Viewing Posts by Richard Maltzman
A recent story in the Economist starts this way:
SUPPOSE Britain’s prime minister ordered civil servants to make the world’s fifth-biggest economy fully carbon-neutral by 2045, and thereafter to extract more greenhouse gases from the atmosphere than it emits. In a sense that is what happened on September 10th, when Governor Jerry Brown of California—whose economy last year overtook Britain’s—inked an executive order mandating state agencies to begin such preparations.
The article goes on to discuss several initiatives in which local government is taking global climate change on with its own local – and not so local – projects. It seems that cities are taking the lead when national governments fail to do so. In August of this year, 19 cities, including London, Montreal, Johannesburg, Paris, and Tokyo, vowed to make all new buildings carbon neutral starting in 2030, and also to retrofit older buildings to meet that standard by 2050. See that press release here: https://www.c40.org/press_releases/global-cities-commit-to-make-new-buildings-net-zero-carbon-by-2030
But let’s get back to Governor Jerry Brown for a moment. He’s not happy with the way the US Federal government views climate change, which basically is that government should back off of regulations and that the US must drop out of the Paris Climate Agreement. Brown's view is that climate science's findings - agreed to by 97%+ of climate scientists - is very real, and the facts are compelling that action must be taken to curtail the use of fossil fuels, to work towards renewable sources of energy, and to at least better understand the facts around the issue.
Agree or not, what he thinks – matters, and it matters to project managers and here’s why. At the Climate Action Summit, a California-based event which took place this month (https://www.globalclimateactionsummit.org/), Governor Brown announced that California will launch its own satellites to research climactic conditions worldwide. California will partner with Planet Labs for this project. Yes, it most certainly is a project - or perhaps a program. Either way it will employ project managers.
Here’s a very interesting video from Planet.com that talks about the benefit of these mini-satellites and how they can help baseline and report on variance (sound familiar, project managers) the earth to provide valuable information for agriculture and climate science.
For project managers, look at the feeling of “team” you see in this video:
The sense of purpose seems to really motivate the individuals to coalesce into a team, doesn’t it?
And this movement to ignore and/or leapfrog over national government's hesitancy to take action on climate change is not at all limited to city and state governments – it’s industry as well - big time. An organization representing 800 firms, worth over $17T (yep, that’s a T for Trillion) have joined the “We Mean Business” coalition.
In fact, since it's so big...that will be the topic of our next blog post.
This is a short update on my previous posts about the Ocean Cleanup Project, which I had mentioned would launch in San Francisco in September.
Indeed, it did launch successfully on September 8, and you can find this video about the launch, its background, and the expectations from the project:
I'll do my best to keep you updated on the progress of what promises to be a huge (and important) initiative to clean up 90% of the plastic waste in the ocean in the next 12 years.
As PMs we use different words to describe groups, or collections, bunches, flocks, herds, or gaggles of projects.
Usually, a “Program” means a collection of projects for which we gain benefits by managing them together – for example, shared components and/or resources, such as a common wiring harness, batter, and software for an introduction of three new electric vehicles.
We use “Portfolio” to describe a higher-level (higher in terms of closer to the mission/vision/values of the organization) collection of projects and programs, and even operations.
The word “Initiative” is used in various ways, but often it is used to describe something highly strategic, important, global, and perhaps, but not always, bigger and more far-reaching than a Portfolio.
In this post, and likely in some follow-up posts, I’d like to make you aware of an initiative which is said to affect 60% of the world’s population and to spend somewhere between 1 and 8 trillion US dollars. Yes, I said trillion, with a T. What is this monster initiative? The picture at the top now comes into play. It’s called the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). It’s a Chinese government initiative, and as you can tell from those striking statistics, it’s huuuuuuuuuuuge. It’s so significant that it is written into the Chinese constitution. As this is written, there are 40 officials from countries around the world are attending a special 11-month program devoted to the initiative at Huaqiao Univeristy, which in turn has been dubbed the Think Tank for the BRI initiative. How many initiatives do you know that have their own dedicated University think tank? This one does.
In this post, I won’t go into the politics and controversy involved, of which there is no shortage. For that, I suggest that you read the cover story of The Economist’s 3-August issue.
From the perspective of this post, one point I’m keen to make is the motivators driving this project that stem from climate change.
The Asian Development Bank…estimates that the continent requires $US26T (there’s that “T” again!) in infrastructure through 2030 to maintain to maintain today’s growth rates and adapt to climate change.
Now that we know the rationale, let’s look at some of the basics of the BRI.
It’s actually a little confusing – the “Road” is referring to the maritime (ocean) portion of the initiative, and the “Belt” refers to the land-based transport, oil/gas pipelines, telecom, railway projects.
There’s a full report from PriceWaterhouse can be had here: https://www.pwc.com/gx/en/growth-markets-center/assets/pdf/china-new-silk-route.pdf . This summary comes from that document.
The official information currently available, mostly provided by China’s state news agency ‘Xinhua’, suggests that (BRI) comprises two physical routes, with numerous side-branches
along the way. These two different routes ultimately connect China with Europe, Africa and Southeast Asia. This impression is further enhanced by a map published by the news
agency, depicting both a land route running from inner China to Southern Europe (via the Netherlands) and a sea route connecting the port of Shanghai ultimately with the end point of the land-based route in Venice, via India and Africa.
However, it seems that this is more a symbolic portrayal than a factual interpretation. In reality, (BRI) is more of a large ‘umbrella’ type of initiative. It seems to be a potentially huge
collective of current, planned and future infrastructure projects, accompanied by a host of bilateral and regional trade agreements. Ongoing and planned projects will focus on the
development of a wide array of assets, including ports, roads, railways, airports, power plants, oil and gas pipelines and refineries, and Free Trade Zones, etc., as well as a supporting IT, telecom and financial infrastructure. To date, PwC has tracked the equivalent of c. US$250 billion in projects that have either been built already, recently started construction or have been agreed-on and signed (as part of BRI).
The initiative is beginning to promote itself worldwide. You can see that in this video produced by the Chinese government – and an interesting way to end the post, although I also provide you with a set of links to do more research should you choose to do so.
Excellent Podcast Episode on BRI:
What triggers a project? A need or requirement for something that’s never been done before, at least not in the same way. As a project manager, we also are triggered to change the project plan based on particular requirements.
Some governments are mandating that buildings are “net-zero energy”. This means that – without any carbon offsets – just through ‘physics’, all of the energy that the building consumes must be produced on-site via renewable means. Learn more about net-zero here: http://www.worldgbc.org/advancing-net-zero/what-net-zero, and/or have a look at the graphic at the end of this post.
And where is the trigger for this blog post? An article in a political magazine? A science magazine? Greenpeace? No. In fact, the trigger for this post is from PM Network Magazine – in fact, the cover story from August, 2018.
In it, there is a striking statistic: the number of projects seeking net-zero status (in the US and Canada) increased nearly 50% between 2016 and 2017. That’s a vector that points towards a possible standard practice for construction. Also, a graphic in the article shows that by 2020 all new residential building construction projects in the US state of California must be net-zero.
It’ll affect the way the building project is directed. Literally. For example, it may change which way the building faces, or the size, shape, and makeup of the windows.
Besides the technical aspects, what special needs does a project like this have?
I suggest that you read the entire article but here is my summary of what you should be doing as projects like this become more common:
Let me end on a very upbeat note.Some construction project managers are aiming for a net-positive (surplus) of energy.The example given is Arctic Adventures’ Svart Hotel.
Watch this video and get inspired:
Here's that graphic referred to earlier in the post:
This is a story about risk response. And New Jersey. Let’s start with some definitions.
In PMI terms, these are distinct and different ways of response strategies for threats. In my graduate PM courses at Boston University, I teach (through examples) that in practice, a flowing minestrone soup of risk response – a mélange, a mixture, is often used, not distinct, staccato responses.
That’s the case with respect to the risk response to sea-level rise. Whatever your feelings about climate change and its causes, the reality is that sea levels are rising and island nations and coastal communities are RIGHT NOW facing the threats of sea-level rise, and the flooding, erosion, and other effects that come along with it. Sea-level rise is a fact, plain and simple. This is void of politics, bias, or opinion. Studies by the US military show the upcoming effects, of note, in this report. You can see a video about sea-level rise based on that study in the video below. In the video, the following sentence (aligned with this blog post!) is heard: “combinations of measures are more effective in reducing risk than reliance on a single solution”. There it is: minestrone.
A very interesting article from Scientific American, called “Underwater: Coastal communities struggling to adapt to rising seas are beginning to do what was once unthinkable – retreat”, caught my attention. You should read this article as a citizen of Earth but also as a project manager. Think about it from the perspective of risk response, from the perspective of PROGRAM management, because what you’ll learn if you read this is that risk response, in some cases, has taken on the form of new PROGRAMS which are a minestrone – a soup – of risk avoidance, risk mitigation, and overall risk management, as defined by PMI.
Here is an excellent video summary of the article (think of it as a motivation to read the article, not as a substitute for reading it!).
To summarize the article, which focuses mainly on the US state of New Jersey, the statistics are frightening. 250,000 homes, says the article, representing a total value of $108 billion, are at risk of chronic flooding within the next 30 years. 20 of 21 counties in the state have shorelines that are “tidally influenced” by sea-level rise. Read more about that here, in an article from the State. The article goes on to talk about the Blue Acres Buyout Program (note: PROGRAM) which has been put in place to avoid the threat to the homeowners in affected areas buy having them abandon their homes and to let the resulting land go ‘back to nature’. This is the risk avoidance portion of the response. By recovering this land, however, and letting it ‘recover’, it will help prevent future flooding. This is the mitigation portion of the risk response.
If you happen to live in or near New Jersey and are curious about your own home, or have a relative there and want to check for them, there is a site that shows the situation by geography. It’s called the NJ Flood Mapper: http://www.njfloodmapper.org/slr/.
Getting back to Scientific American - its article describes the story so well, it’s better if I don’t continue to summarize it - read it for yourself. I hope that with this blog post, I’ve opened up your thinking to read it in a different way, under a project management lens. It’s my hope that this is a mutually-beneficial lesson in that as a PM, we have much to offer the world in the way of project and program management of such risk responses, and that as you see the impact and effect of such things as sea-level rise, you gain a longer-term, more ‘benefits realization’ vision of project management.