People, Planet, Profits & Projects

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Richard Maltzman
Dave Shirley

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Guest Post: Building Exceptional Cross-Gender Partnerships



Pssst! Sustainability is hiding in the Sixth Edition! (Part 2 of 2)

Pssst! Sustainability is hiding in the Sixth Edition! (Part 1 of 2)

Guest Post: Building Exceptional Cross-Gender Partnerships

Today I have the pleasure of providing you with a guest post from Kris Kohl, who also is the author of Becoming a Sustainable Organization - an excellent book on the project management intersection with sustainability.  In this post, though, she's focused on the People portion of People, Planet, Profits, and Projects.

Enjoy the post.


During a recent presentation on “Female Empowerment”, I was asked the question, “Does the “Me Too” trend really just needed more time to bring equality for females and males in the workplace?” I opened up the answer to the women in the room and the responses varied but were in agreement on the point that women reaching equality in the workplace is not just a function of time. We need policy, process, and people changes in order to support our career, family, and lifestyle choices. The workplace of today needs to be more inclusive in order to ensure that our organizations not only survive but also thrive.


Globally women face numerous challenges. According to a World Bank Report, 155 countries have at least one law impeding women’s economic progress. Even in the U.S., only a few organizations offer both maternity and paternity leave.  Women are often the providers of free care for children and the elderly.  As I discuss in my book, Becoming a Sustainable Organization, even in the OECD countries there is a “motherhood tax” versus a “fatherhood bonus.” Gender roles and pay gaps persist.  According to the WSJ, women earn 82 cents for every $1 earned by men and Hispanic women only earn 54 cents.


As we look to the C-suite, the WSJ reports that women are 47% of the workforce but only 26% of senior management. They represent only 11% of top earners. As leaders women serve as 5.2% of the S&P 500 CEOs. We continue to see the “Me Too” movement as a major trend for 2018. While organizations and their leaders clearly have challenges, we also see opportunities.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, women make up 56% of the college graduates in 2017. The talent pool of highly qualified candidates is tipping toward female. From an organizational performance perspective, McKinsey research shows that organizations’ with gender diversity outperform by 15% non-gender diverse companies. At the leadership level, a 10% increase in diversity at the senior level leads to .8x increase in EBITDA.  These benefits come from expanding market opportunities as your workforce becomes more reflective of your customer base. Winning the talent war in terms of attracting the best and brightest from a diverse talent pool. Improving organizational reputation with both internal and external stakeholders as leadership builds an inclusive workplace to support a diverse workforce. Leveraging a diverse group to drive innovation.


In order to build exceptional gender-based workplace partnerships, we take a page from Appreciative Inquiry, focusing on the positive rather than the negative. We ask employees, what is the best experience that you have had with your organization? When did you feel most excited about your involvement? What made the experience exciting? How were you supported and empowered in that situation? Who was involved and how did they behave? What resources were available and which ones were most important to your success? As we begin this process of asking what is working and building on positive experience, we lift up our successes as best practices and lessons learned to share across the organization and beyond. To succeed, we must collaborate across the organization including all genders and diverse groups in the process.


Figure 1

In Figure 1, Creating an Inclusive Organization, we layout a continuous improvement process to build a more inclusive organization. As we expand this process across the organization, we can create an inclusive environment to make all employees feel welcome and valued. Begin with a needs assessment, make inclusivity a foundational pillar of the organization, create a strategy to embed inclusion in the culture, implement, and continuously improve the process.

In order to promote female empowerment, we must balance power by integrating women at the most senior level.  In order to create a more inclusive culture, women need a voice in strategy and policy decisions. Developing workplace structures to support both careers and families including mid career “off ramps” and “on ramps” allows for fluid movement between roles. Intentionally include women in conversations around program design, analysis, and measurement allows for their in put in the development of the “rules” for success. As project managers, evenly distribute who gets the “Goldie Locks” projects so that all have an opportunity to shine.

A gender diverse workforce is good for society and business. However, females need to be integrated across all levels of the organization in order to create an inclusive and equitable workplace. Using Appreciative Inquiry as a tool is a way to focus on the positive and to reallocate time, attention and resources to what is working in the realm of female empowerment. Together, we can drive positive change within our organizations and society by removing the barriers to female gender equality.


Kristina Kohl, MBA, PMP

Posted by Richard Maltzman on: February 13, 2018 04:58 PM | Permalink | Comments (10)


When Dave Shirley and I started EarthPM in 2009 or so, we often had to explain that our book, Green Project Management, was not about managing green projects, but rather putting the ‘green’ into project management thinking.

  In fact, we even had to go negotiate with our publisher to find a book cover that expressed the idea better than their first proposals, which inevitably were photos of fields of daisies with wind turbines in the background, or children running through a forest, or even the inevitable whale’s tail.  But our book was not a tale about whales, it was the story of how project managers could (and should) gain an advantage in their work by thinking long-term.  In fact, it really never was about “green” per se, which limits the discussion to the ecological part of the Triple Bottom Line.  Yes, it IS about that ecological portion, but it’s about all three – ecological, social, and economic.  This is why we settled on a cover that had a tree that grew money.  Money (economic) from a tree (ecological) can benefit people (social).  Well, it worked for us, anyway.

The point is, because of this connection of sustainability thinking and projects only being about ecological issues, I sometimes avoid stories that are indeed about ‘green’ or ecologically-oriented projects.  Now that the message is getting out there, and other authors (Silvius, Kohl) are publishing excellent work on the true sustainability-thinking aspect, and now that the idea is even slowly seeping into the PMBOK® Guide (see the two most recent posts here on People, Planet, Profits, and Projects), I think it’s okay, (no, not just okay, but a good idea!) to post about projects which are mostly ecological in their inception and execution.

And that takes us to the steppes of Mongolia.  And a dog called the bankhar.

In the Altai Mountains of Mongolia, there is a need to protect the cashmere-yielding goats (animals that are the sustenance for the families of many Mongolian farmers) from predators such as snow leopards and wolves.  Climate change, in the form of desertification (an interesting topic in and of itself) and over grazing has made the herds of these goats more susceptible to these predators.

Enter the bankhar.  The Mongolian Bankhar Dog Project whose mission (from their web site) is “to help slow down and reverse the desertification of the Mongolian Grassland Steppes, and to preserve and protect traditional Mongolian culture. We strive toward these goals by resuscitating the traditional use of the livestock guardian dog known as the ‘Bankhar dog’.”

The project is the brainchild of American biologist (and entrepreneur) Bruce Elfström.  Elfström, who was working on filming an IMAX movie in Mongolia, began talking to herders and researching livestock protection dogs as a missing link in the complex conservation puzzle. He realized that this was a historical solution to a highly modern problem. Discovering several families still using the original Bankhar dogs in remote areas of Mongolia, Bruce founded Mongolian Bankhar Dog Project in 2011 to put this research into practice.

If you’re interested in the chartering of this project, take a look at this TEDx talk by Bruce Elfström himself.  From a purely PM perspective, it’s interesting to hear how Bruce identified stakeholders, found sponsors, and sorted out the threats and opportunities at the start of his project.

The project also has to deal with stakeholders who insist that “a dog is just a dog” and that there’s no need to bring this specific landrace back.  So part of the project manager’s job (as usual) is to convince stakeholders of the value of the project.  In this case, it involves using DNA research to demonstrate the value of bringing this particular dog back as a “missing piece” in the puzzle of supporting the nomadic Mongolian farmers.   Using facts, persuading stakeholders to influence them to contribute… even though this is a project in the Altai Mountains of Mongolia, it sounds pretty familiar to a construction project just outside of Des Moines, Iowa, doesn’t it?


So what is the real motivation behind this project?

  • One single predator like a snow leopard can kill up to 40% of a herder’s flock in Mongolia over the course of a season
  • Mongolian nomadic herding families make an average of $3/day
  • In a program similar to ours in South Africa, use of livestock protection dogs was shown to reduce depredation by at least 33 percent at every participating farm and eliminated completely at more than 90 percent of farms
  • In North America, a study showed that livestock protection dogs reduced predation by 64%, and in one year, 53% of producers with LPDs had depredation losses reduced to zero.

What about the dogs themselves?

  • Bankhar dogs are an ancient landrace ( a domesticated, locally adapted, traditional variety of a species) which co-evolved with humans to serve as an effective guardian of livestock on the Mongolian steppe.
  • Males average 120 lbs and 30 inches at shoulder. Females average 100 lbs. Bankhar have heavy fur to protect them from the harsh Mongolian climate, as Mongolia is the coldest place on earth where livestock protection dogs are used. It’s not uncommon for Bankhar to live to 17 years old.  Traditionally they eat a diet of herders’ leftovers—sheep innards, whey, noodles, and bones.

I would suggest that you read the entire article which triggered my interest in this project, to learn about the threats and opportunities the project actually encountered, including working with other non-profit NGOs such as the Snow Leopard Trust.   [PAGE 65]

Also suggested is this video, “Bringing back the bankhar”:

All that said, we simply can’t leave you without a video of these amazing dogs, so for your viewing pleasure, I present bankhar puppies!

You can actually help fund this project – here’s their Indiegogo funding page:

…or their fundraising video here:


Posted by Richard Maltzman on: February 10, 2018 05:57 PM | Permalink | Comments (8)


Categories: PMXPO-2018

Don't forget to register for PMXPO-2018. 

I am proud to be one of your speakers!

Here's the link - do it now, while you're thinking about it.

The topic of my presentation:

...and as you might imagine, it will be aligned with this blog's main themes: People, Planet, Profits & Projects.


Posted by Richard Maltzman on: January 28, 2018 11:50 PM | Permalink | Comments (10)

Pssst! Sustainability is hiding in the Sixth Edition! (Part 2 of 2)

In Part 1, I discussed some of the aspects of the intersection of sustainability and PM with the new concept of “Overall Risk” introduced in the 6th Edition of the PMBOK® Guide.  I promised that there were other hiding places that I’d uncover, and in this Part 2, I’ll continue with a new risk response.  That’s right, PMI has introduced a new response (that is listed for both Threats and Opportunities) called Escalate.

Let me summarize “Escalate” (I’ll focus on the Threat response) and then connect the dots with respect to sustainability.

First of all, a brief refresher on the other risk responses.  You should recall that the responses to threats in the 5th Edition were Avoid, Transfer, Mitigate, and Accept.  I put together this handy table to help you relate this to reality.  I use the scenario of a telecom team installing equipment on a rocky, steep cliff.

Threat Response

Brief Description

Project Example


Eliminate the threat by changing the project plan

Change the route to avoid the cliff


Shift the threat ownership to an entity outside the project team

Buy insurance and/or hire a specialist


Lower the probability and/or impact of the threat (remember to work on both)

Use safety gear, netting, and training in working in this type of terrain.


Acknowledge that this exists but take no specific project action

You know, Charlie was assigned to work on this installation and we never really liked Charlie…


This is how we responded to threat up until the 6th Edition.  Now, however, we’re much more modern. We have added Escalate.  Escalate allows the project manager to acknowledge that threats that may be visible to the PM exist outside his or her realm.  The description in the Guide also includes cases in which – even if the threat is in the project area – the response would exceed the project manager’s authority.  This is key, as you’ll see later.  In writing about sustainability and project management, and in commiserating with others who do so, we often get a sort of whiny feedback that goes something like, “we manage a project and not the company, so when you tell me about these large risks like ‘what this means to the environment’, it’s beyond my control or area of concern, so I have to let these go, and worry about my project’.

PMI just took that excuse away.

You should be looking for these sorts of threats, and if you find one where either the threat itself is ‘beyond your vision’ or the response would require ‘bigger things to happen than you can control’, PMI is saying that you should speak truth to power, and not just squelch the threat, but give it to the people who can care for it. 

And, even if you are not looking for these sort of threats, they may still reveal themselves to you.  The same logic applies.  If you realize that the threat is ‘bigger than your project’, that doesn’t mean to silence it!  It means you may have to escalate.

This speaks more to the more mature view of project management as the connection between vision/mission/strategy to day-to-day operations, and it seems (at least to me) that it encourages a more vocal PM who should raise these threats, rather than burying them, either literally, or by virtue of saying “not in my job description”.

The Escalate risk response also says this: “Escalated risks are managed at the program level, portfolio level, or other relevant part of the organization.”

My co-author Dave Shirley, PMP and I wrote Green Project Management back in 2010.  Although it won PMI’s Cleland Award for literature in the following year, the response from project managers was, well, let’s just say it was good but uninspiring.  That’s why we followed it up with a book called, Driving Project, Program, and Portfolio Success.  Just as in the 6th Edition, we realized, in writing this second book, that sometimes sustainability issues are at those levels (program and portfolio) and the project management population sees these issues as being part of a ‘great beyond’.  What I like about this “Escalation” risk response is that it defines ‘the great beyond’ – makes it approachable and familiar.

For completeness, I do want to reiterate that Escalate shows up on both the Threat and Opportunity sides of the risk equation.  It’s pretty much the equal and opposite of Escalate for threats.

One last point: in both cases (Threat and Opportunity) the PMBOK® Guide advises us that “escalated (opportunities or threats) are not monitored further by the project team after escalation, although they may be recorded in the risk register for information.  I applaud this notion of transferring this knowledge to future project managers for their consideration.

So with all this wisdom in hand, let’s finish that table above and make it 6th Edition compliant.  For this, let’s change the scenario to my example of the paving material choice in my post “Paved With Good Intentions”.  It's a more appropriate example for this response.


Threat Response

Brief Description

Project Example


Done when a threat is outside the scope of the project.

Bring the threats and opportunities associated with the choice of paving material to the project sponsors for consideration.


Posted by Richard Maltzman on: January 20, 2018 08:20 PM | Permalink | Comments (5)

Pssst! Sustainability is hiding in the Sixth Edition! (Part 1 of 2)

Categories: pmbok

Although other standards related to Project Management have begun to incorporate and ‘thread through’ sustainability concepts, the PMBOK® Guide, even the brand-spanking-new 6th Edition, does not mention it – it’s not in the dictionary, nor in the index. 

But, like our canine friend Wiley above, it is there, and I intend to prove it to you with these two posts (and maybe further ones as I discover the hiding places).

I’d like to start with a new concept introduced in the 6th Edition – Overall project risk.  This is not the risk of showing up at a wedding wearing overalls – although, I’m sure that if you did, and the invitation said ‘black tie invited’, that would likely be a threat.  No, this form of “overall” I read as ‘overarching’ risk.  PMI defines it as follows: “the effect of uncertainty on the project as a whole, arising from all sources of uncertainty including individual risks, representing the exposure of stakeholders to the implications of variation of project outcome, both positive and negative.”

For the past decade (actually two… how time flies when you are having fun) I have taught project management classes, and for most of those years, I have used the video below to express this concept.

Have a look.  It's one minute long, and it's worth it, I promise you.  It speaks for itself (even though there are no words).  Overarching risk – overall risk – has to do with the fact that even if you do everything in your power to mitigate, transfer, and/or avoid the threats to the project, even if you do all in your power to enhance or exploit the opportunities, it still may be possible that the entire outcome is still a failure.  In the video, the project is ‘over’ for the ragtag crew driving the truck, when the box is delivered to the ship, but the objectives of whoever is responsible for transporting the box across the ocean – well, let’s just say they don’t fully meet requirements.

In the PMBOK® Guide definition, the hidden sustainability element is the key words, “implications of variations in project outcome”.  The project outcome, after all, is often not known until some significant time has elapsed.  In the case of The Box, it’s not known until the customer on the other side of the Atlantic signs off on their receipt of whatever is inside that wooden crate marked “FRAGILE”.  You could make the analogy that a stretch of highway (see “Paved With Good Intentions”) has not really delivered its benefits until years after it has been put in service.  That’s long-term thinking.  That’s ‘benefits realization thinking’.  That’s sustainability thinking.  Note that there is nothing here about ecological or social considerations – sustainability is about long-term thinking, full-stop.

There’s one more risk element that contains some hidden sustainability thinking: Integrated risk management.  Here the PMBOK® Guide says, “A coordinated approach to enterprise-wide risk management ensures alignment and coherence in the way risk is managed across all levels.  This builds risk efficiency into the structure of programs and portfolios, providing the greatest overall value for a given level of risk exposure.”  The same paragraph also has a reference to ‘escalated risk’ which will be to subject of Part 2.  But staying with this idea of integrated risk management, it evokes a post I wrote called “Golden Threads and Ruby Slippers” which similarly emphasizes the importance of providing overall enterprise-level value by assuring that the project’s goals are integrated with the programs and portfolios which, in turn, are only launched because they (hopefully) tie in with organizational aspirations.  And, because most organizations now do aspire to be socially, ecologically, and economically responsible, that connection – that integration – means that the project manager not only has permission to link these goals to their project objectives, they actually have a responsibility to do so.

Stand by for Part 2 – in which I will talk more about some other hiding sustainability elements – this time having to do with escalated risk.

Posted by Richard Maltzman on: January 11, 2018 08:06 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)

"Whenever you find that you are on the side of the majority, it is time to reform."

- Mark Twain