Run, Forest, Run!

Our latest blog post from Projects@Work is particularly interesting in that it goes over some recent (and fantastic!) discoveries from the world of life science.  The discoveries are around the way that forests run (thus the lame reference to Forrest Gump in the post title).

It’s about connections.  It involves beagles, mushrooms, a critter named a ‘springtail’, and of course, trees.

We think you’ll like the connections we make to project management and sustainability.  Have a look (and listen!).

CLICK HERE TO READ THE POST

Enjoy!

Invested in Sustainability as a PM? You should be!

uswho

Many executives embrace the conventional wisdom that mainstream investors care little about an organization’s performance on environmental, social, and governance (ESG) metrics. Few companies make it a priority to communicate their sustainability performance to investors, or even develop a robust story about their sustainability performance. Why should they? Investors won’t shift their investments, the thinking goes, based on a company’s ESG performance. However, a growing number of investors are paying attention to ESG performance, as evidence mounts that sustainability-related activities are material to the financial success of a company over time. Investors care more about sustainability issues than many executives believe.

This is the opening paragraph of the latest MIT/Sloan & Boston Consulting Group report, “Investing for a Sustainable Future”.  Keeping in tune with the last two posts, in which the entire principle of project managers thinking ‘too broadly’ and ‘inflating their jobs’ was raised by some critics, it was meaningful to see this report which says that investors and C-level executives (key stakeholders of projects, programs and portfolios – and often the sponsors of the projects on which project managers work) are increasingly focused on sustainability, not only for altruistic reasons but because a concentration on sustainability has shown to yield financial benefit.

Here’s a little more about the survey, for validation: The input came from over 3,000 respondents from commercial enterprises. Within this commercial sample, 579 survey respondents self-identified as investors: Most were strategic (39%), institutional (24%), or retail (11%) investors. Few identified themselves as mission-oriented or socially responsible investors – so the choice to ‘invest in ESG’ is not (only) driven by a thread of fiery environmentalism or cause, but rather, success of the enterprises in which these investors put their money.

Where’s the project connection?  Well aside from the key connection already mentioned (can anyone say “stakeholder”?), there are initiatives and projects which are themselves focused on sustainability, and they are yielding financial benefits.  Here are three examples from the report, which illustrate why this has the attention of investors – and in our opinion should have the antennae of project managers and PMOs fully up and tuned in:

  • Florida Ice & Farm Company SA, based in Costa Rica, is (an) example. In 2005, the company respondedto Costa Rica’s looming water access crisis by investing in water-saving measures. Within two years, the organization had decreased its use of water in production by an eye-popping 82%. The reduction drove down production costs and helped sustain 20% annual growth between 2010 and 2014.
  • Deerfield, Illinois-based healthcare company Baxter International Inc. estimates it earns $3 for every $1 invested in environmental initiatives.
  • Johnson & Johnson is achieving a 19% internal rate of return on its CO2 projects.

In all three cases, the benefits were realized with projects – projects that look like they were focused on environmental activism, and may indeed have been – – but the line between taking on an ESG initiative and just “taking on an initiative” is blurring, quickly.  This is why project managers need to be aware of ESG principles, and increasingly positive ESG sponsor-stakeholders.

How does an enterprise move forward to gather in more investors, now that there’s evidence that investors increasingly care about ESG?

According to the article, these are key steps:

<> Build awareness of sustainability challenges and programs — both within the company and among stakeholders, including investors.

<>  Identify and analyze material issues and create alignment within the organization to ensure an integrated response.

<> Invest in and focus on tangible and measurable sustainability outcomes instead of positions on ratings lists.

<> Formulate a strategy once tangible sustainability measures are established.

<> Incorporate the sustainability strategy into the overall corporate strategy, including a clear business case or proof of value.

<> Engage investors, and a broad range of stakeholders, to discuss the company’s sustainability strategy and progress.

Look at that list.  For one thing, aren’t most of the items in the list actually projects in and of themselves?  Yes.  As a project manager, shouldn’t your project seek to align to the strategy and higher-level portfolio/program objectives?  Of course.

So again, we feel ‘charged up’ by this report, we feel that the comments about job inflation and overstepping our bounds as project managers to be just plain wrong-minded and out-of-step with the way business is changing.  At a minimum we recommend that those who assert that the PM should stay tucked away in isolation from the value chain is not only under-utilizing the talent and capability of the PM, it is actually breaking a ‘golden thread’ all the way from investors to end-customers.  As PMs we need to be conveyors of organizational strategy and objectives, not blockers.  As I final message I suggest you read the recent post by Cornelius Fichtner, “Benefits Realisation for Project Managers”, which coincidentally came out just around the time of our two posts on job inflation.

(This post originally entered on our regular channel, People, Planet, Profits, and Projects, on projectsatwork.com – we suggest you follow that stream as we don’t blog as regularly here anymore).

Agnotology

headsand


I am about to offend you.


Do you have all of the data, information, knowledge, and wisdom you need to make your project decisions? Are you missing something? In a way, I’m asking what could be interpreted as a very offensive question: “are you ignorant”?
But I’m using ignorance in its truest sense – lacking the proper knowledge or information.
Happy New Year! I certainly don’t mean to offend. I’m actually sharing a very interesting article from BBC Future, which discusses the science of agnotology.  This is the science and study of ‘culturally induced ignorance’ such as when the tobacco industry clouded the science around tobacco and lung cancer so that people remained ignorant of the connection.
The story features Robert Proctor, a science historian who has studied the ‘spread of ignorance’.  Per the article:

“Proctor found that ignorance spreads when firstly, many people do not understand a concept or fact and secondly, when special interest groups – like a commercial firm or a political group – then work hard to create confusion about an issue. In the case of ignorance about tobacco and climate change, a scientifically illiterate society will probably be more susceptible to the tactics used by those wishing to confuse and cloud the truth.
Consider climate change as an example. “The fight is not just over the existence of climate change, it’s over whether God has created the Earth for us to exploit, whether government has the right to regulate industry, whether environmentalists should be empowered, and so on. It’s not just about the facts, it’s about what is imagined to flow from and into such facts,” says Proctor.”

 

(Blogger’s Note: the photo associated with this post actually comes from a form of social expression in Australia in which hundreds literally buried their heads in the sand on Bondi Beach to mock Prime Minster Tony Abbott on his denial view of climate change science)

The connection to us as project, program, and portfolio managers, of course, is that whatever our political beliefs, we cannot tolerate (or perhaps put more realistically, afford) to be ignorant. We have to be connected – as connected as possible – to the facts, whether they be the latest report from a subcontractor, the budget results, or, yes, climate change. Even if you disagree with the science or are dubious about the way in which it is presented, understand the way in which others are processing the information, and take that as a fact – as information – as knowledge.
In any case, have a look at the article – it’s fascinating to learn about a whole science dedicated to the idea of what we don’t know and why we don’t know it.
Learning about what we don’t know and why – and even more importantly, learning how we can prevent our own ignorance – is simply best-practice project management.

There’s actually an assessment tool to check on your level of awareness on sustainability issues in your projects, programs, and portfolios, called The Sustainability Wheel™ in our new book, “Driving Project, Program, and Portfolio Success“.  Check it out (both the book and the assessment tool).

Using the Sustainability Radar™ from our tool, you can find out if you are a Fearless Leader, or (gasp) an Efficient Bamboozler, or one of dozens of other types.  And more importantly, there is coaching to help reverse any gaps.

 

See below.

sustradar

 

 

 

 

Check out Sustainability Radar™ in our new book.

With that, we’d like to wish you an Agnotologically Correct Happy New Year!

Golden Threads, and Ruby Slippers

COVER of BOOK

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.

 

organizational-stragegy-decision-making
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:

consequences

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!