Your PM Career – Inside Out


In this month’s PM Network magazine, we were struck by the motivations to learn more about sustainability and project management from two angles:

  • Looking out at what’s going on in terms of types of projects
  • Looking at your career path within the company

We were inspired to call this post “Inside Out” because that’s how we think you can get an edge in planning your PM career.

Since the theme is “inside out”, let’s start from the back of the magazine and work forward.

Inside Out

Near the end of this issue is an article called “From Good To Great”.  It’s a short but nice collection of quotes and coaching on four key capabilities you should develop to provide yourself with an advantage in your PM career, based on what executives think they’ll be needing (using recent and solid data collected from Price Waterhouse Coopers (PWC)).

The four capabilities are:

  1. Business Smarts
  2. Change Management Expertise
  3. Requirements Management Prowess
  4. Sponsor Engagement Skills

We would assert that in each of these, a case could be made that understanding sustainability concepts and principles – and practical knowledge of sustainability as applied in PM – would be a common theme and a way to shore up each of these four capabilities.  Let’s look at them all in just one more ‘notch’ of detail.

Business Smarts

One of the things that we’ve been speaking about (and we have been increasingly in demand around the world as speakers!) is that “business gets it”.  What we mean by this (and we suggest you try this with your own company) is that businesses at least understand that sustainability is a message they want to promote.  Check your company’s “about us” page.  We have a high confidence level that whatever business you’re in, you will probably find a CSR (corporate social responsibility) and/or environmental management section, perhaps with pictures of daisies, butterflies, forests, deer, or tropical birds.  Now, what the company is actually doing in the area, although obviously important, is not the message here.  The message IS the message.  If your company is touting itself as a good citizen, then they are telling the world that they hold (for example) the environment as an important element of their planning.  A company which is truly serious about this is probably including environmental measures of success in its balance sheet but – that’s beyond today’s post.  Again – here we are only saying that your company is likely stressing their environmental concern publicly – so being connected to that energy is a good thing.  It’s ironic that the author used the term Business Smarts to title this section.  In our book, Green Project Management, we use the term “SMARTER” to echo the idea of the usual SMART objectives, with Environmentally Responsible integrated with the usual suspects – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound.

Change Management Expertise

Again, in our talks around the world we stress that project managers are – by definition – agents of change.  You don’t even invoke a project if you didn’t want something to change; a bridge where there hadn’t been one before, a new hospital wing, a revision to accounting software…whatever.  And of course as project managers, one of our main calling cards is the ability to deal with the change within the project.  So the addition of sustainability as a new consideration is just more change that we have to deal with.  Those that can handle this and to not reject it out-of-hand is indeed a capability we agree is important, and one which sustainability-oriented PMs will master better than those who feel that this is just another constraint we don’t need or want.

Requirements Management Prowess

Again, this could be an entire chapter of a book or perhaps a book unto itself so we will settle for just saying that if you are a sustainability-oriented PM you will consider the long-term in understanding the true requirements of the project.  Our entire Chapters 9 and 10 are dedicated to this topic.

Sponsor Engagement Skills

This actually links back to the first capability – business smarts.  The reason the daisies and forests and butterflies are on the web pages are partially because of the altruism of the companies, partially due to the fact that doing good does indeed make a company do better (financially) but it’s also because increasingly, sponsors (consumers, managers, clients) are themselves more and more ‘green’.  So having a ‘green’ vocabulary, understanding life-cycle-assessment, for example, is going to be a plus in engaging these greener sponsors.

So that covers the ‘inside-out” portion.  What about “outside-in”?

Outside In

What we mean when we say ‘outside-in’ is the fact that there are some projects that themselves are blatantly oriented towards sustainability.  These are the ones we define in our book as “green by definition”.  And there are indeed stories in PM Network this month, as there are increasingly every month, about wind, solar, biofuel, transportation and other projects which need project managers.  These projects, which may be outside your current company, may just be calling you – or calling ON you – in the future.

In this particular issue, the stories happen to be about the increasingly complex and larger wind farm deployments off the coast of Europe, and also about Chile’s growing demand for renewable power.  In both cases, the demand for ‘green’ project managers is up.  Way up.

So how about your career?  Have you at least taken the time to understand this sustainability “thing”?  We encourage you to do so by staying tuned here, reading our book, inviting us to speak at your PMI chapter, or at the very least, reading the PM Network magazine which inspired this post.