Every little bit helps

We’ve been working now for several years to promote the integration of sustainability thinking into our discipline of Project Management.  And this hasn’t been easy.  After all, as project managers we’ve been programmed to think of a definitive start and finish of a project and to use these boundaries as part of our (justified) effort to limit scope and preserve precious project resources.

We take the view that – as project managers – we inherently are indeed good at preserving resources (project or otherwise) and are capable of thinking within those boundaries for the project but expanding the boundaries to the long-term when it comes to being a good corporate citizen and just doing the right thing.  We’ve also given examples, here, on our Projects@Work blog, in our book, and at our PMI Chapter Meeting presentations (coming up in Florida and Kansas City), of how this work is actually better for the economic bottom line for your enterprise as well.

However, we haven’t limited our work to those efforts.  We’ve of course sought to market our consulting and training (after all, we have to sustain ourselves, too), but we have been doing significant pro bono work.  Some of that has involved the ISO organization and our work with the US Technical Advisory Group (TAG) teams which work on ISO standards, in particular, and most recently, the ISO 21500:2012 Guidance on Project Management.

In that work, we’ve tied to assure that these standards include advice about thinking sustainably on projects.  And we’re happy and proud to say that this document does now cover the topic.  ISO 21500 – Guidance on Project Management has been released.  The focus and intensity still has a long way to go, but at least it’s there.  And we’re glad to have had an incremental contribution to what is now there.

So – what IS now there?

Below are some of the areas where sustainability thinking has been integrated into the standard:


3.4.2: “The evaluation process may include multiple criteria, including financial investment appraisal techniques and qualitative criteria, such as strategic alignment, social impact and environmental impact.  Criteria may differ from one project to another.”

3.5.1 “The project environment may impact project performance and success.  The project team should consider the following:

factors outside the organizational boundary, such as socioeconomic, geographical, political, regulatory, technological and ecological

–factors inside the organizational boundary….”

3.5.2 “Factors outside the organizational boundary may have an impact on the project by imposing constraints or introducing risks affecting the project.  Although these factors are often beyond the control of the project manager, they should still be considered.”

3.11 “… Achievement of consensus among key project stakeholders on the constraints may form a strong foundation for project success.

Some constraints could be the following

-factors related to health and safety of personnel

-the potential social or ecological impact of the project

Granted, this is not Earth-shattering.  But it’s a big step forward.  It’s more than we were able to accomplish with the PMI and the PMBOK(R) Guide, which rejected or deferred 19 proposed similar changes from EarthPM which were signed off by over 250 PMP(R) Credentialed petitioners.  So it’s progress and we’re glad to report it.  We think it will help lead PMI down the right path for the 6th Edition PMBOK(R) Guide when it comes out in several years.  And we should mention that with an appeals process, EarthPM did (persistence pays off!!) succeed in getting one of the changes into the pending 5th Edition PMBOK(R) Guide.

As we say in the title, every little bit helps.

We’ll continue to push.  How about you?