Strategic flow-cus

Look at this great graphic from the latest (April 2014) PMNetwork Magazine:


Think about that for a second.  Actually, give it 10 seconds, perhaps repeating this – aloud – as you think it through.

We have tremendous untapped power as project managers.  We connect the conceptual and squishy “strategies”, themselves a firmed-up version of mission and values of an organization, and make them into solid, feet-on-the-street, bulldozers-in-the-dirt, fiber-to-the-home, churning-out-the-code, reality.

That’s us!

So now have a look at some statistics:
















To us, the most stunning revelation there is right at the top.  Project initiatives are nearly TWICE AS LIKELY TO BE SUCCESSFUL if those projects are aligned to the organizational strategy.

Yet, in a recent custom webinar (for a huge international IT company) run by EarthPM, only about 15% of the several hundred project managers in attendance had ever viewed the company’s outstanding organizational strategy statements published on line about Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) or sustainability.  So there’s a huge gap (as it says in the PMI article, a chasm) between the strategy/mission/vision and the project managers who may be assuming, for example, that a choice between materials or services which may be a little more expensive but more in alignment with sustainability goals, is best made in the favor only of financials.  Yet the strategy of the company is to make a more responsible long-term choice, and the PM is missing that piece of information.  It’s about flow – flow of knowledge and wisdom from these goals of your leadership to the leadership YOU provide as a project manager.  And, like our blog post title infers, it’s about focus.  And that’s how we ended up with the idea of “strategic flow-cus”.

We hope you see that beyond the basic “success rate” demonstrated by the statistics above, there is also a lost opportunity for longer-term, benefits realization type of success.

You can fix this in two easy steps, and improve your strategic flow-cus.

Step 1: Locate and read your organization’s higher-level strategic statements.  Look at what your leaders are saying to the public and to other stakeholders about CSR.  Pay attention to their statements about the environment and commitment to sustainability.

Step 2 (can be done in parallel): Get and read Green Project Management, our book on this very subject, which won PMI’s Cleland Award for Literature in 2011.


Guest Post from Attorney Mark J. Guay: Corporate Governance vs. Management

We’re pleased to have a guest post today from Mark J. Guay, P.C. and his organization – Strategic Solutions.  Mark and his team are chartered to organize & help operate businesses & estates with trust, respect, & teamwork.

His team has more than 25 years helping clients take strategic approaches to their business needs.  His experience indicates that often, organizations suffer from the issue of  overemphasizing management and under-emphasizing governance [disjunctive] which results in too much control push rather than stewardship pull. Both are needed [conjunctive].

Mark and his team facilitate solutions using a multi-step decision-making process to create change, as well as overcome technical and adaptive challenges to shape your future sustainable strategy.  He and his team focus on:

* Business law, entity formation and spin-offs, contracts.
* Trademark, copyright, trade secrets.
* Estate and tax planning.
* Strategic decision-making workshops.

Mark has also been active in his community, working on environmental and sustainability issues.  See this feature article on Mark and these efforts.  Then come back and get his perspective on governance versus management.

Corporate Governance vs. Management- Who is Keeping Score?

Annual board of directors meeting season is coming to an end for companies on a calendar year basis. Some companies took the opportunity to look at how they do business. Many small companies have what is referred to as their OPERATIONAL PLANS. As it definition states, this is how they “operate” their daily business working IN their company as a W-2 employee. Congratulations, that is a good start but it is not a good finish unless you just wanted to create a job for yourself and others? If not then you need to work ON your company. In fact, working ON your business is just as important because you want more than income, you also want profit and equity [“ROE”] which are the results of ownership work – not just employee work.

The biggest mistake you will make this year is equating working IN your company with working ON your company, according to the well-known author Michael Gerber of the book The E-Myth Revisited. He states that P&Ls and tax data are static because they look backwards – not forward. Ownership work gets beyond Income only and into Profit and Equity [ROE] strategy. And isn’t that why you went into business in the first place – to go beyond income? You simply can’t be effective long term until you integrate what you do IN with what you do ON your company. So stepping back and doing some critical decision-making is the key. But that raises the question of who does it and how to do it?

So let’s answer the first question of who is responsible for governance? In a corporation the board of directors sole job is to “govern” the company. So HOW does a board “govern”? The answer lies first in defining the difference between management and governance. Most people have a good idea of what management is so I will restrict my remarks to governance issues. Some top 10 good governance director practices are the following:

1. Strategic Planning addressing sustainability, competitive advantage, etc.

2. Corporate performance and valuation planning

3. Risk and Crisis Oversight [e.g. data security]

4. Oversight of company core principles, ethics and culture

5. Oversight of human resources [e.g. management] and recruitment of directors

6. Financial Oversight [e.g. review of P&L, Balance Sheet and Budgets]

7. Oversight of sustainability matters and stakeholder relations

8. Create/approve company-wide policies and procedures.

9. Manage Board of Directors education, meeting processes, committees, etc.

10. Oversight of corporate social responsibility

I recommend that these key governance issues be addressed by your directors. (See also NACD Directorship Board Intelligence, survey report dtd 1/2011, p. 40). Managers manage the company. Directors govern [direct] managers. They are both important but very different. The Massachusetts Business Corporation Act [“MBCA”], Section 8.30(a) defines the standard a director must comply with. It states, in pertinent part, that a director must, generally speaking, act (i) in good faith, (ii) with the care that a person in a like position would reasonably believe appropriate under similar circumstances; and (iii) in a manner the director reasonably believes to be in the best interest of the corporation.

So how does a director comply with this legal standard? The comment section to Section 8.3 provides advice by stating: “The process by which a director informs himself will vary but the duty of care requires every director to take steps to become informed about the background facts and circumstances before taking action on the matter at hand. [However], a director may rely on information, opinions, reports, and statements prepared or presented by others as set forth in Section 8.30(b).”

So who are these “others” referred to? Section 8.30(b) lists the individuals and groups (the “others”) that a director may rely on. Generally speaking, they are as follows:

(i) corporate officers or employees whom the director reasonably believes to be reliable and competent with respect to the information, opinions, reports or statements presented,

(ii) professional advisors as to matters within their professional competence, and

(iii) a committee of the board, where the director is not a member, if the director reasonably believes the committee merits confidence.

But there are two major caveats. The first is that “a director so relying must be without knowledge concerning the matter in question that would cause his reliance to be unwarranted”. The second is that “. . . in order to rely on a report, statement, opinion, or other matter, the director must have read the report or statement in question, or have taken other steps to become familiar with its contents.”

In summation, directors must become actively engaged in the governance of the company or else they should resign. So take a look at the recommendations above and ask yourself “is your board living up to the legal standards of the laws in your state”? If not, your company is at increased risk. Haven’t started yet to address the governance issues of your company? I suggest you do so before a third party discovers you are running a high risk business – and that high risk is your decision-making – or lack thereof!

In this case, unplugged is a BAD thing

You’d think we would be in favor of unplugging.  That is, saving energy, preventing waste…you know, being “green”.

And we are in favor of unplugging.

But there’s an exception – a big one.

That exception has to do with a huge source of power for Project Managers, a renewable source of endless project energy that often, as shown in the sophisticated schematic diagram on the right, goes untapped.  What is this power of which we speak?

It’s simple – it’s the power of your own organization. And it’s right there ‘above’ and ‘below’ you.

Let’s start at the top. We refer to the power in your organization’s Purpose, Identity, and Long-term Intentions.  These are the Top Leadership ideals that are often publicly stated, and always should be communicated to shareholders and employees.  They give “ideation” to  your organization.

Now let’s jump down to the bottom.  Your organization’s heartbeat, its flow, is its operations.  This is the day-to-day reality of your business.

And where are we, the project, program, and portfolio managers of the world?  We, dear friends, are where the rubber (the strategy that comes from Ideation) meets the road (the operations).

What’s all this coming from?

Below you see the Strategic Execution Framework or SEF (courtesy and copyright of IPS), which is used as the basis of Stanford University’s Center for Professional Development’s Certificate in Advanced Project Management.  We were lucky enough to attend one of their courses where this was presented.  It struck a chord with us because we have always preached that project managers can gain power by aligning with the organization’s strategy, and often overlook this.  Furthermore we have insisted that project managers often put on blinders when it comes to the “end” of their project, failing to connect with (or plug in to) the operations of the company.  Why?  We’re programmed to consider a project as having a definitive beginning and end – and that end occurs when we hand over the final deliverable.

Only “final” is not so final, after all.  When a project, say a bridge, is “done”, that only means that it can BEGIN sending pedestrians and/or vehicles over a river.  Does this mean we, as project managers, have to continue monitoring each car as it goes over the bridge?  Of course not.  But it DOES mean that we should think about the long-term disposition of the bridge in the steady state.  It will help us identify risk, connect with stakeholders that we mightn’t have thought of, and in general do a better job of creating sustainable projects.  In the bridge example, we assert that the project manager should consider the paving material, not just for its ability to provide improved mileage for vehicles, but also for its ability to withstand heating and cooling without breaking up and requiring repaving every year.  At least ask these questions.  It will help you connect to the operations ‘below’ and the ‘long term initiatives’ above.

Take a look at the SEF (you forgot already?  It stands for Strategic Execution Framework) below.  See how important it is for an organization to plug together all of the pieces if they want to get to a sustainable steady-state.  And guess who is at the center of it allYou.  The well-connected project, program, and/or portfolio manager.

What we expound here are great general PM principles and practices, and by no coincidence, are great green (or better-stated) sustainable PM principles.  Even Stanford’s naming of the areas is important.  Notice “Long-term Intentions”.  Long-term.  Smacks of the word “sustainable”, doesn’t it?  How about “operations”?  Hmm, that word also implies ongoing, enduring…. yes, there it is – sustainability, again.

So why wouldn’t the middle portion of this flowchart (where we PMs live) not ALSO think sustainably?  We should!  We need to plug in!

  • Connect upwards: You don’t have to be a top corporate HQ leader or CEO to know and live the organizations’ strategies.
    • Read and re-read your organization’s mission, vision and values.  Check messaging from company leaders.  Of course we would steer you to messages on sustainability and the environment, but you can derive power for your projects’ charters from any of the messages at the top of the SEF.
  • Connect downwards: You can, and should, consider our discipline of PM as distinct from operations.  But that doesn’t mean we have to ignore them.
    • Get to know the people who will operate the product of your project
    • Understand the set of users as a stakeholder group and drink in their requirements and expectations as fodder for risk identification
    • Think life-cycle.  What happens to the final product of the operations of your product in the long term?  Can you learn anything with that mindset?  We assert that you absolutely can.
  • PLUG IN! Peers in both directions are working towards sustainability, both economic and ecological.  We need to pair with these colleagues and learn from both.

Have a look at the SEF, we provide a large version below.

And think, really THINK about whether you are unplugged – and losing a precious source of project power.

So – are you unplugged?

Get connected.

Read our book – it has several chapters on these subjects.


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.