People, Planet, Profits & Projects

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Richard Maltzman
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Food's Critical Path

Categories: Goodness

Photo Credit: Zambia Daily Mail (

We posted in April about food waste.  Most of that conversation was about initiatives at the consumer level.  Remember? It was about throwing away one slice of pizza when you have three on the plate?  One third of food served to customers or prepared by ourselves is lost.  In fact, in 2015, in the USA alone, 130 billion pounds of food was simply “thrown away” – ending up in landfills and causing other problems, including greenhouse gasses and disease.

Turns out, that’s not the only place where there is food ‘loss’.  We don’t always think about this as modern consumers, but there is a significant amount of food waste as “post-harvest loss” (described below).  PM Network, PMI’s monthly magazine, features this in their excellent section, “The Edge”, with a story entitled “Fixing the Food Chain”.

What’s a story like this doing in PM Network?  We’re not farmers, or agriculturalists, nor are we (necessarily) economists!  We’re project managers.  And aside from the fact that this is an important story that effects us as humans, another reason a story like this makes sense in PM Network is that it discusses a seven-year, $130 million project called YieldWise.  As project managers, projects like this are – if nothing else – job and growth opportunities.  We see them as much more – we see them as ‘green by definition’ projects.    This initiative is about Post-Harvest Loss – the spoiling of food that could have been consumed by people.  We encourage you to visit the site.  But start off with this very short video (you can play it in-place below) about the problem that the project is out to solve.

The project will research and implement new ways to store, process, and transport produce to the changing markets of the region. 

This particular effort takes place in Sub-Saharan Africa.  But efforts like this are worldwide, and projects like YieldWise give project managers a chance to practice their profession and contribute to the planet’s health at the same time.

Champions 12.3 is another effort, consisting of a family of projects aimed at meeting a UN target. From their website:

At the 2015 United Nations General Assembly, countries of the world formally adopted a set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as part of the Post-2015 Development Agenda. SDG 12 seeks to “ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns.” The third target under this goal (Target 12.3) calls for cutting in half per capita global food waste at the retail and consumer level, and reducing food losses along production and supply chains (including post-harvest losses) by 2030.

To help convert Target 12.3 into reality, the global multi-stakeholder summit “No More Food to Waste” proposed the idea of developing a group of executives who would champion the cause of achieving SDG Target 12.3 or Champions 12.3. During the United Nations General Assembly’s Sustainable Development Summit in September 2015, the government of The Netherlands formally called for its formation.

For those interested in these important and interesting projects, we provide the following resources as well:

Link to Youtube video on post harvest waste

Food Waste - Training effort in Tanzania

Drones and sub-surface irrigation in India

Good article from The Guardian on Post Harvest Loss

2011 WorldBank report on Sub-Saharan Post Harvest Loss

An FAO (Food and Agriculture Office of the UN) report on both food waste and post harvest loss.

Outstanding infographic on food waste and post harvest loss.


Key Twitter hashtag for post-harvest loss:



Posted by Richard Maltzman on: May 11, 2016 12:28 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Animal Instincts

Categories: Goodness

Let me begin this post with a story from my own engineering work from long, long, ago.

I was a test engineer in a department that specialized in testing and troubleshooting the difficult, “dog” circuit boards that failed manufacturing test (yes, manufacturing, in the United States.  I told you it was long, long ago!).  These were telecom circuit boards with complex designs, featuring analog to digital conversions, signal processing, and usually containing hundreds of integrated circuits (chips).  When they passed test – fine.  When they failed, usually the sophisticated automated test sets, or technicians equipped with data analyzers and oscilloscopes could trace the problem.  But there always a few outliers that were hard to troubleshoot – the dogs.  And it was expensive inventory to have these hanging around – and although junking them was an option, if there was a way to find the problem, not only did it make one more product available, it also gave the designers and test engineers useful information for redesigning the product or the process.

So I went on a hunt for a way to solve these ‘animals’.  And I ended up using a solution called thermal imaging to get a thermal signature of a good circuit board and to compare it to a 'dog'.  Often, this led to finding very interesting flaws, such as capacitors with slightly leaky dielectrics, or ‘soft short circuits” between layers on multilayer circuit boards.  Thermal imaging worked very well on the 'dogs'.

I was always impressed with the system’s ability to show fractions of a degree centigrade in different colors.  In fact, when I demonstrated this to other engineers in the company one day, in a large auditorium, after setting up the infrared camera in the back of the room, I noticed two bright hot spots on the carpet in the center of the room.  I mean, these were bright red-orange flare-ups on the carpet, near the viewgraph machine (yes, it was that long ago!).  I wondered if there was some kind of heating system between floors, or a mouse under the carpet – I had no idea. 

Turns out: these two spots were the signature of my own knees.  I had been setting up the viewgraph machine (once again, this was long ago!) in the center of the room, and my kneeling down for a few moments on the carpet was enough to leave those “hot spots” on the carpet.  So that’s some background – thermal imaging, even back then, was pretty (excuse the pun) cool.  See figure below, showing the thermal image of a circuit board.

In those days, the thermal cameras actually needed liquid nitrogen (to have a known reference temperature to work with).  And the cameras and associated electronics were a bit large and unwieldy.

Flash forward to 2016.  Today I ran across this article (and associated broadcast snippet) from NPR’s outstanding blog called “Goats and Soda”, about applying this technology also to find “dogs” but in this case, human “animals” who in turn are poaching protected species around the world.  The solution uses the same sort of thermal differentiation available in these cameras to identify human body heat – in this case the body heat of poachers – catching them in the act of killing (for example) elephants rhino, certain gazelles, and impala.

If you are interested in these green-by-definition projects, check out these other articles which also include the application of drones carrying these cameras.  Check out this article from NBC News, and this one from The Observer, and this one from Popular Science - of particular interest to project managers because of its radical scope change that occurred midstream.

Your animal instincts know that project management and sustainability are intertwined.  This is just some more proof.


Posted by Richard Maltzman on: April 17, 2016 06:16 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Sustainability Manifesto for Projects

Categories: Activism, Goodness

Today, four project practitioners who feel strongly about PM and Sustainability -  practitioners from Italy, Portugal and the USA -  are proudly launching The Manifesto for Sustainability in Projects. We urge you to read it, download it, support it, and share it with your teams and connections. They're our projects, it's our future. Let’s make it a sustainable one!

Click here to view the Manifesto...

Posted by Richard Maltzman on: March 08, 2016 09:09 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Top Ten for 2015

Categories: Goodness

Hot off the press!

Here are ESI‘s top 10 trends for project management 2015:

1. Lofty expectations: PMs need to become adept at managing gaps between the constraints of cloud-based platforms and the business expectations.
2. Out-of-whack: Talent management within the PM community comes back into focus.
3. Fuel for the hybrid: As the pace of change continues to accelerate, hybrid project methods will become the norm.
4. Too little, too late: The ability to find and hire top PM talent is dwindling.
5. Bottoms up: Organisations must build bottom-up processes to link project outcomes to organisational strategy.
6.  Ignore them at your own peril: Project managers will continue to be ignored and not get the coaching and mentoring they are screaming for.
7. Run!: Project managers continue to sacrifice project transparency as they flee from conflict and avoid difficult conversations
8. Change is coming: The disciplines of change management and project management continue to merge as PMs become responsible for delivering project and business outcomes.
9. Knocking at the door: Project management and business strategy better align to the benefit of the organisation.
10. Culture shock: Organisational culture becomes a bigger consideration in risk management practices.

You may have noticed that we highlighted two of these - #5 and #9.  Why?  It's because both of them are evocative of - or more accurately, speak directly to - sustainability thinking in project management.

Let's look at them one at a time (and then together).

5. Bottoms up: Organisations must build bottom-up processes to link project outcomes to organisational strategy.

When we see "bottoms up" here, we think of the Stanford Execution Framework (SEF) which is a model describes how enterprises really work.  And it goes from "Purpose" at the top, to "Operations" at the bottom.  "Strategy" is an itermediate step, which connects ONLY through Portfolios, Programs, and Projects, to "Operations".  So the "bottom" here is operations - the steady state result of projects, programs and portfolios.  And those projects, programs, and portfolios are the precious connective tissue that allows the enterprise's purpose (think mission, vision, and values) to really show up for stakeholders.  However, that only happens if the project manager looks "up" and "down" to know the purpose of the company and the longer-term effects his or her project's product actually has.  This is so critically important and urgent to us, we took the time to write a follow-up book to Green Project Management with a title that sounds like it may have come right out of this Top Ten  List: "Sustainability in Projects, Programs, and Portfolios: Realizing Enterprise Benefits and Goals".

Bottoms up, everyone!

And we're only halfway there - let's move on to #9.

9.  Knocking at the door: Project management and business strategy better align to the benefit of the organisation.

Alignment of projects, strategy, and steady-state benefits!  It's what we talk about throughout the new book and, well, what we covered above in #5, except this time the focus is on "Benefits".  When we see the word "Benefits" we think of success.  And when we think of success, we want project managers to realize that there is a huge difference between Project Management Success and Project Success.  The former is about meeting deadlines, sticking to a schedule, staying under budget and providing deliverables.  Don't get us wrong; these are all worthy, importnat, difficult things to do which require PM maturity and excellence.  But it's extremely narrow in its vision and viewpoint.  Project Success, on the other hand, is focused on the long-term benefit realization provided by the project's product.  It considers the economic, ecological, and social byproducts of the product while it's operating for a year, two years, ten years, five hundred years.  It's holistic.  And project success yields better project management because it assures that the project is aligned with the enterprise's purpose, which inevitably is geared around longer-term, triple-bottom-line concerns.  Where Project Management Success might be reprsented by a Cost Performance Index of 9.957, Project Success would be represented by a product that responsibly delivers a profit for the organization for 4 years.
We're extremely pleased that the Top Ten list produced by ESI is 20% focused on sustainability thinking in PM.  Now we turn our sights to standard documents like the PMBOK(R) Guide.  Can such documents put 20% of their focus on sustainability thinking?

We hope so.

And we leave you with this hope:

May 2015 be one of your Top Ten Years!

Posted by Richard Maltzman on: January 07, 2015 09:15 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Photographic evidence of sustainability

Categories: Goodness

...or rather the lack thereof...

In this post we present to the PM Community the first known revealing photographs of actual examples of projects in 'various states of success'. In our upcoming book, Sustainability in Projects, Programs, and Portfolios: Realizing Enterprise Benefits and Goals, we talk a lot about success and what it means from a a project perspective.

In particular we look at Project Management Success versus Project Success.  In other words, the “efficiency” of how the project works compared to the “effectiveness” of the project’s product, in the longer term.

The graphic below shows the three elements: PM Success on the horizontal, Project Success (the product’s success) and Endurance as a third element/dimension (shown as depth on the chart).

So now on to the photographic evidence.

Let’s first look at a photo of a project that went very well.  The Sony Betamax was released on time, and within budget, and did exactly what the designers and marketeers at Sony wanted it to do.  At least for the sake of this discussion, we’ll say that it did.  But what happened to the Betamax itself?

If you’re younger than us (not too hard) you may want to hear the story.  We provide it to you courtesy of The Engineer Guy:

"This mighty machine sparked a revolution in our use of media. It’s a Sony Betamax video cassette recorder from 1979. This monster weighs about 36 pounds. The engineer in me find it fascinating: there is nothing digital, it’s a truly analog machine -- all moving pieces and parts.

Early adopters of the Betamax used it to record television shows -- a revolutionary concept at the time -- because prior to the Betamax you had to watch a show when it was broadcast. It threaten the entertainment industry so much that in 1979 they argued that recording television shows at home infringed on their copyright. It all came to a head in a Supreme Court case -- Sony Corporation of America versus Universal City Studios -- where five justices allowed home recording. Although Sony won this court battle, they ultimately lost out to a machine that used this size tape. This is a VHS recorder made by Sony’s great rival JVC.

Both machines solved the same problem: How to store information compactly on a tape. Here’s the brilliant innovation used by both machines. The machine grabs the tape, drags it forward, as this silver drum starts to spin rapidly. The drum has two electromagnets (called heads) arranged on opposite sides of the drum that read the magnetic information on the tape. That rotating head allowed for a compact recorder: in many previous recorders the magnetic heads didn’t move, only the tape. Because there was a limit to how fast the tape could move, it took a lot of tape -- about a seven inch reel to record an hour, which means that a movie would need two 7-inch reels inside a cassette. So, the rotating heads dramatically reduced the amount of tape needed, reducing the size to where it could be easily held in a cassette.

So, if the machines are so similar why did Betamax lose to JVC? Many thought the betamax machine would win: It had the better image quality and the Betamax is decidedly better built. Compare ejecting a tape on the Betamax to the VHS. First, watch the Betamax. Note how smooth it is. And then watch the VHS. That’s abrupt and will wear out the mechanism. Yet, to my engineer’s eye the VHS was the better solution.

First, the VHS was lighter than the Betamax: 29 and a half lbs compared to 36 lbs for the this Betamax machine. That’s a huge difference for a mass manufactured object. It impacts everything from material costs to assembly time to shipping costs. So, at the low end of the market the VHS machines were cheaper than Sony’s Betamax.

Second, the earliest Betamax tapes played for only one hour, VHS played for 2 hours -- enough time for a movie. The ultimate killer, though, was the rental market.

While, Betamax focused in its ads and energies on time shifting -- their ads featured headlines like “Watch whatever, whenever” -- while JVC, the maker of the VHS system, created relationships with the nascent video rental industry. When this market grew, VHS dominated in titles. While you could for a while find both formats eventually retailers began giving shelf space to the slightly more dominant brand, which then dominated even more.

So, the Betamax versus VHS dispels the notion that simply being first to market is the most important issue. It reminds us that technical excellence in one area isn’t enough -- here the superior picture quality of Betamax -- but that all technical aspects matter. For any mass manufactured object, the winner is usually the one that is just good enough."


Now, let’s go diagonally to the opposite side of our matrix – a project which itself is considered a failure but its product – at least in the long term – is considered a success.  Representing this corner is the Sydney Opera House.

Some of its project attributes, from this article in the Australian newspaper The Courier-Mail:

In 1957, the Danish architect Jorn Utzon won a NSW government competition to design a public building for a prized piece of harbour land at the time employed as a tram shed.

Utzon's concept was little more than a sketch when then premier Joseph Cahill, facing electoral defeat after more than two decades of Labor power, hastily decided to begin construction within two years.

Budgeted at an initial cost of $7 million, the Opera House ended up costing more than $100 million and took more than a decade to construct. That cost blowout, of 1400 per cent, makes Sydney's Opera House the most expensive cost blowout in the history of megaprojects.

And yet:

“....the Opera House adds $775 million to the Australian economy every year in direct ticket sales, retail and food spending and by boost to tourism to Australia.

The Opera House is (one of the most) most distinctive (icons in the world), attracting tourists from all over the world.”

Finally let’s go to the southwest corner of our matrix, where we have a project which is considered by many to have had poor project management efficiency and also has a product with enduring issues.

Boston’s  “Big Dig”

We won’t go into lots of detail here because the story of the Big Dig is fairly well known (refer to the Wikipedia entry for a good review).  The project was over budget by many billions of dollars and very late ($2.6B versus $14.6B and many years behind schedule).  That's of course bad enough. No, here, our focus is on the continued problems the project’s product has had.  This includes the death of a driver as a result of a concrete ceiling panel.  Here, we provide the 'revealing photo' as evidence that the project's product continues to have problems.  What you are looking at is a set of lighting fixtures.  The black bands that you see indicated by the arrows are straps which are holding up the lights because the project’s design failed to take into account the galvanic corrosiveness of the environment (and its long-term effects). Galvanic corrosion is an electrochemical process resulting in oxidation or corrosion of two dissimilar metals in contact in the presence of an electrolyte.  This takes place over time.  Projects are handed over in a moment of time.  The project manager has to get their team to think past – way past – that handover! 

In this case, the repair cost over $54 million – and the installation of 25,000 support straps like the ones in our actual photo- and caused frequent and disruptive lane closures.  The final deliverable of the project was ‘eased traffic’.  You can see that aside from the project efficiency – the things we’re used to measuring like schedule and budget and immediate product delivery, this project also continues to have problems with effectiveness: the project’s product and what it offers stakeholders in the steady state.  Here’s a story from a local news station, including a video that shows the issue.

We do not yet have a photo of the elusive northeast corner – here is where a project is run efficiently and it yields a product which works in the long term.  We know they're out there.  And we know there are a lot of smartphones...equipped with really good cameras... often on project sites...

Perhaps you have one?  Send in your photos!

Posted by Richard Maltzman on: December 17, 2014 02:43 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

"There is one way to find out if a man is honest: Ask him! If he says yes, you know he's crooked."

- Groucho Marx