Innovation through Dialogue (and koffie)


We like that theme.  We like it a lot.

And that is the theme of the 28th IPMA World Congress in Rotterdam.  From their home page:

‘The 28th edition of the IPMA World Congress will be held from September 29th to October 1st in the City of Rotterdam, The Netherlands under the main theme: “Innovation through Dialogue”.
Over 120 speakers in three days filled with the latest experiences and insight about Innovating the world through dialogue. Dialogue within projects, dialogue between projects (portfolio’s), dialogue over time (programs) and dialogue outside projects, with project-owners, users and stakeholders. And of course the dialogue between the business and academic world.’

We’re making up a small percentage (around 1.5%) of the speakers.  EarthPM will (of course) be in the Sustainability stream, and (of course) will attend by electrons versus jet fuel to reduce the carbon footprint of the presentation; we’re going to experiment with running a World Cafe event via local facilitation and remote orchestration.  It’s a true test of “think globally, act locally, but also globally” – a clumsy but true mantra for this session.

We’ll be fully buying into the theme.

Instead of lecturing, we’ll be discussing.  Instead of transmitting, we’ll mainly be receiving.  Instead of conveying existing information, we’ll be generating and transferring new knowledge and wisdom.  We’ll do this using the World Cafe method, worth looking into if you are a project manager.  Bottom line: it’s a facilitated and active discussion method.  We’ll animate this by having tables (named after coffee-producing countries!) which will focus on each of the major touchpoints between sustainability and project management.  And yes, there are indeed several major touchpoints between project management and sustainability.  The Dutch word for coffee is koffie, and we know from experience how important it is to gezelligheid (look it up – learn something today!).

Here’s a link to the Day 3 program.  We’re proud to be part of the IPMA2014 World Congress and we’re excited to involve the PM community quite directly and actively in generating new (and lasting) wisdom in this important area.


Serving the environment – and serving yourself


At last week’s PMI North America Congress, we were lucky enough to be at sponsor DeVry (Keller) University’s booth signing our new book and getting to chat with many project managers about Green Project Management.  Between that experience, getting to meet many of the really outstanding contributors – you know who you are – with whom we had only previously communicated electronically, and having President Bill Clinton not only address us as Project Managers, but to specifically challenge PMs to take on climate change, it was a fantastic week.

In conversations during the book signing, many of you reflected on situations in which you work in IT and so, you say, have “no effect” on the environment.  Also many of you said that there was nothing besides ‘altruistic’ reasons for trying to change your projects and your companies to do more to work towards sustainability.

We beg to differ.  On both counts.

And lo, upon our return, we were greeted with a great feature in Thursday’s Boston Globe business section called, “Taking a Different Measure”, a story about Akamai Technologies’ command center.  In the article is a great quote from Akamai’s chief executive, Paul Sagan, when asked:

“I’d say half of my rationale was altruistic, but I was also thinking that the day was going to come when our customers were going to expect us to report our carbon footprint, and their carbon footprint, on our network.’’

That’s funny because we responded to some of you with a very similar answer.  We said that half our rationale to create this site and write the book was altruistic, but we also know that this is an area that needs and deserves attention and we want to be there to (successfully) serve the needs of this market.  That’s precisely – almost to the word – what Paul Sagan is saying.  And the irony is that he really knows serving – after all, Akamai operates about 70,000 servers.  Their servers handle peak internet traffic for big name companies – such as Best Buy and ESPN.

The article features a description of how Akamai now includes carbon emissions as a core part of how they measure their performance.  And they are actively reporting to the Carbon Disclosure Project – which maintains corporate climate change information.

We suggest you read the article, and think again about how you can serve this cause – even if only for 50% altruistic reasons.  That’s the reason our book has a tree on the cover – a tree sprouting money.  As we assert – it’s the right thing to do, and it will help you do things right.

Drilling turns to grilling

haywardLook on the right.

You see that man?  That’s Tony Hayward, CEO of BP.

Does he look happy?   No, he’s not happy.

Does he look comfortable?  I don’t think so.

He’s being grilled by the US Congress.

One of the reasons?  He – or his company – or perhaps his whole industry – doesn’t seem to understand a simple equation which most project managers know by heart.

RF = P * I

Risk Factor is the product of Probability and Impact.

In any uncertain situation, you should be able to determine how much effort is required to spend in responding to a risk (a threat in this case) by understanding the Risk Factor (some call it Risk Score).

In this case, the probability may be very, very low.  But the impact is so astronomically high, that the product – the Risk Factor demands a huge risk treatment or response.

The impact in this case is a combination of very tangible things, like a $20B escrow fund, some mildly tangible things, like the health of one of the world’s most delicate ecosystems and the livelihood of hundreds of thousands of people, and the intangibles, such as the reputation of a multinational corporation which has just spent oodles (our own very technical financial word) of dollars to make their image a very green and friendly one.  How’s that working out for you, BP?

So – in that equation, I think we can all agree that no matter how low “P” is, “I” is very, very, high.  So the Risk Factor is going to be worth considering.

And yet.

And yet

Just before the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig, BP sent home a crew from Schlumberger who was going to do a cement bond log.  What is that, you ask?  It’s a “representation of the integrity of the cement job, especially whether the cement is adhering solidly to the outside of the casing. The log is typically obtained from one of a variety of sonic-type tools. The newer versions, called cement evaluation logs, along with their processing software, can give detailed, 360-degree representations of the integrity of the cement job.” Seems like a good thing to do – and good assurance that your bond will hold.  Right?  The cost of this would have been $128,000.  This is only one of five decisions being raised at what can only be called the grilling of Tony Hayward.  The questions, coming from Republicans and Democrats, from oil states, and states that grow corn, all seem to be going after the companies acknowledgment of the Risk Factor equation above.

There is one point in the dialogue where Hayward seems to recognize the equation – however fleetingly:

“It gets to that point, though, that you have to question every assumption, especially when your entire company and its solvency are on the line.”

…and that equation leaves out the 11 dead, the ecological damage and the fact that the Gulf provides a livelihood for so many people as well as food for the world.

So what’s our point?

Keep the equation handy.  Keep it in mind.

Don’t be so fast to save $128,000 when on the other side of the equation there is a tangible $20B, and an even greater list of intangible damages to consider.  Your numbers may be lower (hopefully on both sides of the equation) but you will face this same choice.  Think of that picture above.  Do you want to have to wear that expression?

You can track the actual questioning here.