Innovation through Dialogue (and koffie)


We like that theme.  We like it a lot.

And that is the theme of the 28th IPMA World Congress in Rotterdam.  From their home page:

‘The 28th edition of the IPMA World Congress will be held from September 29th to October 1st in the City of Rotterdam, The Netherlands under the main theme: “Innovation through Dialogue”.
Over 120 speakers in three days filled with the latest experiences and insight about Innovating the world through dialogue. Dialogue within projects, dialogue between projects (portfolio’s), dialogue over time (programs) and dialogue outside projects, with project-owners, users and stakeholders. And of course the dialogue between the business and academic world.’

We’re making up a small percentage (around 1.5%) of the speakers.  EarthPM will (of course) be in the Sustainability stream, and (of course) will attend by electrons versus jet fuel to reduce the carbon footprint of the presentation; we’re going to experiment with running a World Cafe event via local facilitation and remote orchestration.  It’s a true test of “think globally, act locally, but also globally” – a clumsy but true mantra for this session.

We’ll be fully buying into the theme.

Instead of lecturing, we’ll be discussing.  Instead of transmitting, we’ll mainly be receiving.  Instead of conveying existing information, we’ll be generating and transferring new knowledge and wisdom.  We’ll do this using the World Cafe method, worth looking into if you are a project manager.  Bottom line: it’s a facilitated and active discussion method.  We’ll animate this by having tables (named after coffee-producing countries!) which will focus on each of the major touchpoints between sustainability and project management.  And yes, there are indeed several major touchpoints between project management and sustainability.  The Dutch word for coffee is koffie, and we know from experience how important it is to gezelligheid (look it up – learn something today!).

Here’s a link to the Day 3 program.  We’re proud to be part of the IPMA2014 World Congress and we’re excited to involve the PM community quite directly and actively in generating new (and lasting) wisdom in this important area.


An ocean full of project inspiration


“Despite the challenges our ocean faces, I believe it’s time to recapture the sense of wonder  and inspiration my grandfather and father felt when they gazed on its surface. In fact, the ocean can and should be a source of hope and solutions for a brighter future.”

-Philippe Cousteau


These are words that do three things.

1. They make us feel older, because this is the grandson of Jacques Cousteau, who we grew up with…

2. They inspire us because they’re spoken with such conviction.

3. They remind us again just how powerful we are as project managers when it comes to sustainability.


The younger Cousteau is quoted from a series of opinion pieces at  He is no slacker – he is a special correspondent for CNN but also co-founder and president of the leading environmental education nonprofit EarthEcho International.   This site itself is worth a visit.

But we bring you again back to his words – and their connection with us as project managers, environmentalists or not.

Here are some more:

Just take a moment to think about what the ocean does for us on a daily basis: it produces half of the world’s oxygen; it provides more than one billion people with their primary source of protein; its natural eco-systems like coral reefs, mangroves and wetlands provide protection against coastal erosion and natural disasters such as tsunamis; it regulates our climate; and a healthy ocean fuels sustainable businesses and a strong economy in industries such as seafood, tourism, pharmaceuticals and shipping.

For the ocean to continue to do what’s it’s done for millions of years and serve the needs of a rapidly expanding human population, it needs to be healthy. Biodiversity, coral reefs, wetlands and trash-free seas aren’t just terms on a page they are environmental imperatives that dictate the future of the planet.

We have the know-how and resources to conserve and restore the aquatic and marine systems that keep the ocean and us healthy. As my grandfather once said, “The technology that we use to abuse the planet is the same technology that can help us to heal it.”

Big technology like renewable energy, carbon sequestration and advances in aquaculture certainly have a major role in restoring the ocean and the planet to a healthy balance, but in many cases it’s a matter of giving nature the space and time to do what it needs to do with a helping hand from all of us.

Regulations that help replenish and protect fish stocks, restoration and conservation projects to protect and nurture natural barriers like reefs and wetlands, and reforestation efforts are all things that can have a huge impact on ocean health with no rocket science necessary.

You see the direct (and indirect) mention of projects throughout these words.  As the folks who convert ideas into reality,we help bring these inspirational words from ‘only words’ to ‘real reality’.

Given that we just passed “International Water Day”, we thought it appropriate to use Cousteau’s words to remind us of our capability, our power – in some ways (I know it sounds a little corny) our destiny.

Let’s close with some more of Cousteau’s comments:

The good news is technology and future-focused groups are providing us with some great tools and resources to get inspired and make smart decisions. For example: the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch pocket guide and Ocean Conservancy’s Rippl app or EarthEcho’s Water Planet Challenge.

“We can make sure the ocean continues to provide inspiration, wonder and solutions for generations, however, it all comes down to personal and collective will. Ask yourself this question: When you look upon the ocean 10 years from now, do you want to see a sad reminder of what could have been; or do you want to be filled with awe and inspired by a sense of endless possibilities?”

Salty, but sweet…

In this season of food fascination (what with Diwali, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, and Christmas all involving sweet and savory cuisine), we couldn’t help but notice this delicious little tidbit in the Cape Cod Times of all places.

The story describes how the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (DOT) recently announced that it had developed a new system that will allow it to deal with icy roads, using the preventive application of brine – method that is both economically and environmentally sound.

The new brine system can pre-treat roadways before the snow accumulates.

From the article:

“This is not the first time a preventative approach has been tried; for years, Mass DOT has favored liquid magnesium chloride as a pre-storm treatment. One practical problem with this compound, however, is that it has a limited working life; it can only be applied a few hours before a storm is slated to hit.

In contrast, the brine solution does not use chemicals. It also uses less sodium, and costs only 55 cents a gallon, compared with 89 cents per gallon for the magnesium chloride. When you apply between 20,000 gallons and 30,000 gallons of the stuff, as the Massachusetts DOT does every year, that cost difference can add up quickly.

But the real savings may be found in the fact that brine can be applied two or three days, rather than hours, before a storm hits. This means that, with a little bit of planning, the state can substantially reduce the number of overtime hours it has to pay to employees and contractors.”

The system, from Brine Xtreme (see their web site here) costs about $250,000 but, as a preventive measure, has the sustainable effect of reducing the salting and sanding needed, saving lives, and putting less harmful materials into the local aquifer.

The article goes on to argue for regional, multiple-town collaborations:

“(This) represent(s) yet another example of how a regional approach can accomplish more than individual towns can on their own. A centrally-located brine machine in the mid-Cape area could potentially become a Cape-wide clearing house for ice clearing.”

It also mentions – and we need to mention this for our project management readers – that the implementation of this steady-state solution (pun intended) is the outcome of a pilot project in Western Massachusetts.  So once again, we see the intersection of sustainability and project management in a very real, salt-of-the-earth sort of way!


Sea what we mean?

New England – the home of EarthPM –  has 473 miles of coastline.  It has fabled ship-building, fishing, and whaling port cities which flourished based on the bounty of the sea.  Many of these communities are struggling based on the decline of their industries.

Now,  a recent article in The Boston Globe says that these communities may have a second chance at flourishing again, and this time it may be energy that brings the potential of an inexhaustible source of energy, hundreds of jobs, and billions in revenue”.

Many of these jobs – and much of this revenue and energy – will be via projects.  Projects to build the systems that translate the energy from the sea (or the wind out at sea) to the actual power grid.

But what we also found interesting was the effect on the job market on land.

From the article:

“Ocean energy is also generating economic activity on land. The nation’s first commercial testing facility for large wind turbine blades opened in Charlestown last year to support blade designers and manufacturers developing advanced materials that can stand up to harsh winds and elements offshore. The center helped persuade TPI Composites, an Arizona firm that makes blades for companies such as GE Energy, to open a development facility in Fall River.

Siemens AG, a German conglomerate, has also opened an office in Massachusetts dedicated to offshore wind power development, while others like Mass Tank Sales Corp., a Middleborough firm that makes water and fuel tanks, has a preliminary agreement to build foundations for Cape Wind’s turbines.”

The ‘trickle down (or should we call them ‘trickle-inland’?) effect’ from these ocean-based energy efforts are significant, providing great opportunities for project managers and engineers.

These “green-by-definition” projects will need PMs with a vocabulary and focus on sustainability.  That’s one of the reasons we’re here.  Stay tuned to EarthPM’s blog as well as other upcoming training opportunities to help avail yourselves of these types of opportunities.

An ocean home for energy projects

octopusgardenWhen you think of the inception of key new technologies, sometimes geography comes to mind.

For example – if I was to ask you what area comes to mind when I say “computer chips” you would probably think “Silicon Valley” in California.  A geographic area like that can become a breeding ground for the (hopefully) successful launch of many projects that yield successful products, services, and outcomes.

Now I ask you to expand your mind a bit and consider that the geographic area does not have to be on land.

In this article from today’s Boston Globe, (by Scott Kirsner) you can read about the intent to create a giant “Wetlab” in the waters to the south of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.  This effort has already received $1.5 million in Federal grant money.  So it’s beyond the ‘idea’ stage, and in fact is already a project, and is called such in the article.

The official name of this project is the National Renewable Energy Innovation Zone.

The advantage to companies who want to innovate in the areas of ocean-based wind, tidal or temperature-difference energy generation is that they would cut down – perhaps by 66% –  the amount of time and money they have to spend navigating the permitting process.  That’s a lot of red tape to push out of the way.

From the article,

One company already testing a tidal power generation system in Maine is Portland-based Ocean Renewable Power Co. Chief executive Chris Sauer says the company’s next-generation system, which could be in the water and connected to the electrical grid by late 2011, will have turbines moored to the seafloor that will be spun by tidal currents. Located in a bay near Eastport, it will generate enough power for 50 to 75 homes.

Ocean Renewable Power also hopes to be involved in the first project that could be part of the Big Wetlab.

Yes, that’s a small number of homes, but recall the reference to the Silicon Valley.  It was just a tiny chip a fraction of a square centimeter that launched the revolution which provided capability for you to be reading this blog post right now on your computer.

So, here at EarthPM we hope that this project indeed will bring a National Renewable Energy Innovation Zone to this area and it will launch the start of many projects, yielding huge savings in energy, and of course the need for many, many project managers!

Note: click on the image above (or right here) to recall a fanciful Beatles tune roughly (okay…very roughly) on this same topic.