Sustainability and Whole Lifecycle Thinking

Andy Jordan is President of Roffensian Consulting S.A., a Roatan, Honduras-based management consulting firm with a comprehensive project management practice. Andy always appreciates feedback and discussion on the issues raised in his articles and can be reached at Andy's new book Risk Management for Project Driven Organizations is now available.

As project managers, what is the single thing that we focus on the most? For most of us the answer is probably the successful completion of the project--generally defined as the completion of deliverables on time, budget and quality. Some of us may have a degree of accountability for the business goals post deployment, but that’s still not a common project management function.

For stakeholders, and the sponsor in particular, the focus is a little longer term--they will have targets that need to be met around revenue, market adoption and cost savings, but these are still fairly short-term focused (the first quarters and perhaps years of a product’s life in the event of a product development initiative).

As environmental concerns and sustainability become bigger issues across all aspects of society, there is an argument for taking a rather longer-term view of product development--the concept of whole lifecycle thinking, ensuring that the costs of the product are considered from birth to retirement. In this article, I want to look at that--and in particular what project managers can do to help develop and implement the concept.

The lifecycle concept
Essentially, lifecycle-based product development is simply taking a longer-term view than we traditionally take. We may develop a product with an expectation that it will be in the market for a few years …

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"How far that little candle throws his beams! So shines a good deed in a weary world."

- William Shakespeare