All the world loves a … deadline


A short op-ed piece in today’s Boston Globe caught our eye as an example – another example, perhaps the ‘biggest’ yet – of the intersection of sustainability and project management.

The PMBOK(R) Guide spends a great deal of its energy differentiating projects from operations.  Projects are unique, and have definitive start and end dates. Projects are initiated to create change.  Operations are ongoing and have no specific end date, and are about keeping the status quo.

If you listen to the message (or at least the perceived message) of the folks pushing for sustainability, it often comes across as “save the whales, save the snails…” (as exemplified by a great standup routine by George Carlin [adult language] which you can see here).

The key is that the efforts to improve sustainability always seem to have vague goals and objectives and no time bounds.  What it’s been lacking is any kind of deadline.

Until now.

This story, which also covers the turn-around of former climate change skeptic Richard Muller, starts off with this doozie:

The world now has a rough deadline for action on climate change.  Nations need to take aggressive action in the next 15 years to cut carbon emissions, in order to forestall the worst effects of global warming, says the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The report warns that without action in the next 15 years, nations will start to face the most debilitating effects of global warming — rapidly melting arctic ice, significant sea-level rise, flooding and storms — by the end of the century.

So, although the truly disastrous effects are not to occur until (what now seems like) the distant future, the timeline to accomplish the work which must be done is significantly shorter.  And that timeline has a date of April 16, 2029 at 7:04 AM (that’s the 15 year mark from the exact time that I read the story, so I am declaring it the deadline).

As project managers, we know and love the deadline.  We’d like to have the freedom to specify that deadline through our science of critical path analysis and network diagrams, but sometimes -as in this case – it’s imposed on us and we work backwards to accomplish it.

Let’s use this opportunity to reaffirm the fact that there IS an intersection between PM and sustainability.  It’s much deeper and more intertwined than this example, of course.  Our book dives into those details.  Still, the article is worth a read and if you haven’t considered the relationship between PM and sustainability before – here’s your opportunity.


A wallop to your wallet?


We’re going to make this a short post with a strong request.

The post is to refer you to a (short) story about a (big) topic we’ve talked about for a while, which is that wherever one stands on climate change and ‘environmentalism’, we should pay attention to this as project managers if for no other reason than the fact that these issues hit us in places it hurts economically.

Projects only take place when there is money to execute them.  PMI’s statistics show that over 20% of the worlds Gross Domestic Product (GDP) – a staggering US$12 trillion dollars – goes into projects.

Now have a look at this article: Inaction On Climate Change Costly, Report Warns.

The bottom line of the report is that if we continue to delay efforts to reduce climate change, it will lead to an inability for ourselves and future generations to be economically viable.  In fact, if there are projects, many of them will have to be ‘recovery’ oriented – geared to simply making the Earth livable.  A brief clip:

Nations have dragged their feet in battling climate change so much that the situation has grown critical and the risk of severe economic disruption is rising, according to a UN draft report. Another 15 years of failure to limit carbon emissions could make the problem virtually impossible to solve with current technologies, the experts found.

Delay would probably force future generations to develop the capability to suck greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere and store them underground to preserve the livability of the planet, the report found. But it is not clear whether such technologies will ever exist at the necessary scale, and even if they do, the approach would probably be wildly expensive compared with taking steps now to slow emissions.

This is not how we want to see our project managers employed in the future, is it?  Making giant vacuum cleaners reminiscent of the one used in Mel Brooks’ Spaceballs?


Have a look at the article, please.  Thanks.

The not-so slippery slope of climate change


Living, as we do, in the United States’ far northeast area – called New England, we’ve done our fair share of skiing, shoveling, snowblowing, driving in the snow, getting into some really nice snowball fights, and making snowmen.  So we’re very familiar with snow.  Recently, there has been some very interesting conversation about the Polar Vortex which brought a ‘big chill’ to much of the US.  Some have used the cold weather as a “proof” of the “fiction” of global warming.

Donald Trump, for example, tweeted this (really) last week:

“This very expensive GLOBAL WARMING bull**** has got to stop. Our planet is freezing, record low temps,and our GW scientists are stuck in ice”
“This very expensive GLOBAL WARMING bull**** has got to stop. Our planet is freezing, record low temps,and our GW scientists are stuck in ice”


So a sampling of one day or two of cold weather was enough – for The Donald – to disprove global warming.  Perhaps so – because as most of us know it’s not the proper name for what we’re seeing – it’s climate change.    In fact, as Donald Trump’s New York was freezing, countries like Brazil and Australia were sizzling at temperatures above 120 degrees Fahrenheit.

It’s the temperature extremes and the longer-term trends that we’re talking about here, ladies and gentlemen, and of course, project managers, of the world.

So now – back to our New England and our beloved snow.  Recently, Boston Magazine featured a story on the effect of global warming – oops! – climate change – on the ski areas in our region.  The business – and project – impact is high.  This has been our ongoing point.  Project managers and business managers alike need to recognize what climate change may mean to their organizations.  600 ski areas have closed in the US in the last 6 decades.  Says the article, “if global emissions continue to rise at current rates, in 30 years only about half of the 103 ski areas in the Northeast covered by the study will be able to maintain the 100-day season they need to be sustainable—and none of them is in Massachusetts.”.  And, “researchers say only 34 ski areas across the entire Northeast will be viable.”

But the single most powerful piece of the article – the one that aims its arrow of meaningfulness at the heart of a perceptive project manager – is this one:
Here in New England, the loss of the ski industry would be acutely felt: Northeastern ski resorts record more than 13 million skier visits per season—the highest of any region in the country—and help prop up many related businesses, including apparel, boot, and gear companies (to say nothing of mountainside restaurants, shops, and hotels). Snow sports contribute billions every year to the region’s economy and employ as many as 46,000 people. Even just tacking on a few more inches of snow to a regular season—and perhaps extending it by a couple of weeks—can translate into an additional $13 million in revenue. But those days seem to be waning. With snowy winters no longer the norm, the University of Waterloo’s scientific models suggest that northeastern ski areas will lose $3.2 billion in annual revenue over the next 40 years.

That $3.2 billion in annual revenue is used to open new ski runs, build new lodges, make improvements to the IT of these ski areas… in other words, to employ project managers.  So this should get your attention.  As a project manager, don’t be fooled by tweets.  Don’t be fooled by incorrect terminology.  Learn the vocabulary and become familiar with the facts.  We’re not saying that you should join Greenpeace – we just think it is beneficial to know what’s going on and not to rely on a sample of one location and one week to make judgments.

“This very expensive GLOBAL WARMING bull**** has got to stop. Our planet is freezing, record low temps,and our GW scientists are stuck in ice”

For a lighthearted (and a little ‘risque’) view of this, (so yes, this has some mature material) have a look at this video.

Tomorrow, tomorrow…


annie tomorrow

You can bet your bottom dollar on tomorrow…

In the Broadway musical Annie, the lead character, sings:

The sun’ll come out
Bet your bottom dollar
That tomorrow
There’ll be sun!

Just thinkin’ about tomorrow
Clears away the cobwebs,
And the sorrow
‘Til there’s none!

When I’m stuck a day
That’s gray,
And lonely,
I just stick out my chin
And Grin,
And Say,  Oh!

The sun’ll come out
So ya gotta hang on
‘Til tomorrow
Come what may
Tomorrow! Tomorrow!
I love ya Tomorrow!
You’re always a day away.

Turns out, tomorrow, Tuesday, 25-June-2013 is the actual tomorrow for the United States to make some improvement in policies surrounding climate change response.  And project managers, hold on, Mr. Barack Obama will be addressing you in particular.  Through our deep network of investigative reporters, we have obtained a secret leaked video (okay, okay, so it was posted on in which President Obama provides a hint of what he will announce – tomorrow.

Have a look at our not-so-secret-after-all video.  Note the reference to scientists and engineers.  We wish he had mentioned project managers by name, but you know, I know, and certainly the scientists, engineers, and business leaders know that these efforts are all projects and they need sustainable-minded project manages to manage these projects.

Starting tomorrow.

I love ya, tomorrow!

See the video below.

Not one for the refrigerator


Remember when you came home with a great report card, which had great grades – maybe all As – but also a great prognosis for what expectations the teachers had for you in the future?  Remember that?  Huh?

Sigh…..Well, OK, neither do I.

But still, it’s a great metaphor, or simile, or analogy, or whatever (see, told you – not so great in school!).

A few hours ago the National Climate Assessment Development Advisory Committee, a group of 60 respected scientists and administrators, released the draft of the National Climate Assessment, issued every four years.  We’re not talking about Greenpeace members here.  These are folks from MIT, Monsanto corporation, Louisiana State University, Chevron corporation, the University of Michigan, Computer Sciences Corporation, and many other respected institutions.  Thirteen US Federal agencies also are part of the effort.

It’s not a good report card, and it’s not a good prognosis.  Without doing any further evaluation, we provide for your reading (sit down before you do that) the draft of the executive report.

Report Findings [DRAFT -12-Jan-2013]

1. Global climate is changing, and this is apparent across the U.S. in a wide range of observations. The climate change of the past 50 years is due primarily to human activities, predominantly the burning of fossil fuels.

U.S. average temperature has increased by about 1.5°F since 1895, with more than 80% of this increase occurring since 1980. The most recent decade was the nation’s warmest on record. Because human-induced warming is superimposed on a naturally varying climate, rising temperatures are not evenly distributed across the country or over time (Ch. 2).

2. Some extreme weather and climate events have increased in recent decades, and there is new and stronger evidence that many of these increases are related to human activities.

Changes in extreme events are the primary way in which most people experience climate change. Human-induced climate change has already increased the frequency and intensity of some extremes. Over the last 50 years, much of the U.S. has seen an increase in prolonged stretches of excessively high temperatures, more heavy downpours, and in some regions more severe droughts (Ch. 2, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 23).

3. Human-induced climate change is projected to continue and accelerate significantly if emissions of heat-trapping gases continue to increase.

Heat-trapping gases already in the atmosphere have committed us to a hotter future with more climate-related impacts over the next few decades. The magnitude of climate change beyond the next few decades depends primarily on the amount of heat-trapping gases emitted globally, now and in the future (Ch. 2, 27).

4. Impacts related to climate change are already evident in many sectors and are expected to become increasingly challenging across the nation throughout this century and beyond.

Climate change is already affecting human health, infrastructure, water resources, agriculture, energy, the natural environment, and other factors – locally, nationally, and internationally. Climate change interacts with other environmental and societal factors in a variety of ways that either moderate or exacerbate the ultimate impacts. The types and magnitudes of these effects vary across the nation and through time. Several populations –including children, the elderly, the sick, the poor, tribes and other indigenous people – are especially vulnerable to one or more aspects of climate change. There is mounting evidence  that the costs to the nation are already high and will increase very substantially in the future, unless global emissions of heat-trapping gases are strongly reduced (Ch. 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 32 11, 12, 13, 14, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25).


5. Climate change threatens human health and well-being in many ways, including impacts from increased extreme weather events, wildfire, decreased air quality, diseases transmitted by insects, food, and water, and threats to mental health.

Climate change is increasing the risks of heat stress, respiratory stress from poor air quality, and the spread of waterborne diseases. Food security is emerging as an issue of concern, both within the U.S. and across the globe, and is affected by climate change. Large-scale changes in the environment due to climate change and extreme weather events are also increasing the risk of the emergence or reemergence of unfamiliar health threats (Ch. 2, 6 , 9, 11, 12, 16, 19, 20, 22, 23).

 6. Infrastructure across the U.S. is being adversely affected by phenomena associated with  climate change, including sea level rise, storm surge, heavy downpours, and extreme heat.

Sea level rise and storm surges, in combination with the pattern of heavy development in coastal areas, are already resulting in damage to infrastructure such as roads, buildings, ports, and energy facilities. Infrastructure associated with military installations is also at risk from climate change impacts. Floods along the nation’s rivers, inside cities, and on lakes following heavy downpours, prolonged rains, and rapid melting of snowpack are damaging infrastructure in towns and cities, farmlands, and a variety of other places across the nation. Extreme heat is damaging transportation infrastructure such as roads, rail lines, and airport runways. Rapid warming in Alaska has resulted in infrastructure impacts due to thawing of permafrost and the loss of coastal sea ice that once protected shorelines from storms and wave-driven coastal erosion (Ch. 2, 3, 5, 6, 11, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 25).

7. Reliability of water supplies is being reduced by climate change in a variety of ways that affect ecosystems and livelihoods in many regions, particularly the Southwest, the Great Plains, the Southeast, and the islands of the Caribbean and the Pacific, including the state of Hawai`i.

Surface and groundwater supplies in many regions are already stressed by increasing demand for water as well as declining runoff and groundwater recharge. In many regions, climate change increases the likelihood of water shortages and competition for water among agricultural, municipal, and environmental uses. The western U.S. relies heavily on mountain snowpack for water storage, and spring snowpack is declining in most of the West. There is an increasing risk of seasonal water shortages in many parts of the U.S., even where total precipitation is projected to increase. Water quality challenges are also increasing, particularly sediment and contaminant concentrations after heavy downpours (Ch. 2, 3, 12, 26 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 23).

8. Adverse impacts to crops and livestock over the next 100 years are expected. Over the next 25 years or so, the agriculture sector is projected to be relatively resilient, even though there will be increasing disruptions from extreme heat, drought, and heavy downpours. U.S. food security and farm incomes will also depend on how agricultural systems adapt to climate changes in other regions of the world.

Near-term resilience of U.S. agriculture is enhanced by adaptive actions, including expansion of irrigated acreage in response to drought, regional shifts in crops and cropped acreage, continued technological advancements, and other adjustments. By mid-century, however, when temperature increases and precipitation extremes are further intensified, yields of major U.S. crops are expected to decline, threatening both U.S. and international food security. The U.S. food system also depends on imports, so food security and commodity pricing will be affected by agricultural adaptation to climate changes and other conditions around the world (Ch. 2, 6, 12, 13, 14, 18, 19).

9. Natural ecosystems are being directly affected by climate change, including changes in biodiversity and location of species. As a result, the capacity of ecosystems to moderate the consequences of disturbances such as droughts, floods, and severe storms is being diminished.

In addition to climate changes that directly affect habitats, events such as droughts, floods, wildfires, and pest outbreaks associated with climate change are already disrupting ecosystem structures and functions in a variety of direct and indirect ways. These changes  limit the capacity of ecosystems such as forests, barrier beaches, and coastal- and freshwater-wetlands to adapt and continue to play important roles in reducing the impacts of these 9 extreme events on infrastructure, human communities, and other valued resources (Ch. 2, 3, 10 6, 7, 8, 10, 11, 14, 15, 19, 25).

10. Life in the oceans is changing as ocean waters become warmer and more acidic.

Warming ocean waters and ocean acidification across the globe and within U.S. marine territories are broadly affecting marine life. Warmer and more acidic waters are changing the distribution of fish and other mobile sea life, and stressing those, such as corals, that cannot move. Warmer and more acidic ocean waters combine with other stresses, such as overfishing and coastal and marine pollution, to negatively affect marine-based food production and fishing communities (Ch. 2, 23, 24, 25).

11. Planning for adaptation (to address and prepare for impacts) and mitigation (to reduce emissions) is increasing, but progress with implementation is limited.

In recent years, climate adaptation and mitigation activities have begun to emerge in many sectors and at all levels of government; however barriers to implementation of these activities are significant. The level of current efforts is insufficient to avoid increasingly serious impacts of climate change that have large social, environmental, and economic consequences. Well-planned and implemented actions to limit emissions and increase resilience to impacts that are unavoidable can improve public health, economic development opportunities, natural system protection, and overall quality of life (Ch. 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 13, 15, 27 26, 27, 28).

Stay tuned to EarthPM.  We will get you the latest info not only on climate change and reports like this, but the connection to projects, programs, and our discipline of project management.  As you read through this, we hope you’ll see the connection(s), such as:

  • Effects on projects
  • Effects on resources
  • Potential new programs and projects
  • Motivation to add sustainability thinking into your projects

More later.