Owl Aboard - Part 2 of 2

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“Owl Aboard”– Part 2 of 2

As I said in Part 1, Project Managers need to be wise, and that it’s true for decision making, including those very large decisions, in which we (for example) are choosing which Corporate Social Responsibility goals link up to our project objectives.  Those decisions must be good quality decisions, which means that they should be wise.  And in the first post we brought you the DIKW model which considers that data (miscellaneous tidbits of info) can be advanced into Information (connected data) and then into Knowledge (applied info) and finally into Wisdom (understanding). 

In case you missed it, please go back to Part 1 to learn how we as project managers are in the business of advancing data into wisdom.  One of the most important areas in which we do this is in our assessment of stakeholders.  Stakeholders – anyone who cares about the project while it is underway, or after it is implemented – bring both threat and opportunity to the table.  Attributes of power, interest, and attitude (support or opposition to your project or its objectives) will modulate your decision making and your dealings with each of your stakeholders, be they individuals or organizations.

One set of stakeholders that project managers cannot ignore is the public.  As users, consumers, voters, laborers, legislators, team members, even colleague project managers, the population at large is a stakeholder in your project, especially if you think of your project as we coach you to: with the long-term in mind and thus with the project’s outcome and use in mind.  To that end, it make sense for us to be wise about the public as a stakeholder, which means understanding the data, information, and knowledge that we have about their perceptions of important issues.

One such important issue is climate change.  And it turns out, there is a great source of data, information, and knowledge about the public (at least the USA’s public) opinion on this subject.

For example, one of the questions on the issue of climate change is “do humans have a role”?  Well, here’s an example of data: the national average of US adults who think global warming is mostly caused by human activities is 53%, according to Yale University.  But that’s data.  Remember: we’re owls.  We’re not satisfied with data.  We want context, trends, surrounding information and knowledge to propel that data into wisdom.  So rather than that single data point, how about if we were able to understand our stakeholder by posing all sorts of questions about their beliefs surrounding climate change by using some simple drop-down menus and letting the data paint maps of the US in various colors right before our eyes?

It’s possible, thanks to the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication.

For example, that 53% is a rather ‘grey’ statistic.  It just tells us that about half the country thinks that humans ‘mostly’ cause climate change.  It doesn’t tell us about striking differences between, for example, about Rich County, UT, where the number is 39%, or Almeida County, CA, where the number is 68%.  Or, quite interestingly, two neighboring Texas counties where there is a 21% swing, with McMullen County being 11% more cynical about human-caused climate change than the national average, and Duval County which is 10% more convinced that climate change is mostly caused by humans.  See?  We’ve become owls, simply by looking at context and gaining an understanding and awareness. 

Below is an example of one of the maps I generated to provide the stakeholder analysis above.

There are other questions answered on this site, for example, trust in scientists about their information on global warming.  Moving to the State level from the County level gives us the interesting finding that, for example, neighboring states Maryland and West Virginia have a 12% swing, with Maryland trusting scientists 5% more than the national average (of 71%) and West Virginia trusting scientists 7% less than the national average.


My plea to project managers is not about this climate change data alone.  It’s a great example to use, and I of course encourage project managers to be longer-term thinkers and to consider the facts when it comes to ecological sustainability and issues related to helping to preserve the environment.  But the coaching here is to – in general – better understand your stakeholders and to always seek to advance data into information into knowledge and finally into wisdom.  Get your owl on. 

Get your owl … aboard.

Posted by Richard Maltzman on: March 08, 2017 05:31 PM | Permalink

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