I just finished reading a terrific article “The Most Invasive Species of All”, by Curtis Marean in the August 2015 edition of Scientific American. sciamcover

It goes back, way back. Nope, even further than that. Yes, it goes back about 200,000 years, when our ancestor H. sapiens were established in Africa and then to about 70,000 years ago when, in one of the largest unrecorded examples of scope creep, went to almost every corner of the Earth.

There are two project management and sustainability aspects to the article. And it turns out that the two are related.

  1. Consistent findings that wherever H. sapiens went, there followed significant ecological change. Sometimes this meant the extinction of other human species (Neanderthal and Denisovan populations) and the extinction of megafauna (large mammals).
  2. H. sapiens may have succeeded in their expansion due to something the author calls hyperprosociality – a proclivity for collaboration.

The first item speaks to the idea that whatever you think about climate change caused by humans, the evidence is overwhelming that where H. Sapiens have expanded, they have indeed affected the ecology. Interesting, but not the main point of this post.

I found myself fascinated by the theory the author poses – which is that this concept of hyperprosociality is a genetically-encoded trait (not a learned behavior).

PMI tells us about the importance of collecting lessons learned and in setting up a learning organization, in which project managers succeed by NOT repeating missteps and by duplicating things that work. This ancient but extremely human example discussed in the article shows the power of collaboration – power that literally – quite literally – allowed H. sapiens to take over the entire world, in large part because they collaborated, in highly complex coordinated group activities. As the author puts it, “with the ability to operate in groups of unrelated individuals, H. sapiens was well on its way to becoming an unstoppable force”.

Now let’s take it back to t the number 1 point. If we are indeed facing a threat from climate change, and it’s human-caused (or even if not) it probably is going to take that same ‘proclivity for collaboration’ to counter the effects and reverse the trend.

And project managers – we are collaborator coordinators extraordinaire – we need to play a major role in the effort.

Even if you have no interest in those issues, you should let yourself be inspired by our own ancestors – and the power they derived from collaboration. Use that power!

The Project Pope Statement


No, that’s not a typo.  You probably thought we’d be talking about a Project Scope Statement.  But here, we really are talking about the Pope and his recent encyclical, “Laudato Si'”.  This is Pope Francis’ writings and ‘policy statements’ if you will, regarding climate change.   You can download the entire encyclical here.

It’s long.  And it was popular.  The Vatican web page crashed with the volume of requests for downloads when it was first released.

We found a 10-point summary of the encyclical here from America (The National Catholic Review).  And then we did something interesting for you – we took 8 of those 10 points where we found the greatest intersection with project management principles, and share the points with you for your consideration.  Our comments are in italics just under each of the points made by the journal referenced above.

Here you go:

The Top 10 takewayays from Laudato Si’

This blog post draws from an article in America (The National Catholic Review), which goes through the top 10 takeaways from the Pope’s recent encyclical on the environment, also called “Laudato Si’.

We’ll provide a project/program/portfolio perspective on this using extracts from this review (which in turn is a digest of the (fairly large) encyclical itself. We cover 8 of the 10 points from the article.


1)    The spiritual perspective is now part of the discussion on the environment.

The greatest contribution of “Laudato Si” to the environmental dialogue is, to my mind, its systematic overview of the crisis from a religious point of view. Until now, the environmental dialogue has been framed mainly with political, scientific and economic language. With this new encyclical, the language of faith enters the discussion—clearly, decisively and systematically. But in its systematic spiritual approach, this is a groundbreaking document that expands the conversation by inviting believers into the dialogue and providing fresh insights for those already involved.

We aren’t suggesting to add ‘spirituality’ as a new constraint for project managers. However, we can use this ‘spiritual perspective’ to underline the ethical aspects we already rely on, and to process our decisions with just slightly more thoughtfulness.

2)    The poor are disproportionately affected by climate change.

The disproportionate effect of environmental change on the poor and on the developing world is highlighted in almost every section of the encyclical. Indeed, near the beginning of “Laudato Si,” the pope states that focus on the poor is one the central themes of the encyclical, and he provides many baneful examples of the effects of climate change, whose “worse impacts” are felt those living in the by developing countries.

Again, it’s a matter of thinking through decisions – project decisions, and, we’d assert, decisions that go through the deployment of your project’s product, including, how it serves people of various countries and populations. Have you thought, for example, about disposal of the final product (especially electronics and rare-earth minerals) and how that disposal affects people in countries where those materials are recovered?

3)    Less is more.

Pope Francis takes aim at what he calls the “technocratic” mindset, in which technology is seen as the “principal key” to human existence. He critiques an unthinking reliance on market forces, in which every technological, scientific or industrial advancement is embraced before considering how it will affect the environment and “without concern for its potential negative impact on human beings”.

As project managers we are used to focusing on CPI and SPI (project spending and schedule efficiency) so we are quite familiar with doing more with less. But here, the Pope is talking more about CSR – Corporate Social Responsibility, or perhaps you could call it Triple Bottom Line (TBL) thinking. Have you thought about those bottom lines on your projects?

5)    Discussions about ecology can be grounded in the Bible and church tradition.

Wisely, Pope Francis begins the encyclical not with a reflection on Scripture and tradition (the two pillars of Catholic teaching), which might tempt nonbelievers to set aside the letter, but with an overview of the crisis—including issues of water, biodiversity and so on. Only in Chapter Two does he turn towards “The Gospel of Creation,” in which he leads readers, step by step, through the call to care for creation that extends as far back as the Book of Genesis, when humankind was called to “till and keep” the earth. But we have done, to summarize his approach, too much tilling and not enough keeping The insights of the saints are also recalled, most especially St. Francis of Assisi, the spiritual lodestar of the document. In addition to helping nonbelievers understand the Scripture and the church’s traditions, he explicitly tries to inspire believers to care for nature and the environment.

This is admittedly pretty far from project management. But this idea – of grounding discussions about climate change and ecology around the Bible and church tradition – does provide support for those project managers who want to try to convince stakeholders who are strongly aligned with the Church to look to their own leaders for inspiration and to bring them on board for sustainability-oriented project thinking.

6)    Everything is connectedincluding the economy.

One of the greatest contributions of “Laudato Si” is that it offers what theologians call a “systematic” approach to an issue. First, he links all of us to creation: “We are part of nature, included in it, and thus in constant interaction with it” (No. 139). But our decisions, particularly about production and consumption, have an inevitable effect on the environment. Pope Francis links a “magical conception of the market,” which privileges profit over the impact on the poor, with the abuse of the environment (No. 190). Needless to say, a heedless pursuit of money that sets aside the interests of the marginalized and leads to the ruination of the planet are connected “Profit,” he says, “cannot be the sole criterion” of our decisions (No. 187).

We’d just comment there that as silo-busting project managers, we know more than most about this concept of ‘everything being connected’ – or at least we know that things work better on our projects when they are connected. But the message for us is in the last line: “Profit cannot be the sole criterion of our decisions”. This is an important piece of CSR or TBL thinking.


7)    Scientific research on the environment is to be praised and used.

Pope Francis does not try to “prove” anything about climate change in this document. He frankly admits that the church does not “presume to settle scientific questions” (No. 188). And while he clearly states that there are disputes over current science, his encyclical accepts the “best scientific research available today” and builds on it, rather than entering into a specialist’s debate (No. 15). Speaking of the great forests of the Amazon and Congo, and of glaciers and aquifers, for example, he simply says, “We know how important these are for the earth…”

As project managers, we know that we must be unbiased and to base decisions on facts. These points made by the Pope remind us that the science of project management is better served when we rely on the science of facts and the facts that science brings us.   Yes, we use ‘gut feel’ and manage by experience and other soft skills – but don’t ignore what the science is telling you.


8)    Widespread indifference and selfishness worsen environmental problems.

Pope Francis reserves his strongest criticism for the wealthy who ignore the problem of climate change, and especially its effect on the poor. This affects not simply for those in the developing world, but also in the inner cities of our more developed countries, where he calls for what might be termed an “urban ecology.” In the world of “Laudato Si” there is no room for selfishness or indifference. One cannot care for the rest of nature “if our hearts lack tenderness, compassion and concern for our fellow human beings” (No. 91).

We use this point just to refresh and re-charge the idea that the bottom line of a project includes ecological and social aspects. Further, we can take the Pope’s last point as a reminder to deal compassionately with our project teams. In our experience we’ve seen “successful” projects which have left a trail of bruised and bloodied project team members (well, maybe bunt-out is a better description). These folks won’t want to work on our projects ever again. So if we localize these thoughts and even bring them into our project teams, we have a net benefit. But clearly the Pope is talking about a larger problem. We can make a difference locally and globally as project managers.


10)    A change of heart is required

At heart, this document, addressed to “every person on the planet” is a call for a new way of looking at things, a “bold cultural revolution” (No. 3, 114). We face an urgent crisis, when, thanks to our actions, the earth has begun to more and more like, in Francis’ vivid language, “an immense pile of filth” (No. 21). Still, the document is hopeful, reminding us that because God is with us, we can strive both individually and corporately to change course. We can awaken our hearts and move towards an “ecological conversion” in which we see the intimate connection between God and all beings, and more readily listen to the “cry of the earth and the cry of the poor” (No. 49).

We use this point as a high-level summary for us as project managers. The phraseology ‘individually and corporately to change course’ struck a chord with us. Maybe it will with you as well.


Mind the gap, indeed



We like plays on words…  as you may have figured from reading our posts.

This one involves using the double meaning of “Mind The Gap” – the omnipresent message in The Tube (London’s Underground) and referring to the space between the train and the floor.  It also involves a double meaning with respect to “in deed” – we mean to say here that there are some things you can do in “deeds” (actions) to help your projects.

But let’s get our minds back up on ground level first.  So we now exit The Tube and come back up on terra firma.

Whatever do we mean by the gap, and what are these deeds?


The Gap

Here we refer to the communications gap.  We refer to the fact that project management is about 80 to 90% communications.  So if you have a gap here, your projects will suffer.  Recently, PMI relseased their Pulse of the Profession study on communications.  It’s entitled, “The High Cost of Low Performance – The Essential Role of Communications” and as of this writing, the document is available for free download (member or not), at this link.


The Deeds, indeed

Since we can provide you with a link to the study we won’t write a long post here.  But we do want to give you the context and the relationship to sustainability.  After all, EarthPM has thrived based on this intersection.  And we thrive because we have helped organizations understand that this is a key intersection.

We draw your attention to one particular part of the study, illustrated with the simple graphic below:


The simple act of frequently communicating the business strategy – which we assert includes sustainability elements – provides a 16% advantage in meeting the projects’ original goals and business intent.   16% for simply connecting your project’s objectives with the objectives of the business.  What project manager would not like a power boost like that?  And in exchange for something with such low effort and, we would add, something you should be doing anyway!

This is very much in line with one of our most popular posts, “In This Case, Unplugged Is a Bad Thing“, so we suggest you pop back there for a visit if you want a bit more of our take on this topic.

For now, though, we ask you to mind the gap and head over to PMI’s site to read about this simple improvement you can make – at the intersection of sustainability and project management.


Know Thy Stakeholders

When the new PMBOK(R) Guide comes out soon – the 5th Edition, that is – it will include a brand-new Knowledge Area.

For fans of Project Management (and who isn’t one?) there are currently 9 Knowledge Areas, Sleepy, Sneezy, Grumpy, no…wait.  Wrong list.  Let me check.  How about this one: Dancer, Blitzen, Rudolf… nope.  Still not quite right.

Ah.  We remember now.  The nine Knowledge Areas (in the 4th Edition) are (in no particular order): Integration, Scope, Time, Cost, Quality, HR, Communications, Risk, and Procurement.

And, introducing, for the first time ever, in the 5th Edition: Stakeholder Management.

So PMI (rightly) has decided to focus uniquely on Stakeholder Management rather than distribute it in the other knowledge areas, mainly Communications and Integration.

What does this have to do with sustainability?

Turns out: alot.

As a PM we need to know our stakeholders.  As we’ve asserted in over 300 posts here and of course in our book, as well as recent talks in Malaysia and South Florida (note: both have palm trees), projects produce outcomes.  Those outcomes outlive the project.  Sometimes by centuries.  Imagine, for example, a single-serve coffeemaker that produces a great cup of coffee, but in the steady-state also produces non-recyclable cups.  Say… about 12 billion of them.  That, dear PM friends, is an outcome that outlasts our project.

Should we care about it?

Well, that may depend on your own personal views.

But be careful.

It’s not only about YOU.

It’s about the coffee drinkers, the customers, the STAKEHOLDERS who may just care.   And in this article we picked up from the Associated Press, the statistics show that these stakeholders care deeply, and increasingly about ecological issues.

For example:

4 out of 5 Americans (yep, Americans) said that climate change will be a serious problem for the US if nothing is done about it.  This is an increase from 73% from just 3 years ago.

57% say that the US government should do “a great deal” about the problem.

One of the biggest changes is this:

Of those who trust scientists “only a little” or “not at all” (in other words, skeptics), 61% admit that temperatures have been rising during the past 100 years.  That is a jump from 47% just three years ago.

So these stakeholders, for example, your sponsors, team members, bosses, engineers, marketeers, internal customers, and end customers, are increasingly aware and concerned about ecological sustainability.

Take a lesson from PMI, and whatever your feelings about sustainability, know thy stakeholders.  It’s not even a lesson.  It’s a whole dang Knowledge Area!



This just in…



For Immediate Release

Project Management Institute Honors Authors Richard Maltzman, PMP and David Shirley, PMP with the 2011 PMI David I. Cleland Project Management Literature Award

Dallas TX, USA— The Project Management Institute, the world’s leading project management member association, announces that it has honored Richard Maltzman, PMP, and David Shirley, PMP with the 2011 Project Management Institute (PMI®) David I. Cleland Project Management Literature Award for their authorship of Green Project Management. The award was presented during PMI’s annual Awards Ceremony on Saturday, 22 October 2011 at the Gaylord Texan Resort & Convention Center.

The PMI David I. Cleland Project Management Literature Award recognizes authors for advancing the project management knowledge, practices, procedures, concepts or techniques that demonstrate the value of using project management. The publication may be on historical, current or future endeavors.

About the book:

Detailing cutting-edge green techniques and methods, this book teaches project managers how to maximize resources and get the most out of limited budgets. It supplies proven techniques and best practices in green project management, including risk and opportunity assessments. With illustrative case studies and insights from acknowledged leaders in green project management, the text:

  • Explains how to tap into green incentives, including grants, rebates, and tax credits
  • Includes case studies that illustrate how to integrate green techniques and methods to generate cost savings and maximize resources
  • Provides green techniques that take little time to implement, can benefit all types of projects, and can generate immediate savings to your project’s bottom line

Said the authors, “We’re very proud and honored to receive this award, and we feel it’s very important that PMI has recognized (from a list of outstanding project management nominations) a book on the intersection of sustainability and project management.  We hope this draws more attention to this increasingly important aspect of projects and helps Project Managers recognize their increasingly important role in this area.”

About Project Management Institute (PMI)
PMI is the world’s largest project management member association, representing more than 600,000 practitioners in more than 185 countries. As a global thought leader and knowledge resource, PMI advances the profession through its global standards and credentials, collaborative chapters and virtual communities and academic research. When organizations invest in project management, supported by PMI, executives have confidence that their important initiatives will deliver expected results, greater business value and competitive advantage. Visit us at www.pmi.org, www.facebook.com/PMInstitute, and on Twitter @PMInstitute.


Dave Shirley and the Cleland Award


Official Press Release from PMI – click HERE.


We are thrilled to be in such great company:

Previous Recipients of the PMI David I Cleland Project Management Literature Award

2010: Identifying and Managing Project Risk: Essential Tools for Failure-Proofing Your Project, Second Edition, 2009 by Tom Kendrick, PMP, MBA, MSEE

2009: Managing Complex Projects: A New Model by Kathleen B. Hass, PMP

2008: Global Project Management: Communication, Collaboration and Management Across Borders by Jean Binder, MBA, PMP

2007: The AMA Handbook of Project Management, Second Edition

2006: Kenneth H. Rose, PMP

2005: Gregory A. Garrett, CPCM, CPM, PMP

2004: Dragan Z. Milosevic, PhD, PMP

2003: Preston G. Smith, CMC; Guy M. Merritt

2002: J. Kent Crawford, PMP

1999: Vijay Verma