Forest for the trees



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.


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.





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!


Golden Threads, and Ruby Slippers


In our new book, Driving Project, Program, and Portfolio Success (and in our writings on sustainability in PM for years and years) we have insisted that greater long-term benefits are derived when a project has a solid connection – a ‘golden thread’ to the mission, vision, and values of the organization for which the project is being conducted.
Now, out comes the latest PMI “Pulse of the Profession” report, entitled “Capturing the Value of Project Management Through Decision Making”. This extensive study of over 1200 project managers illustrates these points very well. With supporting data, no less. We highly recommend reading the entire report.
But before you do, we wanted to point you to a couple of graphics that caught our eye.
First up: look at the relationship between improvements available to projects that are familiar with the strategy of their enterprises.  Projects which do this significantly outperform their peers in meeting goals, staying within budget, and finishing on time.


This further illustrates the fact that although the long-term thinking we espouse is related to things like Corporate Social Responsibility – being a solid corporate citizen in terms of the community and the environment, the benefits of connecting your project to your enterprise’s strategy yields tangible project benefits. In other words, doing good yields doing well.

That said, and with this data available for a while at the corporate level, (we could point you to the MIT/BCG Sustainability Studies) you would think that project decision-makers would be constantly checking in on the quality and intensity of this golden thread. You’d think they’d want it to be a golden rope! But no, only 20% of these 1000+ projects always had enough familiarity with organizational strategy to be able to make sound project decisions – decisions that would be connected to the enterprise mission, vision, and values.  See the data below:

familiarity with org strat

Another point we make in the book is that the definition of success is more long-term than the project’s completion – it should consider post project benefits realization. This study included a question about that as well, and the results are not so pretty:


According to these results, organizations only do this about half of the time, with some organizations NEVER looking to see if a project is providing those long-term benefits. In our book we talk of Project Efficiency (how well the project was run), Project Effectiveness (whether the project at least at first, provides expected benefits) and Project Endurance (whether or not the project provides sustained, long-term benefits, and avoids any long-term effects, such as a waste by-product). We insist that a truly successful project gets an “A” for all three “E’s”.
In our book we discuss the Three Click Challenge. Here, strengthened by the data in this excellent PMI study, we re-issue that challenge. You’ll have to read the book to find out what it is, but to further pique your interest, it involves, of all things, ruby slippers. Yep, those slippers. Yes…. From that movie.
Slippers or not – this Pulse of the Profession report is excellent work and worth a read.
Make a good decision – and at least flip through it!

Looking back in time to “sea” ahead


We’re proud enough of our most recent Projects@Work posting to send you there from here.

Learn all about the Antikythera Mechanism – it sounds like a Dan Brown novel, doesn’t it?  Well, it’s just as intriguing.  The book above is a fake, of course.  But the subject matter – the Antikythera Mechanism itself – is very real, and it has a very real meaning to project managers.  So go have a look, okay?

Visit our Projects@Work posting here.



Would you mind – becoming sustainable?


In our book, we were lucky enough to work with an EPA scientist on our chapter on Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), and put projects in the broader sense of their outcomes and the longer-term operation of the project’s product.

But…you can read our book to get more about that…

What we’re writing about today is a resource we think you’ll like.

It’s free.

It’s simple.

It’s educational.

It’s from Sustainable Minds, creators of software which helps designers kick off their projects with the long-term thinking that we discuss in our book.

We got to see their software in action as applied by students at the Rhode Island School of Design, in very nice presentation by Craig Provost of that school.

Co-founders Dave and Rich attended an educator’s conference this week at Sustainable Minds’ headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.

And so…on to the resource.  Sustainable Minds is providing a free webinar on the subject of the Life Cycle Assessment and how their software works in this area.  We think that as project managers you should avail yourself of the opportunity to learn about this.

Here’s a description:

Through this orientation and software demonstration, learn about EcoDesign and Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) and see what’s inside the software.

The webinar is scheduled for 27-July, 2PM to 3PM Eastern US time, and will have live participation from experts at Sustainable Minds.  It will be repeated each Tuesday.

Here is the link: