Can we make a difference? The stats and experts say, “….yes, and we need to”.

make a difference phrase on blackboard

The latest issue (web and paper) of PM Network magazine has some interesting data and interviews which were not aimed at the intersection between sustainability and PM, but which, nevertheless, made strong points – very, very strong points – for our argument that this intersection of sustainability and PM is key.

We’ll use three snippets of the magazine to show what we mean.

The first is from a web-exclusive report called “The Race Ahead“.  An odd mixture of good and bad news, let’s start off with the bad, with a piece called “Projects are missing the mark”.  In this piece, the stats show that the percentage of projects delivering on their original business goals slipped from 72% last year, to 62% this year.  Key words: original business goals.  We think all PMs need to step back, look at their enterprise-level web page – the external one, that is – and see what your organization is saying about sustainability, about Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), and about the long-term, sustained financial performance.  Although projects are -necessarily by definition – short term, their outcome is NOT.  Perhaps browse through your company’s Annual Report.  We would be very surprised if these terms aren’t featured.  Is your project connected to that?  Maybe this is one of the reasons projects are beginning to ‘separate’ from overall business goals.  We know that it’s not the singular reason – but it’s got to…make a difference.


Here’s the good news – in contrast, and perhaps even in contradiction to the above.

Compared with last year, this graphic asserts, the percentage of projects aligned with organizational strategy is up 76%.


So we leave it to you to understand that dichotomy.  The takeaway is that connection to strategic (read that as ‘sustainable, long-term, thoughtful, holistic) goals, is increasing.

Below is a piece of an article from the issue in which PM and Change Management are discussed.  We do a lot of research on Change Management because – after all, the consideration of sustainability in PM is definitely a change.  Look at Mr. Sparrow’s comment below”


Nailed it, Mr. Sparrow – spot on.

If the project manager doesn’t get the buy in from all stakeholders, using good change management principles, the project’s product probably won’t pop out, and even if it does, it will have an unsustainable outcome.  We have scores of blog posts illustrating this, check our archives.

Have a look at this month’s PM Network magazine.  Beyond these gens you will also find an article on Lean Projects that we think you’ll find interesting.



President Clinton, Project Manager?

UNITED STATESYou may have often heard said that the Project Manager is like the CEO of their project.

You may also have heard that a President is like the CEO of the country.

So, it doesn’t take too much linking logic to combine those assertions to come up with the ‘conclusion’ that President Bill Clinton is at least ‘like’ a Project Manager.

And in fact, Clinton recently addressed the North American PMI Congress in Washington, DC.  One nice part was that he kept his prepared remarks to a minimum.  Attendees were given a little card in their conference materials to facilitate asking him a question.   So, President Clinton had those questions somewhat before he got up on stage.  Acknowledging the quality of the questions posed by PMI Congress attendees, Clinton said (to applause) that he would not talk too long, and would instead devote more time to a question and answer session – an “Oprah-esque” interview by Greg Balestrero, CEO of PMI.  We were in attendance and listened carefully, taking some copious notes.

You don’t have to agree with Bill Clinton to know that he’s a good speaker.  And here he proved that he’s also a pretty darn good interviewee, ready with a quick wit and a great handle on a whole range of facts and knowledge.  Clinton answered a set of far-ranging questions from the audience.  Here we will focus on Clinton’s comments from his prepared talk as well as his response to the questions, which deal with climate change and project management.  And yes, that topic – and our foundation – the intersection of green and project management – was a major thread (perhaps even a rope!) of the conversation.  There were times when we couldn’t help saying to ourselves: “he really gets it!”.

During his prepared speech, Clinton identified three areas in which Project Management needs to play an increased role.

Those three areas are:

  1. Global instability
  2. Growing economic inequality between rich and poor countries
  3. The need for change in the way energy is produced and consumed in the world

We will focus, of course, on the third item.  However, you can get a perspective on all three and the entire event by reading this recent blog entry.

On this topic, President Clinton said, “I happen to believe changing the way we produce and consume energy is the greatest single economic opportunity that the developed nations have had, at least since there was mass mobilization for World War II, and this time, we don’t have to kill anybody….I have a climate change project, and I work in at least 25 countries, 40 cities, on six continents, proving that it is good business to change the way you produce and consume energy.”

Speaking of the Kyoto agreement and the effect it had had on four major economies – those of Sweden, Denmark, Germany,and the UK, Clinton said that after they took the agreement seriously, “those countries had lower unemployment rates, less income inequality, more small business formation, and more job formation, given the size of their economy than we did, and the only conceivable explanation, if you look at all the economic variables, is because they made a very serious attempt to either change the way they consume energy or change the way they produce it or a combination of the two.”

Our favorite quote – perhaps because of the way he introduces it, is this one:

“Deutsche Bank, not Greenpeace, but Deutsche Bank recently did a study on the German subsidies of this last decade, during which Germany leap‑frogged the U.S. and Japan to become the number one producer and user of solar power in a country where the average sunlight is what it is in London, England.

So they had to heavily subsidize it.  Deutsche Bank said, even accounting for the drag of the subsidy, Germany netted 500,000 jobs, which, if we had the German program, we would net 1.2 million, since, if we had the same sunlight, since we have twice the capacity, just implementing that would give us 2 1/2 million jobs, at a time when we desperately need them.  So I think we need to make an economic case, a national security case, and a climate change case together.  People are smart enough to figure this out.”

We like the quote, because:

  • Like us, Clinton is stating that the evidence pointing to the ‘good logic’ (of initiating green projects and putting more green into projects) is not a radical ‘tree-hugger’ idea, but a sound business principle
  • He realizes that people have different ‘channels’ for being convinced of the need to work on sustainability issues.  He combines three biggies here: money, security, and survival.  Pretty basic on the Maslow pyramid, right?  Not too shabby.
  • He uses a reference country – Germany – which has implemented solar power despite its not being a model for sunniness.  Project managers and other intelligent people can do the extrapolation that in areas like the southern USA, Australian outback and the Sahara, the justification should be that much easier

So what do you think?  Were you there?  Did you react positively?

If you weren’t there, based on our reflections and recollections above, what do you think of these connections to our profession that President Clinton made?  And, in particular, what do you think of the very specific connection Mr. Clinton made to the intersection of green and project management?

Shrink to fit

psychiatrist-couchWe’re big fans of Project Shrink – Bas de Baar’s nifty and creative blog which focuses on some of the so-called soft-skills required by project managers.  Bas comes to the table (or the couch?) with great credentials.

He is author of the book “Surprise! Now You’re a Software Project Manager” and is a member of The PMI New Media Council. This council brings together industry bloggers, webcasters and podcasters to help PMI advance the profession, to promote the exchange of ideas and knowledge and to make the best use of new social media channels.

And now we are not only fans, we’re interviewees.

Watch Bas’ interview with Dave Shirley by clicking here.


In it, you’ll see Dave and Bas discuss some of the basics of the intersection of green and project management.


At the crossroads

Here at EarthPM we talk about the intersection of green and project management – in fact, it’s our tagline.

So what do we mean by that?

What do we mean when we say that conserving resources is already in the “DNA” of project managers?

Well, if you really want to find out we’d have to say “read our upcoming book“.  But since [A] it’s not yet available, and [B] that’s not directly helpful, we thought we’d instead point out some examples via a posting we found on Bright Hub.

The posting, by Ronda Levine, can be found here.  We actually suggest that you read this brief article now and then come back to this entry.

We’ll wait.

Welcome back.

OK, you read it, right?  Or at least – you skimmed it…?  We hope so.

In the article, Ronda reviews the “top 10 tools for managing project resources”.  Interestingly (and we had nothing to do with this) she uses a wind farm as the intro graphic for the article.

The listing includes: PM Software, Resource Plan, Resource Breakdown Structure, Resource Histogram, the Resource Assignment Matrix, Collaboration Software, The PMBOK® Guide, Resource Leveling, Conflict Management, and Issue Logs.

All of these tools are used to conserve wasted energy on the project.  For example, a Resource Assignment Matrix (RAM) is one of the most powerful tools at the disposal (excuse the pun) of a project manager, in terms of preventing two or more team members from working on the same task – or even worse, having those two or more people assuming that ‘the other guy’ was working it, so nobody gets it done.

How does this relate to green?  Let’s go for the obvious example – two engineers both drive out to a job site 100 miles/km away, not realizing that the other was doing so.  We’re talking about project resources, yes, but we are also talking about the impact of this waste in the larger sense.  Multiply this by the number of times this sort of thing happens – and you get the idea.

Let’s look at the software pieces of Ronda’s list.  PM Software and Collaboration Software.  Both of these (read the book for the details) contribute greatly to savings for your project in terms of concise and clear communication (and thus fewer mistakes, and a greater chance of meeting your customers’ expectations), and they have an environmental aspect as well in terms of their reducing the number of times that folks have to fly or drive to different offices when that really isn’t necessary.

All of these tools – used properly – do contribute to project success, of course.  They also make your project more efficient and thus consume fewer resources.

That’s an example of the intersection of Green and Project Management.  We’re glad you decided to spend some time at this crossroads.  Please, spend some time looking around.