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Listening to Those Voices

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Three pioneers in PM and Sustainability have published a survey of over 200 project managers, called "The Voice of Sustainability Project Managers" and I’d like to share some highlights with you and even offer some partial answers to the challenges they identified in their analysis.

The authors of the survey, Kris Kohl, Pedro Echeverria, and Tom Baker(respectively from the USA, Brazil and Canada) have posted their survey as well as some introductory context here:

 In order to keep this posting brief and to-the-point, I am going to quote their central findings and identified challenges below, and then invite you to look at the data in detail by clicking on the link above (or right here). 

Then, I’d like to have you see some of the ideas that I have in response to the challenges – because in our books Green Project Management and the follow-up Driving Project, Program, and Portfolio Success – The Sustainability Wheel, we clearly are of the same mind as the authors of the survey (as well as at least some of the participants).


The central finding of this report is that organizations have adopted Sustainability strategically and are executing Sustainability initiatives, but their project managers do not have the resources they need to competently manage this process.  Their challenges range from project methodology gaps to specific needs in achieving organizational change.

Our survey results indicate that 50% of organizations have their Sustainability program to a point that is consistent with a Triple Bottom Line (TBL) approach.  Survey results suggest that the project management community is increasingly viewing Sustainability as relevant to their organization with 86% of respondents indicating that their organizations engage in some kind of Sustainability activities.  The large percentage of respondents reporting that their organizations are on the Sustainability Continuum suggests that incorporating Sustainability into organizational strategy is a priority for senior management.  This finding is not exclusive to this report.  From a program and project management perspective, 69% indicate that their role is related either directly or indirectly to Sustainability but that incorporating Sustainability into projects remains a challenge.  Respondents affirm that their roles as PMs are increasingly related to Sustainability and that more than 60% have professional experience working in the field of sustainability.  Yet, most respondents felt that there are significant barriers in working with Sustainability projects especially from lack of strategic planning and coordination, weak organizational support, and lack of training.  With respect to project management, respondents are seeking a better understanding of how to integrate sustainability into project management, especially around developing a culture of sustainability, engaging stakeholders and change management.

Key Challenges:

  • Working with the Executive on Sustainability
  • Providing tools to guide organizational change
  • Facilitating a professional community
  • Understanding sustainability-specific project management methods
  • Extending risk management to incorporate sustainability risks



Let’s look at these one at a time with our “angle” on the topics, as well as pointers to resources:

  • Working with the Executive on Sustainability
    • Identify the mission statement of your own organization and use that to assure linkages to your project for decision making that reflects what your senior managers are thinking (as shown in the survey – they are thinking about sustainability).
    • Resource: Using the Golden Thread


  • Providing tools to guide organizational change
    • The Sustainability Wheel (scroll to bottom of page to see a proposed tool to monitor and control how well sustainability is integrated into PM at an organization)




  • Extending risk management to incorporate sustainability risks
    • 18 formally-proposed changes submitted (by me) to the 6th Edition of PMBOK® Guide, especially in the Risk Management Knowledge Area
    • Go to the link above and help in this cause by commenting on standards such as the PMBOK® Guide but also the Program and Portfolio standards.The more of us who raise our voice, the greater the chance that there will be a “listening”
    • Reference the Sustainability Manifesto

What does YOUR voice say on this topic?

Posted by Richard Maltzman on: February 14, 2017 12:28 PM | Permalink

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