Project Management

Becoming a Climate Change Leader (Part 3 of 3)

From the People, Planet, Profits & Projects Blog
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Richard Maltzman
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Becoming a Climate Change Leader (Part 3 of 3)

Becoming a Climate Change Leader - Part 2 (of 3)

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In Part 1, I promised that in Part 2, I would continue an analysis of Bruce Harpham's article.  But Andy Jordan posted another excellent article, which became Part 2, so this becomes Part 3.  Carry the 2, divide by the square root of -1, and here we are at Part 3.

Bruce Harpham's post, Climate Change: Micro and Macro Opportunities for Project Managers, does an excellent job categorizing and making actionable the things that project leaders can do.  I changed the word MANAGERS to LEADERS for reasons that I have explained in past posts and will continue to harp(ham) on in the future.  The bottom line is that our title is incorrect.  We are not project managers.  We are project leaders.  If you don't think so, have a look at this Harvard Business School post on the topic. You tell me which better describes what you do (or aspire to do) in your projects.

In any case, what Bruce does in his post is to first break down the types of opportunities into micro and marco.  I would offer my opinion that in this case, micro really does mean tiny.  These are the things I first encountered when people were promoting "green" project management.  They included things like using recyclable forks in your project office kitchenette.  Yes, they contribute, and make incremental improvements but they are not at all what we really need to do if we want to make the transformative changes we need to make as project leaders.

Bruce defines micro opportunities as being focused on decisions you can make as an individual project manager - and here they are:

1. Encourage remote work

You indeed can do this for your project team, but often, this is an organizational guideline or policy.  There is also a hidden danger here, as Jim Stewart and I will discuss in our upcoming book Great Meetings Build Great Teams: A Guide for Project Leaders and Agilists, it sometimes can make your project more efficient (less rework) if your team does have at least an initial face-to-face meeting.  The impact of having the team together to build rapport can be worth it in the long run.

2. Change project procurement criteria

This is a good one, and my only advice here is to escalate this beyond the project level to the organizational level.  If you find a great 'sustainability-oriented' vendor, yes, use them for your project but also make this finding available for other projects and for the broader operational use!

3. Add a granular, specific interpretation of climate change to your risk register

I would suggest that this could be easily made into a Macro Opportunity because this is process-related.  If you consciously identify and respond to risks that involve long-term effects (not only climate change but also social impacts and long-term economic impacts), you are changing your mindset (see Part 2 of this series).  That's Macro!

Macro Opportunities

1. Seek out different projects at your organization

This is good advice.  Vote with your feet.  Look for projects that are either aimed at a triple-bottom-line solution or have already integrated long-term thinking into their planning.

2. Get involved in carbon disclosure projects

Again, this is a means of voting with your feet.  Seek out these career opportunities!

3. Change companies

I know what Bruce is saying here.  Move to a company which has adopted a sustainability-oriented philosophy.  It's as I say above - voting with your feet.  However, there's nothing wrong with being a change agent at your current organization.  As project leaders (there I go again) we are change agents by definition.

I want to thank Bruce Harpham and Andy Jordan for their excellent contributions to  After writing the book Green Project Management* 4,308 years ago (actually only 13), it is rewarding to see the attention - the proper attention - the macro attention - that sustainability thinking in PM is finally getting.  In fact, the term should be Sustainability Oriented Project Leadership or Value System Project Leadership, because 'green' implies a sort of 'save the whales, save the snails' *** focus, when in fact (although saving species is important) this is much more about long-term thinking than only about all creatures great and small.

Your thoughts?  Your long-term thoughts?

***This reference, by the way, to 'whales and snails', is the inspiration for the image that goes with the post.  The late, great George Carlin talks here (language warning) sarcastically about going too far down a path of environmentalism.  Remember: it's sarcasm.


Posted by Richard Maltzman on: July 12, 2022 12:01 PM | Permalink

Comments (1)

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Projects, by their very definition, make it difficult to think long-term. My last project had benefit metrics that were 10 years after the end of my project! I won't be around to measure those benefits! I think longer-term benefits, such as climate change, need to rest at the program or portfolio level. (That's assuming the PgMO or PfMO live that long!)

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