Forest for the trees



The following quote comes from a popular business magazine (to be revealed later in this post):

“as customers and other stakeholders increasingly express interest in sustainably produced products, …organizations are paying more attention to the big picture

Yes. That’s the point of our whole book – Driving Project, Program, and Portfolio Success.


Ha!  Indeed, our book even features a forest on its cover!  Or are those trees?  Well…in fact it really comes down to that final word – success. What is success? If success is more than a quarter-to-quarter affair, then getting the organization, importantly including the project managers, on board regarding longer-term viewpoints, is going to be critical.





Here are some examples.

  • Kimberly-Clark, manufacturer of Kleenex™ tissues (for example) has set (and met!) a goal to procure 100% of its wood fiber from certified sources – a goal that drove many project to meet this goal in 2014.
  • Carillion, a global construction firm, has a three point plan regarding timber sourcing:
  1. A sourcing policy, tied in with the Forest Stewardship Council
  2. Partnering with key suppliers to educate them on their sustainability goals
  3. Added a review step at the portfolio level to make sure that each project was in compliance with the above.
  • Williams-Sonoma is partnering with its suppliers in Indonesia to build a nursery to grow plantation wood for its furniture lines
  • McDonalds is ending deforestation in its supply chain by procuring items (including beef!), coffee, and palm oil only from sustainable sources
  • Procter & Gamble will break its supply chain links to deforestation completely by 2020

See the connection to project management? It’s multi-faceted. In some cases, it’s direct, such as Carillion’s case which is actually making this part of their project compliance process. In some cases it’s a project “engine”, such as the case with Procter & Gamble; you don’t completely revamp the supply chain without launching a gaggle of projects – all of which will need sustainably-minded project managers.

Another thing to note: these companies are not Ben & Jerry’s or Patagonia, or Helen’s Whole Wheat Kelp Flakes… they are big MNCs (Multi-National Corporations) which have bought into the principles of sustainability not (only) due to a sense of what’s right, but because it makes good business sense (cents).

Consider your company. What sustainability goals have they set? How “outside the box”, how “long-term”, how “holistically” do they think? Can you as a project manager be a change agent to prod them along? Perhaps. After all, projects are indeed about change. Oh. And by the way, did we tell you where the article came from? Well, it comes from the current (December 2015) issue of PM Network magazine, the monthly journal of the Project Management Institute!


India and US to collaborate in large solar energy research project



This story is a composite of several press releases (see links below).

India and the United States have started an initiative – a $US50 million project – to develop solar energy through photovoltaic (PV) projects and concentrated solar power (CSP), also known as solar thermal.

This comes four months after India experienced one of the world’s biggest blackouts, which affected more than 680 million people.

The project, dubbed ‘SERIIUS’ (Solar Energy Research Initiative of India and the United States), the project would be conducted by the Bangalore-based Indian Institute of Science and the Washington-based National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

“We are expecting the project to produce desirable results within five years,” Rajeev Deshpande, a senior energy official, told an energy conference here.

Unlike traditional solar panels, CSP projects concentrate a large area of sunlight onto a small area of contained liquid. The liquid heats up, emits steam, and a generator converts the steam into electricity.

This is not the first time that the US and India have collaborated on green projects.  Back in 2009 (which seems so long ago as we head into 2013!), the two countries participated in a high-level Energy Partnership.

At EarthPM, it’s our hope, as we head into the new year, that these types of collaborations increase.  Besides the obvious immediate benefit to our field (more project managers!) this is the type of good work that needs to be done to get ourselves less and less dependent on energy sources which aren’t renewable, aren’t clean, and simply no longer make sense in the long-term.

Article from The Hindu
Article from Green Technology
Article from The Deccan Chronicle

The Sky is Falling – May be time to heed the warnings

We’ve tend to stay neutral when it comes to the global climate change debate, although we have tried to arm you with the information we believed you, as project managers, need to make sure you can take advantage of any projects that may arise as a result of any mitigation strategies.  Today, we heard about a couple of disturbing reports due out over the next several months.  Their titles were pretty ominous so we decided to dig a little deeper.

Take a look at some of these headlines and reports to be released and see if you don’t agree that they are unnerving;


NOAA: Past Decade Warmest on Record According to Scientists in 48 Countries 

Earth has been growing warmer for more than 50 years.

And this one a report that is indicative of what is to come.

The Special Report on Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation.

The title says that those extreme events we have been experiencing, a major snow storm in the northeast in October 2011 for instance, are going to continue and we need a risk mitigation process to address them.  Further, we will need to “adapt” to these changes.

Another report coming from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC);

Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation

And finally, an interview from a scientist who has not only been one of the questioners of global climate change, but also his study was partially funded by an organization made up of climate change skeptics.  Dr. Richard Muller, professor of physics from the University of California, Berkeley, and founder of the Berkley Earth Surface Temperature Foundation, undertook an independent two year study of global climate change.

It was not that he himself was a sceptic, he just didn’t believe the likes of Tom Friedman and Al Gore because Dr. Muller believes their contentions were not truly science based.  Here is part of the interview between Dr. Muller and Eleanor Hall with Bronwyn Herbert from the Australian Broadcast Network (ABC).  You can hear the entire interview here.

BRONWYN HERBERT: Richard Muller says he wasn’t convinced the earth was warming, and set out two years ago to find out if mainstream climate scientists were wrong.

RICHARD MULLER: Sceptics had raised legitimate questions. Many of the thermometers were of very poor quality and poorly placed. There were  djustments being made to discontinuities in the data. There was perhaps undue influence from warming of cities, which was warm, but that’s not global warming.

BRONWYN HERBERT: He says he was particularly surprised that his results so closely correlated with previously published data from other teams in the US and the UK.

RICHARD MULLER: Somewhat to my amazement, none of the effects changed the answer. We wound up getting the same answer that the other groups had previously gotten for the amount of warming. It’s about 0.9 degrees Celsius over the last 50 years. The poor temperature quality data, even though it was at bad locations, the change in temperature I recorded was accurate. The urban heat island, just not that much area of the earth is urban. The temperature adjustments that people made, well those adjustments were made with more care than we could know, and in the end the adjustments didn’t bias the data. We picked five times as many stations as they did. Their selection of stations was sufficiently representative that it didn’t change the answer. So, in the end, the amount of global warming is what they said it was.

BRONWYN HERBERT: So do you now believe that global warming on earth is occurring?

RICHARD MULLER: Oh yes. I certainly believe that now.

And finally, from a report Agence France-Presse (AFP) states that a draft UN report three years in the making concludes that man-made climate change has boosted the frequency or intensity of heat waves, wildfires, floods and cyclones and that such disasters are likely to increase in the future.

“The document being discussed by the world’s Nobel-winning panel of climate scientists says the severity of the impacts vary, and some regions are more vulnerable than others. Hundreds of scientists working under the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) will vet the phonebook-sized draft at a meeting in Kampala of the 194-nation body later this month.

“This is the largest effort that has even been made to assess how extremes are changing,” said Neville Nicholls, a professor at Monash University in  Melbourne, Australia, and a coordinating lead author of one of the review’s key chapters. Mindful of an outcry by climate skeptics over flaws in an earlier IPCC text, those working on the document stress that the level of “confidence” in the findings depends on the quantity and quality of data available.

But the overall picture that emerges is one of enhanced volatility and frequency of dangerous weather, leading in turn to a sharply increased risk for large swathes of humanity in coming decades.”

“Its publication coincides with a series of natural catastrophes around the world that have boosted the need to determine whether such events are freaks of the weather or part of a long-term shift in climate. In 2010, record temperatures fuelled devastating forest fires across Siberia, while parts of Pakistan and India reeled from unprecedented flooding. This year, the United States has suffered from a record number of billion-dollar disasters ranging from flooding in the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers to Hurricane Irene to the ongoing Texas drought. Large swathes of China are suffering from intense drought as well, even as central America and Thailand count their dead from recent diluvian rains.

Most of these events match predicted impacts of manmade global warming, which has raised temperatures, increased the amount of water in the atmosphere and warmed ocean surface temperatures — all drivers of extreme weather.

– It is “virtually certain” — 99-100% sure — that the frequency and magnitude of warm daily temperature extremes will increase over the 21st century on a global scale;

– It is “very likely” (90-100% certainty) that the length, frequency and/or intensity of warm spells, including heat waves, will continue to increase over most land areas;

– Peak temperatures are “likely” (66-100% certainty) to increase — compared to the late 20th century — up to 3.0 degrees Celsius (5.4 degrees Fahrenheit) by 2050, and 5.0 C (9.0 F) by 2100;

– Heavy rain and snowfall is likely to increase over the next century over many regions, especially in the tropics and at high latitudes;

– At the same time, droughts will likely intensify in other areas, notably the Mediterranean region, central Europe, North America, northeastern Brazil and southern Africa.” © 2011 AFP

Big Ship, Big Blades

One look at the huge ship (612 feet long) and you knew it was something special.  It was backed up to the middle bridge of the Piscataqua River and loomed over the roadway.  How to handle the ship and its cargo is a project.  The Port Director at Portsmouth, New Hampshire, considered the project as a new opportunity, and we considered it as spawned from a Green by Definition (GbD) project.  First a little about the GbD project.  Granite Reliable Power Park is a wind farm project in northern New Hampshire.  It consists of 33 Vesta V90 3 Mw wind turbines, only the second U.S. wind project to deploy these turbines.  It will generate 330,000 MWH, enough to power 40,000 homes and offset 332 million pounds of carbon dioxide.  In addition, the project will generate more that 200 jobs.

The port project itself; offload the cargo to be used for the wind farm from the Salmaagracht, a Swedish registered massive vessel docked at the State Pier in Portsmouth.  The cargo:

  • 22 nacelles (gear housing) measuring 32 feet long and weighing 81 tons each, about the weight of two humpback whales.
  • 69 fixed blades, each measuring 149 feet long or about the length of 4 school buses and weighing 17 tons.
  • 22 hubs (part of the rotor assembly) and 22 spinners

What makes the ship special are the 3 huge cranes that can lift up to 120 tons.   Further logistics for the project included one tractor trailer for each blade, 80 workers, and 45 minutes to unload each blade.  It was a pretty amazing project that had never been done before in Portsmouth Harbor, unique, one time effort, consumes limited resources, has a fixed start and end date, you know, a project.  What we didn’t see is the greenality of the port project itself.  Yes, it was related to a GbD project, and we bet that by now, you know the questions to ask to evaluate the greenality of the project itself.  So here is the challenge.  Tell us the questions you might ask by commenting on the post.  We’ll start you out with one.  What kind of lighting do they have at the State Pier?

The Bearded Ladies of Sustainability

When the going gets tough, the first target that gets shot at seems to be the environment.  Aren’t we really cutting it close, shaving away sustainability.    The new governor of Maine, my governor, Paul LePage, is a “Lightning Rod for Critics” as headlined recently by Jenna Russell in Boston Globe.   And among other things, “…the new governor has offered up a more substantive cause for controversy: a plan to streamline state environmental protections, eliminating or reducing more than 60 regulations on pollution and development.”

I’m not going to get into a political debate, here, and whether or not you are a “tree hugger”, doesn’t really make a difference.  Is this true?  “The governor is not suggesting we turn our backs on what makes Maine great,’’ said Demeritt. “It’s about finding middle ground and the right protections, and why it takes a million dollars to get a project approved.’’ I hope so, but there are some concerns.

“It’s a wholesale retreat from the values Maine people hold dear,’’ Mike Belliveau, executive director of the Environmental Health Strategy Center, a statewide public health organization, said of LePage’s proposal. “Everyone knows the essence of Maine is the quality of its environment. It resonates deeply in the psyche of Maine people, and it’s the backbone of the economy, drawing tourists from all over the world.’’ You have to realize that Maine benefits from tourism to the tune of $15 billion per year, which makes it a leading industry in Maine.  Do we want to jeopardize that?  It’s not tree hugging it’s dollar hugging.

Now I’m all for reducing redundancy within the governmental departments.  I believe there probably is quite a bit of that.  Depending on what statistics you use,  between 34% and 45% of those employed in Maine work for some sort of federal, state, or local government.

There is some precedent for this scrutiny according to Ms. Russell. “In New Jersey, to similar outrage from environmentalists, Governor Chris Christie previously introduced many of the same proposals put forth by LePage: establishing a fast track to approval for development proposals, shifting authority from environmental boards to administrative judges, and prohibiting state standards that are stricter than federal regulations, as well as reducing governmental job redundancy.

Florida’s new governor, Rick Scott, used his recent budget recommendations to eliminate funding for the state’s land conservation program, Florida Forever, and to drastically downsize the state agency in charge of managing sprawl, the Department of Community Affairs, by slashing its budget from $779 million to $110 million, according to Sarah Bucci, a field associate with the advocacy group Environment Florida.”  One size does not necessarily fit everyone.  What one state does doesn’t necessarily meant it is relevant to another.

One of the more controversial remarks from LePage, couched as a “joke gone awry” by the governor’s office, was linked to the “proposal that has received the most attention would suspend the Kid-Safe Products Act, a law overwhelmingly approved by legislators in 2008. The law, which has yet to take effect, would ban the sale of baby bottles and other products containing biphenyl A, or BPA, a chemical compound linked to health concerns in animal studies. Supporters of the law say LePage is catering to out-of-state corporations who helped fund his campaign. Demeritt said the governor simply wants “sound science’’ to be the standard for state regulations, and with BPA, “the science is not there.’’  The worst side effect of exposure to it, he (LePage) asserted at a press conference, might be women growing “little beards.”

“State Senator Peter Mills, who ran against LePage in a seven-way Republican primary last year, said the governor’s deregulation plan contains important, necessary changes at its core, some of which are likely to be approved. But he criticized LePage for taking a “slash and burn’’ approach instead of focusing strategically on key reforms.”  We need to use a pair of scissors, not a straight razor to make cuts.

“You need to get people used to your perspective, instead of throwing everything against the wall,’’ said Mills. “It creates huge resistance and doesn’t get it done. . . . All he did was get environmentalists fired up.’’

We, as project managers, know that change is difficult, but something that is constant, and the primary reason we exist.  Everything we do involves change of some sort.  There is a right way to manage change and a wrong way.  We agreed with Senator Mills, your need to find a way to minimize resistance, not galvanize it.  Perhaps, as John Greenleaf Whittier, a poet who hailed from an almost neighbor of ours, Massachusetts said; “Tradition wears a snowy beard, romance is always young.”  Let’s keep our traditions and continue to woo sustainability.