Forest for the trees

forrest

 

The following quote comes from a popular business magazine (to be revealed later in this post):

“as customers and other stakeholders increasingly express interest in sustainably produced products, …organizations are paying more attention to the big picture

Yes. That’s the point of our whole book – Driving Project, Program, and Portfolio Success.

bookazon

Ha!  Indeed, our book even features a forest on its cover!  Or are those trees?  Well…in fact it really comes down to that final word – success. What is success? If success is more than a quarter-to-quarter affair, then getting the organization, importantly including the project managers, on board regarding longer-term viewpoints, is going to be critical.

And…

 

 

 

Here are some examples.

  • Kimberly-Clark, manufacturer of Kleenex™ tissues (for example) has set (and met!) a goal to procure 100% of its wood fiber from certified sources – a goal that drove many project to meet this goal in 2014.
  • Carillion, a global construction firm, has a three point plan regarding timber sourcing:
  1. A sourcing policy, tied in with the Forest Stewardship Council
  2. Partnering with key suppliers to educate them on their sustainability goals
  3. Added a review step at the portfolio level to make sure that each project was in compliance with the above.
  • Williams-Sonoma is partnering with its suppliers in Indonesia to build a nursery to grow plantation wood for its furniture lines
  • McDonalds is ending deforestation in its supply chain by procuring items (including beef!), coffee, and palm oil only from sustainable sources
  • Procter & Gamble will break its supply chain links to deforestation completely by 2020

See the connection to project management? It’s multi-faceted. In some cases, it’s direct, such as Carillion’s case which is actually making this part of their project compliance process. In some cases it’s a project “engine”, such as the case with Procter & Gamble; you don’t completely revamp the supply chain without launching a gaggle of projects – all of which will need sustainably-minded project managers.

Another thing to note: these companies are not Ben & Jerry’s or Patagonia, or Helen’s Whole Wheat Kelp Flakes… they are big MNCs (Multi-National Corporations) which have bought into the principles of sustainability not (only) due to a sense of what’s right, but because it makes good business sense (cents).

Consider your company. What sustainability goals have they set? How “outside the box”, how “long-term”, how “holistically” do they think? Can you as a project manager be a change agent to prod them along? Perhaps. After all, projects are indeed about change. Oh. And by the way, did we tell you where the article came from? Well, it comes from the current (December 2015) issue of PM Network magazine, the monthly journal of the Project Management Institute!

 

Frenemies?

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Working with stakeholders of various backgrounds… with varying degrees of buy-in –and bones to pick with you as well as each other… getting them all to focus on a common goal.

Sound like project management?

Sure does. That’s why this article posted just a few days ago caught my attention. That stakeholder theme drew me in – as well as the fact that it was using the COP21 meetings in Paris as the context.

The article opens: “The business community is well-represented at the United Nations climate summit underway in Paris — and it will be much more engaged in finding positive solutions than ever before.”
Brief history lesson here:
1n 1992: Five thousand delegates at the first climate summit in Rio, 13 people — were representing the business sector in that first meeting. Why? Business was considered the cause of all evil and was seen as an enemy.  Moving forward to 2015, to COP21 in Paris, and what do you have?
“More than 1,000 business representatives will be in Paris and most will be supportive of climate action, says Edward Cameron, who represents We Mean Business, a nonprofit coalition that is working with companies on climate change.”
That’s quite a change! And here comes the other project management-y piece to this story. It doesn’t take too much imagination to conclude that 1,000 businesses focused on climate change are going to be launching tens of thousands of projects geared to make climate-change-oriented (and of course profit oriented!) goals. Goals that used to be considered at odds with each other, and now, by orders of magnitude, considered to be quite aligned.
As we said in our first book (Green Project Management, which, by the way,  has a cover which features a tree that yields paper money) and now our second book (Driving Project, Program, and Portfolio Success), the two endeavors of social and planetary “good” and making money are not enemies.

They’re not at odds with each other at all – rather, they are complementary and (for lack of a better term) synergistic.
It’s yet to be seen if the stakeholders of COP21 can come up with an agreement – after all, another interest group represented is government – but we see good news in the fact that business is participating not as an enemy but as a partner; and we hope that the project management community recognizes this partnership and the focus on sustainability not as a threat or a set of new constraints but rather a whole new set of opportunities.

So we would argue that business and sustainability are not friends, nor enemies, nor frenemies, but rather partners.  And although climate change presents a very real threat, the solutions that will be brought to bear will require project managers in vast quantities.  That being the case, we should be thinking about the partnerships we can build as PMs to make these solutions reality.

The PM Journal, PM Success, and Sustainability

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Project Management Institute’s PM Journal(R), Volume 45, Number 1 contains some very good papers, and we’d like to focus on one in particular.

“Project Success and Executive Sponsor Behaviors: Empirical Life Cycle Stage Investigations” is the name of the paper and it is written by three professors from Xavier University, located in Cincinnati, Ohio, USA.

We think it’s another example of a series of articles on project success which comes ever so close – ever so close – to getting the concept we’ve been pushing regarding sustainability in project management.

The paper begins with quite a bit of promise, with a section on “The Project Life Cycle”, which had us thinking that it would delve (as did our book) into Life Cycle Assessments and the investigation of how the product of the project has a sometimes significant environmental impact in its steady-state use.  However, the focus is limited to the passing of life cycle “gates” within the project and not beyond.

But the highlight of the article (for us) is that in its modeling of the project process groups, they point to three aspects of project success:

  • Customer Success
  • Meeting Agreements
  • The Firm’s Future

Now – that last one – that is very much in line with our book and in our talks.  We often refer to Auden Schendler’s book “Getting Green Done“, in which he says one way to define sustainability is acting as if we will “be in business forever”.  So, having “The Firm’s Future” as a distinct project outcome and measure of success is a huge step forward.  Most of our project management clients see success as only the middle of the three bullets above – Meeting Agreements.  We are glad to see both the customer success element, which implies a longer view, and especially the Firm’s Future which also talks to the long-term view.

gettinggreendone

For now, we just want to refer you to the article to at least get that perspective.  However, we will likely blog about this again, especially after making contact with the authors, because the research indicated in the paper talks about how, for example, the Firm’s Future can be significantly affected by certain key factors, for example, “Sponsors who build strong stakeholder relationships will improve the firm’s future”.

So we’ll be back with more on this, perhaps even directly from the authors.  But for now, we request that you have a look at this article and think about how our book and this paper interact.

greenprojectmanagementbookcover

The Sky is Falling – May be time to heed the warnings

We’ve tend to stay neutral when it comes to the global climate change debate, although we have tried to arm you with the information we believed you, as project managers, need to make sure you can take advantage of any projects that may arise as a result of any mitigation strategies.  Today, we heard about a couple of disturbing reports due out over the next several months.  Their titles were pretty ominous so we decided to dig a little deeper.

Take a look at some of these headlines and reports to be released and see if you don’t agree that they are unnerving;

 

NOAA: Past Decade Warmest on Record According to Scientists in 48 Countries 

Earth has been growing warmer for more than 50 years.

And this one a report that is indicative of what is to come.

The Special Report on Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation.

The title says that those extreme events we have been experiencing, a major snow storm in the northeast in October 2011 for instance, are going to continue and we need a risk mitigation process to address them.  Further, we will need to “adapt” to these changes.

Another report coming from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC);

Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation

And finally, an interview from a scientist who has not only been one of the questioners of global climate change, but also his study was partially funded by an organization made up of climate change skeptics.  Dr. Richard Muller, professor of physics from the University of California, Berkeley, and founder of the Berkley Earth Surface Temperature Foundation, undertook an independent two year study of global climate change.

It was not that he himself was a sceptic, he just didn’t believe the likes of Tom Friedman and Al Gore because Dr. Muller believes their contentions were not truly science based.  Here is part of the interview between Dr. Muller and Eleanor Hall with Bronwyn Herbert from the Australian Broadcast Network (ABC).  You can hear the entire interview here.

BRONWYN HERBERT: Richard Muller says he wasn’t convinced the earth was warming, and set out two years ago to find out if mainstream climate scientists were wrong.

RICHARD MULLER: Sceptics had raised legitimate questions. Many of the thermometers were of very poor quality and poorly placed. There were  djustments being made to discontinuities in the data. There was perhaps undue influence from warming of cities, which was warm, but that’s not global warming.

BRONWYN HERBERT: He says he was particularly surprised that his results so closely correlated with previously published data from other teams in the US and the UK.

RICHARD MULLER: Somewhat to my amazement, none of the effects changed the answer. We wound up getting the same answer that the other groups had previously gotten for the amount of warming. It’s about 0.9 degrees Celsius over the last 50 years. The poor temperature quality data, even though it was at bad locations, the change in temperature I recorded was accurate. The urban heat island, just not that much area of the earth is urban. The temperature adjustments that people made, well those adjustments were made with more care than we could know, and in the end the adjustments didn’t bias the data. We picked five times as many stations as they did. Their selection of stations was sufficiently representative that it didn’t change the answer. So, in the end, the amount of global warming is what they said it was.

BRONWYN HERBERT: So do you now believe that global warming on earth is occurring?

RICHARD MULLER: Oh yes. I certainly believe that now.

And finally, from a report Agence France-Presse (AFP) states that a draft UN report three years in the making concludes that man-made climate change has boosted the frequency or intensity of heat waves, wildfires, floods and cyclones and that such disasters are likely to increase in the future.

“The document being discussed by the world’s Nobel-winning panel of climate scientists says the severity of the impacts vary, and some regions are more vulnerable than others. Hundreds of scientists working under the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) will vet the phonebook-sized draft at a meeting in Kampala of the 194-nation body later this month.

“This is the largest effort that has even been made to assess how extremes are changing,” said Neville Nicholls, a professor at Monash University in  Melbourne, Australia, and a coordinating lead author of one of the review’s key chapters. Mindful of an outcry by climate skeptics over flaws in an earlier IPCC text, those working on the document stress that the level of “confidence” in the findings depends on the quantity and quality of data available.

But the overall picture that emerges is one of enhanced volatility and frequency of dangerous weather, leading in turn to a sharply increased risk for large swathes of humanity in coming decades.”

“Its publication coincides with a series of natural catastrophes around the world that have boosted the need to determine whether such events are freaks of the weather or part of a long-term shift in climate. In 2010, record temperatures fuelled devastating forest fires across Siberia, while parts of Pakistan and India reeled from unprecedented flooding. This year, the United States has suffered from a record number of billion-dollar disasters ranging from flooding in the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers to Hurricane Irene to the ongoing Texas drought. Large swathes of China are suffering from intense drought as well, even as central America and Thailand count their dead from recent diluvian rains.

Most of these events match predicted impacts of manmade global warming, which has raised temperatures, increased the amount of water in the atmosphere and warmed ocean surface temperatures — all drivers of extreme weather.

– It is “virtually certain” — 99-100% sure — that the frequency and magnitude of warm daily temperature extremes will increase over the 21st century on a global scale;

– It is “very likely” (90-100% certainty) that the length, frequency and/or intensity of warm spells, including heat waves, will continue to increase over most land areas;

– Peak temperatures are “likely” (66-100% certainty) to increase — compared to the late 20th century — up to 3.0 degrees Celsius (5.4 degrees Fahrenheit) by 2050, and 5.0 C (9.0 F) by 2100;

– Heavy rain and snowfall is likely to increase over the next century over many regions, especially in the tropics and at high latitudes;

– At the same time, droughts will likely intensify in other areas, notably the Mediterranean region, central Europe, North America, northeastern Brazil and southern Africa.” © 2011 AFP

Yosemite 121 Years Old

Sometimes we need to remind ourselves that there is more to life than just work, work, work.  In 1890, Yosemite National Park was created.  It’s not that a beautiful place did not exist prior to 1890, it did as shown in the 1878 watercolor of the Digger Indians by Constance Frederica Gordon-Cumming en, Indian Life at Mirror Lake.  National parks are great stress relievers.  No matter what your preference, camping, fishing, hiking, birding, photography and more, you can do any or all of it in the myriad of state and national parks scattered across our country.

Although, we certainly can’t get away from projects no matter where we go.  Not only is the designating of a state, local or national park a project, especially for those directly involved in a project like Yosemite, like Galen Clark and John Muir, or the president at the time Benjamin Harrison, but it will create more projects.  Fast forward to present day and the jobs initiative.  While we have not read all of the text of the proposed jobs initiatives, we haven’t seen anything on improving the infrastructure of our national parks.  While it may be that it is buried in there someplace, it probably isn’t.  Maybe it is because it only affects a specific, and small, group of people who use the parks.  We have a feeling that the number may be larger than we think.  According to the latest (2010) figures, more than 281,300,000 people visited our national parks.  Just like this website, however, they may not be all “unique” visits.  But still, 281+ million people per year is nothing to sneeze at, since the total population of the US in 2009 was approximately 307 million people.

But let’s not lose sight of the real issue here.  The question is, if there were infrastructure projects instituted as part of a jobs initiative, what is the economic, social and environmental ripple effects.  Just to give one example:  how many people would be employed during the infrastructure improvement?  If there are improvements, how many additional people would use the facilities?  How many people depend on the visitors themselves; e.g. restaurants, camping/rv suppliers and hotels surrounding the parks?  What are the effects on the environment?  Most importantly to us, these projects will need to be managed.  The different projects will lie along the green spectrum, from green by definition to green in general.

Let’s keep an eye on any jobs initiatives.  They will create projects!