Okay, total transparency here. This post is mainly here because of the amazingly cool title and a chance to post a picture of a robot army. Mainly, but not only.
We've been reading about (thanks to NPR) how a US Navy-funded project has begun to uncover some of the science of Arctic weather. The article features comments from Martin Jeffries, an Arctic researcher with the Office for Naval Research, which paid for the development of the strange device.
"The Arctic essentially has been a closed ocean [to surface ships] because of the ice cover, which did not retreat so much in the summer," says Jefferies.
But climate change is causing the Arctic Ocean to thaw. In the summer of 2007 a lot of the ice covering the ocean melted; and in the summer of 2012, even more ice disappeared.
The Navy is paying researchers to develop gliders and other gizmos, and stick them in and near the ice, because it needs to figure out how quickly the thaw is coming.
The US Navy, after all, is about protection of the USA from ocean-bound threats, and thus changes to the ocean mean changes to strategy. The military is interested in fact – and science – to make decisions. Relying on anything else is not only dangerous; it is counter to the Navy’s mission. You can actually read about the Navy’s strategy for the Arctic here, in a document succinctly titled, “U.S. Navy Arctic Roadmap 2014 - 2030: American National Interests, Evolving Arctic Region Security Environment, Navy Roles and Missions, Alaska, Climate Change and Loss of Arctic Sea Ice":
It opens with a letter from Admiral Jonathan Greenert, Chief of Naval Operations, with these words:
The U.S. Navy recognizes that the opening of the Arctic Ocean has important national security implications as well as significant impacts on the U.S. Navy's required future capabilities. The national security interests of the United States, an Arctic nation through the state of Alaska, extend into the entire Arctic Region. The United States has a history of maritime homeland security and homeland defense concerns in the Arctic Region along with a longstanding North American security partnership with Canada. The U.S. Navy, with its long track record of Arctic Ocean operations and exploration, is planning today to address future Arctic Region security concerns.
Here are a couple of other links with good information about the Seaglider:
So what about the PM and Sustainability connection?
Our interest in this is from the perspective of the project, the types of stakeholders and their interaction, and its deliverable. Here you have an example of a green-by-definition project. The purpose of the study being undertaken by the University of Washington on behalf of the Office of Naval Research. So we have a state university, a Navy department collaborating on a project which, as an outcome, is all about taking data, advancing it to information and reports (see the PMBOK® Guide for this theme DataàInformationàReports) which can elevate the Navy’s knowledge and wisdom about operating in Arctic waters. It’s all good.
And as we said above, it’s a good example of the ‘golden thread’ connecting Mission to Operations, as illustrated by the Stanford Execution Framework. It’s the same ‘golden thread’ that we convert into the Sustainability Wheel™ which is the foundational element in our upcoming book, Sustainability in Projects, Programs, and Portfollios.
So, what do the results say? What can a "Seaglider" tell us?
At the moment it looks like it (ice melt) is happening faster than expected, according to Craig Lee, a University of Washington researcher who led the Arctic study the Navy sponsored. Lee says scientists are still going through the data from last summer's study, but early indications are that warming Arctic waters are absorbing more sunlight and melting more ice than in past summers. "There's a positive feedback that happens," Lee says.
Whatever you believe about climate change and sustainability, you can see from this example that project, program, and portfolio managers can learn from the idea that an enterprise’s mission and its connection to what it actually does day-to-day, via projects, programs and portfolios, is a fundamental piece of learning.