Proud Frankensteins






In a way, we’ve felt a little like Dr. Frankenstein, trying to put together a living, breathing body (of knowledge) on sustainability thinking in project management. A small group of us who have labored in this area, writing books, presenting at conferences, starting LinkedIn groups, tweeting, working within our own organizations, even suggesting over 25 specific changes to the PMBOK® Guides over the past 5 years… we have been pushing for the fundamental idea that if project management – as a discipline – thinks PAST the end of the project, good things will happen. This focus on benefits realization is only one element of what we mean by sustainability thinking in project management, but it’s an important part – maybe even the monster’s heart.

Well, we are beginning to see the monster stir.


If you’d like to help the monster rise up, take a walk, maybe even get friendlier and healthier, check out the Sustainability Manifesto for Projects.

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!).



A new level for PM

Lessons Learned

This post is mainly a review for a book by Mel Bost, called, Lessons Learned: Taking Project Management to a New Level.  But it’s also a continuation and amplification of a theme that EarthPM has adopted – project managers need help in advancing and maturing, and that help needs to come from their Project Management Offices (PMOs).  Now, keep in mind that those of you with other names for similarly-chartered organizations (Best Practices Offices, Program and Project Management Offices, Centers of Excellence) are also part of this deal.  Whatever organization(s) you have in place to increase the consistency, maturity, capability, and excellence of your projects, your project teams, and your project managers, we’ll be referring to them as “PMOs” here, even if your enterprise calls this the Ministry of Silly Walks.

So on to the review. Mel writes a good and important book here.  It’s got personality and is easy to read.  It tells relevant stories from his experience and this gives a certain character to this book which elevates it above others of its kind.  He puts the whole thing in context with his use of systems archetypes to describe PMOs – which he describes (and we agree) are really a microcosm of the archetypes.  He sees – as we do – the PMO and project managers as change agents who can make a difference in an organization, by doing a thorough, systematic, and timely job of integrating feedback and discovery back into the workflow of projects.  That means across projects – across project types – and up to the archetype.

Each chapter ends with a set of thoughtful ‘Exercises’, a couple of thought-provoking questions that will help you (1) better absorb the material and more importantly (2) help you take it to action in your own organization.

So, if you hadn’t yet guessed, we like and recommend this book.  It’s a good one to add to your collection and to use if you’re interested in continuous improvement.

Now let’s connect some of what Mel says in the book to what we’ve been saying here at EarthPM.

In Chapter 6, Mel lists some of the features of Integrative Thinking, an idea from Roger Martin at the University of Toronto.  A couple of them, in particular, caught our eye:

  • Examination of more salient features of the project that might not have been considered when the original project was framed
  • An integrative look at other issues that might impact the project so that a holistic view of the project and its impact on all stakeholders and the environment is considered
  • An attention to architecture of the project and its major issues, which gives a good overall view of the systems dynamics involved … provides clues to the dependencies between your project’s deliverables and those of other projects…

And in his summary of Chapter 6, this gem:

“The real value of project management is when lessons learned are fed back into the project schedules and plans, and positively impact project team behavior and resulting project decisions.”

This is what we mean when we assert that a project that – for example – uses Sustainability in PM(TM) thinking does a better job at identifying, planning, and responding to risks, such as the opportunity go gain competitive advantage with ecologically-minded consumers, or the threat of a fine or penalty for failing to comply with an anti-toxin regulation.

This comes up again in Chapter 16 in which Bost says, “The more you know and understand about all the variables in the PMO and its organizational setting that can impact project team and stakeholder behavior, the quicker you can identify process improvements and achieve sustained project success.  That is a sign of MATURITY of your project process and is a goal worth striving for.”

Right.  Here he even uses the word sustained.  The connection between considering all variables (including long-term thinking) and maturity of the project process was the subject of the last 1/3 of our presentation in San Diego.

Eloquently put, Mel Bost.  Nice job.  Grab this book, and stay tuned to EarthPM for more on it later.



pushmi-pullyuIt’s almost time for New Year’s Resolutions, and we start with best New Year’s wishes for all of our readers and followers.  Happy New Year!

What will motivate you and your organizations as you move into this new year and set strategy?

In terms of setting projects and programs to become leaner, more efficient, and to reduce your impact on the environment, will you be pushed into this by regulation, legislation, laws, and limits?  Or will incentives from government, or better economics of doing things the right way have a pull on you and your projects?  Or, perhaps, it’s about image – an image that your advertising is projecting, which needs to match your actual way of behaving and performing?


Resolutions are set at the end of December, looking forward towards January.  Just as January is based on the Roman god Janus, with a forward and backward-looking face, the Pushmi-Pullyu, a creature from Dr. Dolittle, is the inspiration for this posting.

This is a good time to think about these forces which pull and push your organization – and thus your projects – in different directions.  Your PMO sits at a key point in the organization’s ability to execute portfolios, programs and projects, all of which should be tied firmly to the enterprise’s mission and values.  In our book (“Green Project Management“, CRC Press) we explore Interface Carpet and the way in which Ray Anderson made environmental commitments and how that in turn drove programs and projects for his enterprise – yielding tremendous savings in reduced waste, improvements in employee morale, and a better product.

Those of you who are sharp-eyed readers will have noted that the word “limits” above is a hyperlink.  And, in typical PM, Type A Personality fashion, you may have already clicked on that link and noticed that it was from a story in today’s Boston Globe.  This was another inspiration for today’s posting – the PUSH side of the equation.  But even in this story, the PULL comes out.  Let’s break it down for you, using some pull quotes from the story:


“Over the next decade, the plan aims to bring greenhouse gas emissions to levels that are 25 percent below those in 1990, the maximum possible limit allowed under the state Global Warming Solutions Act of 2008. That legislation mandates an 80 percent reduction in statewide greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.”


“Under the new plan, the state would cut at least an additional 7 percent through new initiatives and incentives, including a pilot program to make auto insurance cheaper for people who drive fewer miles.”

This story is interesting enough to read separately from the blog posting and we suggest you do just that by clicking here.

However we also – as is our habit – would like to share a a couple of  resources with you that resonate to this same theme – Pushmi-Pullyu.

Below is a chart from the Pew Center on Global Climate Change‘s Climate Change 101:

green can be gold - bar chart

Note the large number of “PULL” aspects to this chart – reasons to move towards acting with greenality, based on logic and necessity rather than mandate.  We think 2011 may be a key year for enterprises to realize this pull, and for governments to do whatever they can to accentuate and incentivize based on these pulls, while bringing out the mandates and limits – the pushes – where necessary.

As usual – it’s all about balance.

May 2011 be a very balanced year for all of you.