  We need to get the most efficient use of team members’ contributions.

For example: Sharing Knowledge… can you say ‘Lessons Learned”?

The thing is – ALL of these apply in one way or another to our discipline, not just the three obvious ones we point out above in blue.

As we said, we’re in the midst of reading the book – expect a review here later.  If you don’t – nudge us, we will do it, but we may have to be prodded.  When we do, one of the interesting project management angles will be our assessment that the authors repeatedly use the word project in the book but do not seem to identify (as we have) project managers as key contributors to the important efforts they identify.

That’s one of the reasons we’re here.  We think a lot of the “sustainability-focused” people don’t get the PM ‘thing’.  And vice-verse.  PMs don’t always get the “sustainability” thing.

Thus – the intersection of PM and sustainability… and why you should stay tuned to EarthPM.

What’s the road to Hell paved with, again?

hellish

 

…it’s not asphalt

…it’s not tar

…it’s …it’s “good intentions”.

Interesting that our partner site – People, Planet, Profits, and Projects – is carrying a post about how greenwashing, or at least efforts which are only mildly aimed at true sustainability, sometimes hit the mark, despite their (lack of good) intentions.

This got us thinking about one of those infamous 2 x 2 management matrices in which we look at intention and effectiveness.  Turns out that the P@W post about greenwashing is in one corner of a brand new 2×2 matrix, and this post is at the diagonal opposite of that same matrix.

So first, let’s introduce you to EarthPM’s brand new “paved with good intentions” chart.

pavedwgintentions

In the P@W post, Dave discusses the lower right (or southeast) quadrant.  An initiative which is questionable at best, perhaps marginally green-wash-y, has some effectiveness.  Read the story to learn more about this corner.

Today’s post here at EarthPM is about the upper left (or northwest) quadrant.  Here, all good intentions aside, sometimes these efforts fail to produce the desired effect.

We draw your attention to this article, “Out Of Sorts“, from the Boston Sunday Globe Magazine by Barbara Moran.  In it, Barbara reviews the success – or lack thereof – of some recycling programs, and asks whether the “big blue bins” are really making a difference of any kind.  Or at least, it’s a bit embarrassing for Boston’s program, with our diversion rate, the percentage of waste that is recycled, at 30%, compared to Seattle (for example) which is at 55%.

Since we are more about Project Management then about ‘recycling’ per se, we won’t go into the detail of the article, but we will provide you with a great chart called “A Deeper Dive” that shows what you can do about recycling to improve YOUR effectiveness at your office or home.  A chunk of the chart is provided below:

5things

What we would like to do is to encourage you to have a look at the ‘sustainability’ initiatives in your life – your work and your personal life, that is – and think about where they fit in our handy matrix.  What are you doing that may not have had sustainability as an original goal, but it seems to somehow be getting at that objective?  Where may you have ‘sustainable’ objectives but you’re actually creating more waste?  It’s a pretty nifty thinking tool and it’s worth applying.

Let us know if you have any ‘aha’ moments.

And by the way, stay off of that -ahem- damn road.

 

Can we make a difference? The stats and experts say, “….yes, and we need to”.

make a difference phrase on blackboard

The latest issue (web and paper) of PM Network magazine has some interesting data and interviews which were not aimed at the intersection between sustainability and PM, but which, nevertheless, made strong points – very, very strong points – for our argument that this intersection of sustainability and PM is key.

We’ll use three snippets of the magazine to show what we mean.

The first is from a web-exclusive report called “The Race Ahead“.  An odd mixture of good and bad news, let’s start off with the bad, with a piece called “Projects are missing the mark”.  In this piece, the stats show that the percentage of projects delivering on their original business goals slipped from 72% last year, to 62% this year.  Key words: original business goals.  We think all PMs need to step back, look at their enterprise-level web page – the external one, that is – and see what your organization is saying about sustainability, about Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), and about the long-term, sustained financial performance.  Although projects are -necessarily by definition – short term, their outcome is NOT.  Perhaps browse through your company’s Annual Report.  We would be very surprised if these terms aren’t featured.  Is your project connected to that?  Maybe this is one of the reasons projects are beginning to ‘separate’ from overall business goals.  We know that it’s not the singular reason – but it’s got to…make a difference.

projectsmissingmark

Here’s the good news – in contrast, and perhaps even in contradiction to the above.

Compared with last year, this graphic asserts, the percentage of projects aligned with organizational strategy is up 76%.

projectsdowntobiz

So we leave it to you to understand that dichotomy.  The takeaway is that connection to strategic (read that as ‘sustainable, long-term, thoughtful, holistic) goals, is increasing.

Below is a piece of an article from the issue in which PM and Change Management are discussed.  We do a lot of research on Change Management because – after all, the consideration of sustainability in PM is definitely a change.  Look at Mr. Sparrow’s comment below”

pmsustaincomment

Nailed it, Mr. Sparrow – spot on.

If the project manager doesn’t get the buy in from all stakeholders, using good change management principles, the project’s product probably won’t pop out, and even if it does, it will have an unsustainable outcome.  We have scores of blog posts illustrating this, check our archives.

Have a look at this month’s PM Network magazine.  Beyond these gens you will also find an article on Lean Projects that we think you’ll find interesting.