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!

The Psychology of Sustainability – the Green Brain


This is one of the better talks on Sustainability we’ve heard in a while.

It’s by Simran Sethi, a journalist who has been called one of the 10 (or 20, depending on who’s counting) most influential women in sustainability.  Here she talks about the way she personally experienced ‘culture clash’ when she moved to Lawrence, Kansas from New York City.  But the scope of her talk is much larger – and she covers topics near and dear to  our hearts as project managers, such topics as stakeholder management, risk response, even (though not mentioned specifically) Maslow and Herzberg’s motivational theories.

A couple of quotes (or near quotes) we like:

“those who don’t believe in science believe in thermometers

“value exists beyond the balance sheet”

“when it comes to assessing and responding to risks, as humans we tend to react only to those which are

  • instantaneous
  • imminent
  • personalized
  • repulsive”

Watch it – you will enjoy it.

You’ll find it on the Greenbiz.com video site – just click HERE.  It’s under 12 minutes long.  You have the time.  You won’t be sorry.


Is every day earth day?


We were just wondering – if today is Earth day, what are the other 364 days?

We don’t make a huge deal of the day for that reason – even though we put the planet’s name in our company identity.

Today, we actually just want to bring up the 3-year-old Macondo Well, a.k.a. Gulf oil spill, a.k.a. BP oil spill, a.k.a. Deepwater Horizon.  And we bring it up in terms of long-term effects.  Not the long-term effects of the oil itself (although that’s critically important) but the long-term effects on the company, the employer, the entity known as BP.

Today we saw the results of a poll which shows that three years out, after spending over US$100M on advertising (and of course US$42B on the cleanup and spills), BP’s image is still tarnished.  Click here to read about that poll and see its details.

For those of you who followed our comments at the time or have seen our talks, or who have read our book, you know that we focus on the PROJECT aspects of the well and its turn up.  Key in our mind is that the risk register for Macondo (BP’s well, within the Deepwater Horizon platform owned by Transocean) included precisely zero safety or environmental risks.  All of the threats identified had to do with operations and efficiency. This is public information because of the Federal US investigation into the disaster.  Don’t believe us?  Just check out the actual risk register right here.  And the company had just introduced an incentive plan for managers which rewarded them significantly for efficiency and moneymaking but not at all for any safety or sustainability measures.

And so, here on Earth, where we see projects often managed and measured in that way, we have continued to plug (excuse the pun) for sustainability and long-term thinking in project planning, perhaps even redefining what is meant by success.

After 3 years, scores of billions of dollars spent, damaged ecosystems, poor morale, and a tarnished reputation, is that success?  Not here.  Not on Earth.  Maybe on one of those other 364 planets…

Happy Earth Day, everyone!


A look back at 2012 and forward to 2013


We’d like to start you off with a very brief review of 2012 by Bill McKibben in an interview on NPR:

Click here to go to the NPR page with the interview…

Or, click here to download and listen to the interview itself.

Then come back here when you’re done.

Welcome back.

Interesting, huh?  In case you missed it, here are some highlights.  (See, we know our audience – project managers.  You’re busy.  You’re bottom line people.  You’re Type A, information-seeking folks.  And we know that you may not actually have gone and listened to the interview).

On how President Obama can demonstrate his seriousness

“I think the first tell that we’re going to get of whether the second term will be different will be the president’s decision on this Keystone Pipeline — the huge pipeline to the tar sands of Canada. It’s the one thing that’s really united the environmental movement and brought people out into the streets. The president will make a decision on it [at] some point in the first half of the year
and if he stands up to the fossil fuel industry for once, it will be, I think, a sign that he may be ready to take climate change with at least a little bit of the seriousness it deserves.”

On the biggest environmental issues in 2013

“In this country one of the big questions will be whether we luck out and are able to see some break in this drought or whether it stretches on for another year. Already the Mississippi, which just 18 months ago was in record flood, is now flirting with the lowest water ever measured there.

“Food prices were up 40 and 45 percent around the world because the harvest failed in North America. The world is at a point [where] last year it grew less food than it consumed. We can’t keep on with this kind of erratic weather and not pay huge consequence.”

On how Germany is leading the way in climate change initiatives

“The clear alternative and the best news from 2012 came from Germany, the one big country that’s taken climate change seriously. Their energy minister announced in November that they were going to blow past their targets for renewable power. This is in Germany, mind you. I mean, Munich is north of Montreal, but there were days last summer when they generated more than half the power they used from solar panels within their borders. What they’re proving is it’s not natural bounty nor technological know-how that holds us back; it’s simply political will, one resource we’re capable of ginning up if we set our minds to it.”


From an EarthPM standpoint we’d like to take this time to thank our readers/followers for your attention.  2012 was a great year for us.  We’ve gone well over 1000 Twitter followers now and continue to see a huge volume of hits on our site.  We hope that you’ll also take this subject seriously enough to purchase the Kindle version of our book, Green Project Management.

In 2013 you’ll continue to see more from us.  We’ll continue our partnership with the Sustainability Learning Centre of Canada, with the US Department of Energy and GM and its ECOCAR2 project, and there are some pretty big surprises as well which we cannot yet reveal (hey, we have to keep some sense of suspense and drama).

Happy New Year from EarthPM!


Know Thy Stakeholders

When the new PMBOK(R) Guide comes out soon – the 5th Edition, that is – it will include a brand-new Knowledge Area.

For fans of Project Management (and who isn’t one?) there are currently 9 Knowledge Areas, Sleepy, Sneezy, Grumpy, no…wait.  Wrong list.  Let me check.  How about this one: Dancer, Blitzen, Rudolf… nope.  Still not quite right.

Ah.  We remember now.  The nine Knowledge Areas (in the 4th Edition) are (in no particular order): Integration, Scope, Time, Cost, Quality, HR, Communications, Risk, and Procurement.

And, introducing, for the first time ever, in the 5th Edition: Stakeholder Management.

So PMI (rightly) has decided to focus uniquely on Stakeholder Management rather than distribute it in the other knowledge areas, mainly Communications and Integration.

What does this have to do with sustainability?

Turns out: alot.

As a PM we need to know our stakeholders.  As we’ve asserted in over 300 posts here and of course in our book, as well as recent talks in Malaysia and South Florida (note: both have palm trees), projects produce outcomes.  Those outcomes outlive the project.  Sometimes by centuries.  Imagine, for example, a single-serve coffeemaker that produces a great cup of coffee, but in the steady-state also produces non-recyclable cups.  Say… about 12 billion of them.  That, dear PM friends, is an outcome that outlasts our project.

Should we care about it?

Well, that may depend on your own personal views.

But be careful.

It’s not only about YOU.

It’s about the coffee drinkers, the customers, the STAKEHOLDERS who may just care.   And in this article we picked up from the Associated Press, the statistics show that these stakeholders care deeply, and increasingly about ecological issues.

For example:

4 out of 5 Americans (yep, Americans) said that climate change will be a serious problem for the US if nothing is done about it.  This is an increase from 73% from just 3 years ago.

57% say that the US government should do “a great deal” about the problem.

One of the biggest changes is this:

Of those who trust scientists “only a little” or “not at all” (in other words, skeptics), 61% admit that temperatures have been rising during the past 100 years.  That is a jump from 47% just three years ago.

So these stakeholders, for example, your sponsors, team members, bosses, engineers, marketeers, internal customers, and end customers, are increasingly aware and concerned about ecological sustainability.

Take a lesson from PMI, and whatever your feelings about sustainability, know thy stakeholders.  It’s not even a lesson.  It’s a whole dang Knowledge Area!