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’?


Sometimes, the obvious – isn’t so obvious

overhead linesYes.  That’s a real sign.  And yes, it appears to be placed there by none other than Captain Obvious, champion of all that is, well – clear for all to see without further explanation.

But sometimes obvious answers stay mysteriously hidden.  Any time you see an innovation and say – either out loud, or to yourself – “now why didn’t I think of that?”, you have experienced a Captain Obvious moment.

So as we browsed today’s papers, we came across this article.  Here is the article’s first line:

With a name like General Electric, it stands to reason GE would want to embrace the electric car.

Um.  Hello?  Yes.  It does indeed.  On further reading, we realized that this is not only an example of Captain Obvious at work, it was an example of one of EarthPM’s assertions.  Roughly stated, this assertion says that ‘the right thing to do helps you do things right’.  In this case, GE’s use of electric cars in their own fleet is not only going to save them gasoline and money, it will drive up the demand for the very products that they want to innovate and sell.

This seems like a pretty easy decision, n’est pas?

The CEO, Jeffrey Immelt, said the company “would convert half of its corporate fleet to electric vehicles by 2015 in an effort to give the nascent technology a jump start and help develop a potentially big new market”.  Give the technology a jump start.  Nice pun.  But it’s not punny – it’s about money. GE’s own estimates show that this expanding market will earn GE $500 million in revenue over the next three years.  So it does seem obvious to (as PMI puts it) enhance the opportunity.

Here’s a little more of the article:

Electric cars are cheaper to fuel and operate than gasoline-powered cars, but they are about twice as expensive to buy, mainly because of the high cost of batteries. The battery that powers the $33,000 Nissan Leaf costs about $12,000, nearly the price of a gasoline-powered car the Leaf’s size.

Carmakers hope to be able to sharply reduce the cost of the batteries over time, but in order to do so they need to sell more electric cars.

That’s where GE comes in. GE is hoping that its planned purchase will help drive down costs by increasing production volumes and assuring carmakers that they will have at least one big buyer.

So GE becomes a customer of GM (and perhaps Nissan?).  They increase the market for the cars, which drives the demand for the batteries, which GE develops and sells to GM and Nissan… get the picture?

Our question to project managers and others out there reading this: do you have any “Overhead Lines Above”?  Do you have any Captain Obvious ideas like this?  For example, if you work on a project that is directly or indirectly related to the electric power grid, are the vehicles in that project’s fleet electric?  Wouldn’t it make sense, thinking in the long term, for those vehicles to be electric even if their initial cost is higher, since after all, the grid’s demands will be increased by electric cars?

Just asking the Captain Obvious questions…

And you should too.

Quick.  Look UP!  There are overhead lines above!

We close this posting with a quote from none other than Captain Obvious:

“Indeed, current events may become past events, but always remember that there will, now and always, be future events in the future.”

~ Captain Obvious on the future