Mind the gap, indeed



We like plays on words…  as you may have figured from reading our posts.

This one involves using the double meaning of “Mind The Gap” – the omnipresent message in The Tube (London’s Underground) and referring to the space between the train and the floor.  It also involves a double meaning with respect to “in deed” – we mean to say here that there are some things you can do in “deeds” (actions) to help your projects.

But let’s get our minds back up on ground level first.  So we now exit The Tube and come back up on terra firma.

Whatever do we mean by the gap, and what are these deeds?


The Gap

Here we refer to the communications gap.  We refer to the fact that project management is about 80 to 90% communications.  So if you have a gap here, your projects will suffer.  Recently, PMI relseased their Pulse of the Profession study on communications.  It’s entitled, “The High Cost of Low Performance – The Essential Role of Communications” and as of this writing, the document is available for free download (member or not), at this link.


The Deeds, indeed

Since we can provide you with a link to the study we won’t write a long post here.  But we do want to give you the context and the relationship to sustainability.  After all, EarthPM has thrived based on this intersection.  And we thrive because we have helped organizations understand that this is a key intersection.

We draw your attention to one particular part of the study, illustrated with the simple graphic below:


The simple act of frequently communicating the business strategy – which we assert includes sustainability elements – provides a 16% advantage in meeting the projects’ original goals and business intent.   16% for simply connecting your project’s objectives with the objectives of the business.  What project manager would not like a power boost like that?  And in exchange for something with such low effort and, we would add, something you should be doing anyway!

This is very much in line with one of our most popular posts, “In This Case, Unplugged Is a Bad Thing“, so we suggest you pop back there for a visit if you want a bit more of our take on this topic.

For now, though, we ask you to mind the gap and head over to PMI’s site to read about this simple improvement you can make – at the intersection of sustainability and project management.


Two new videos featuring PM leaders we admire


In our teaching and consulting we run across some folks who are outstanding in what they do – and we admire that. We’re lucky enough to have met these gentlemen and we can tell you that they know of what they speak!

Without much introduction, we’d like to point your attention to two videos today, one each from these folks.  The videos were only recently uploaded to YouTube.

The first is a great video simply introducing our field – project management – to the world.  Greg Balestrero, former PMI CEO and now (and we love this title) Strategic Advisor – Corporate Consciousness, Sustainability and Leadership at IIL (International Institute for Learning), is your host on a tour-de-force of PM’s history, present, and future.

The next is by an exuberant speaker  and PM expert Ricardo Vargas, from Brazil, author of 11 books on Project Management and creator of several very short but effective YouTube videos on diverse PM topics.  In this one, he takes you through the 5th Edition PMBOK(R) Guide in a unique and powerful way.



People, Planet, Profit – and Pulpit?

A new book by Katherine K. Wilkinson explores the changing relationship of evangelists and the realities of climate change.

The relationship is not trivial.  Evangelical Christians make up about a quarter of the U.S. Population.  Recent studies by MIT/Sloan show North America lagging other regions with respect to understanding and coming to terms with- or even taking economic advantage of aspects of climate change.

So a reconciliation between this community and activism on climate change is important to both communities.  This book shows how the various stakeholders have increasingly been collaborating despite some fundamental core differences in belief.  Actually, there are some good lessons learned for project managers here.  If the evangelical Christian community can see fit to collaborate with atheist scientists, then engineering and marketing can certainly work together, right?

From today’s Boston Globe:

Wilkinson tells a vitally important, even subversive, story at the heart of this carefully researched book. Over the past 30 years or more, even as the culture wars raged, an honest-to-God “evangelical Center” came to life in the political no-man’s land between the old-guard religious right and the secular liberal establishment. And as Wilkinson shows, one of the most significant expressions of that increasingly assertive center — as it seeks to broaden the “evangelical agenda” beyond abortion and sexuality to include global poverty, health, and social-justice issues — is a far-reaching environmental movement, based on the theology of “creation care,” and the effort by a new generation of moderate leaders to put climate change on the evangelical map.


Read the full review from The Boston Globe here.


Here’s a description from the publisher:

“Despite three decades of scientists’ warnings and environmentalists’ best efforts, the political will and public engagement necessary to fuel robust action on global climate change remain in short supply. Katharine K. Wilkinson shows that, contrary to popular expectations, faith-based efforts are emerging and strengthening to address this problem. In the US, perhaps none is more significant than evangelical climate care.

Drawing on extensive focus group and textual research and interviews, Between God & Green explores the phenomenon of climate care, from its historical roots and theological grounding to its visionary leaders and advocacy initiatives. Wilkinson examines the movement’s reception within the broader evangelical community, from pew to pulpit. She shows that by engaging with climate change as a matter of private faith and public life, leaders of the movement challenge traditional boundaries of the evangelical agenda, partisan politics, and established alliances and hostilities. These leaders view sea-level rise as a moral calamity, lobby for legislation written on both sides of the aisle, and partner with atheist scientists.

Wilkinson reveals how evangelical environmentalists are reshaping not only the landscape of American climate action, but the contours of their own religious community. Though the movement faces complex challenges, climate care leaders continue to leverage evangelicalism’s size, dominance, cultural position, ethical resources, and mechanisms of communication to further their cause to bridge God and green.”

 We’d suggest that this would be a good read for our blog followers.  Again, it helps to illustrate how a wide range of stakeholders can work together for a common cause.

And that’s a good thing.

Solving World Hunger Is A Good Thing. Duh.

So we just finished skimming through the 283 sections (!!!) of the Rio+20 declaration.  Click here to read it yourself.

Now we’re not saying that it’s a terrible document.  But we are acknowledging what we are hearing in the press about the declaration not being too …action oriented.

Click here for a CBC (Canadian news agency) report which pretty much sums up what we’re hearing from our sources.

In fact, one of the tricks we used here, and suggest you try for yourself is to search on the word “project” in your organization’s guiding documents.  It gives you a sense how geared an organization is to getting things done – to connecting ideas to reality – to having something done about what they’re saying.

But we digress.

Here’s what bothers us about this document – and don’t get mad at us right away, hear us out.

Of the 283 sections, section 2 says that we should “free humanity from poverty and hunger as a matter of urgency”.


Yes, solving world hunger is a good thing.  We’d have to be cruel and/or crazy people to disagree.  However, this conference has gone off track in its second of 283 sections.  It is literally- LITERALLY – trying to solve world hunger in the second bullet, less than 1% into the document.

And here’s the killer.  The word “project” occurs…well, guess how many times?  How many times do you think the word PROJECT (or its varieties) should appear in a world conference declaration about sustainable development, given that projects are the instruments of implementing strategy?  50? 100?

Try three.

Yes, the word project only occurs 3 times in the entire declaration, all 49 pages.

And when it does occur, it occurs (down there at section 265) in the context of the GlobalEnvironment Facility (GEF), which we’ve blogged about before.  This is an instrument of the UN for funding environmental projects.  It’s a good thing – why do we have to read over 94% of the document before we encounter it?

When they finally do mention projects in the sense of the single vehicle for getting things done, it seems like these folks got out their machine gun and tried every word they could think of:

“283. We welcome the commitments voluntarily entered into at Rio+20 and throughout 2012
by all stakeholders and their networks to implement concrete policies, plans, programs,
projects and actions to promote sustainable development and poverty eradication. We invite
the Secretary-General to compile these commitments and facilitate access to other registries
that have compiled commitments, in an internet-based registry. The registry should make
information about the commitments fully transparent and accessible to the public, and it
should be periodically updated.”

It seems to us that once again, project management can use more sustainability thinking, and those involved in the world of sustainability could use more project management thinking.

That is, if they can stop themselves from writing 283 sections to finally come to some action – and vague action at that.

So, back to hunger.

We think sustainable development contains 4 elements – People, Profit, Planet, and Projects.  The “People” part includes the elements of fair trade, equality, assurance of the food supply, equity in pay – all of those things.  Does sustainable development and “Triple Bottom Line”  thinking directly solve world hunger?  No.  It’s a contributing factor, of course, but it is not focused only on hunger or even poverty, per se, in our opinion.  Once again, please do not think we are trying to say that poverty and hunger aren’t valid concerns, of course they are.

But we think solving world hunger has taken the conference’s eyes off the prize here.

We welcome your comments – we’d love to hear what we missed or misinterpreted.  What do you think?  Would you have expected to see “projects” feature more prominently in this declaration?  Do you think this conference could have used a project manager or two driving these folks towards ‘implementation’?


The Zeronauts

We just wanted to take a moment to draw your attention to a new book – The Zeronauts -by John Elkington, recognized as a sustainability leader and credited with coining the term Triple Bottom Line (People, Planet, Profit).

Of course, in our book, Green Project Management – the 2011 Cleland Award Winner for Literature), we bring *us* – project managers – into the picture, as we should be.  After all, we are the ones deploying projects and programs – enabling long-term operations (a bridge, a piece of software, a new service) to go “live” – in the steady-state.  And after all, we are the ultimate change agents, since projects are – by definition – all about change.

So here at EarthPM, we firmly believe in the Triple Bottom Line, but consider ourselves so fundamental to sustainability management that we envision a quadruple bottom line – (People, Projects, Profits, Planet).

But however many bottom lines people add, let’s get back to Elkington (below) for a moment. His books have been influential. We’ve provided a link for you directly to an executive summary. We think you’ll like it.

John Elkington