We’re just back from the PMI North America Congress. It was a very good take with well over 2,000 colleagues sharing knowledge and doing some pretty intense networking. We were presenters ourselves, but this post is not about that talk, it's about others.
Let's start with the venue - New Orleans was the backdrop and theme for 2013, and that city knows how to host a convention full of project managers. Everywhere you go in NOLA there is music, beautiful music, flowing around each streetcorner and from classic locations like Preservation Hall.
The music of New Orleans is jazz. We got to experience this wonderful, expressive, eloquent music at Preservation Hall. This is some of the most eloquent music we've ever heard.
And speaking of eloquence, that’s what we want to discuss with you. Although there’s a twist. This is eloquence in which the speaker doesn’t necessarily even realize that they’re being eloquent.
Here’s the deal. Over the last four or five years, we’ve been expressing (hopefully eloquently) a need for project managers to be more focused on their products’ triple bottom line. Yes, we mean product, not project or process. Every project has some sort of outcome – we’re using the word product to refer to this.
And we’ve seen others discuss this topic – or surrounding topics – in such a way that they describe our exact main points - the points of what we call greenality:
But they do this in a way in which they don’t…. quite… get… to sustainability. We've seen it in PM Journal magazine articles (see posts on EarthPM). We've seen it in blog posts. And we saw it in the presentations at PMI North America Congress in New Orleans. They come so, so close, but don’t make the point that this is really about integrating sustainability into project management.
Here’s an example from the PMI Congress.
One of the speakers, Kevin Repa, in his talk, “Planning for Program Closure”, was eloquent in his description of the closing of the Space Shuttle program. He held the audience’s attention as he described the intriguing story of ending the space shuttle program and figuring out what to do with its significant artifacts (see sidebar).
To summarize, the shuttle program initiated a “closing project” initially estimated to cost $2.8B or more in and of itself. Through good project management practices enumerated by Kevin, the project came in well under that, almost by a factor of ten.
One very striking and practical example is what happens to the shuttle vehicles themselves. They are a “must” for the museum that has one of everything. And when these shuttles go to a museum, the planners have to know whether the shuttle presents any safety issues to museum-goers. Are there radiation issues? Are there any components that will outgas poisons to bystanders? These are questions that may not have been thought of if the project managers hadn’t thought about the steady-state disposition of the product of their project.
But the underlying message was this: had the planning for the disposition of the shuttle and all of its supporting infrastructure been incorporated into the project from the start, the closure would have had better management of risks, lower environmental impact, and overall even further improved financials.
Mr. Repa used the phrase, “think centuries, not decades”. Eloquently put. And unconsciously, Kevin was a huge proponent of our effort to incorporate sustainability thinking into our discipline of PM.
Kevin, we at EarthPM salute your eloquence, and your being right on target from our perspective. We would humbly suggest that you and others could parse out the excellent message that you have with the 'greenality' framework we provide above.
And the rest of you? Eloquent or not, we urge you to be very, very conscious of your key role as project manager when it comes to disposition of your project’s product. Stay tuned here and at EarthPM's main blog, we can help.
The first word our blog's title is People. And it's been said that project managers don't manage projects, they manage people - who then execute projects.
We often focus on the other three elements (planet, profits, and projects),but this post shows that good work done in the "people" area flows easily to the other aspects of the QBL (Quadruple Bottom Line).
This post is about the Corporate Social Responsiblity (CSR) efforts of a couple of companies - about how they are initiating projects that help people.
We start with New Balance. Ane we'd like to have you start with a look at this brief editorial from today's Boston Globe:
"Lately, the notion that commuter rail can reliably meet the needs of local employers often seems in doubt amid the MBTA’s money troubles, and efforts to promote bicycling as a serious means of commuting sound to skeptics like an urban planner’s pipe dream. Which make the role that New Balance, the local athletic-shoe maker, is playing in the local transportation landscape all the more noteworthy.
New Balance has for the last two years paid for the shoveling of the Charles River bicycle and running paths during the winter months. Last year, the company also became the corporate sponsor of the Hubway bike-sharing system. Promoting outdoor activity is good PR for a Boston-based company that makes athletic apparel. But the company’s willingness to tie its name to bicycling also has a legitimizing effect on an insurgent form of transportation.
Meanwhile, New Balance’s commitment to pay for a new rail stop near its planned mixed-use development is another significant statement. The MBTA has been under siege in recent years as its financial woes have deepened, and recently approved price hikes are bound to discourage some riders. The New Brighton Landing stop, as the facility will be known, will fill a need in an underserved neighborhood. It’s also a clear vote of confidence in the viability of the rail system.
If this is a self-interested move on New Balance’s part, well, so much the better: The company’s presumption that rail service for its employees is worth millions of its own dollars sends a strong message to everyone else."
What we see here is a company doing the right thing - funding portfolios of projects that align with its overall mission statement, and enhancing its brand name to the point where a major newspaper is effectively helping it advertise its image. And we see that by doing the right thing, they are doing things right - one of the 5 Assertions that form the foundation of our book Green Project Management.
From New Balance's web page, here is a fairly inspirational statement:
We are catalysts for movement.
Working together. Building momentum.
This is how we move.
New Balance is aligning its strategy with its projects, and using its projects to help project its brand and stay true to its mission. We think this is a great example, and it's reassuring to see them get some good public press from their project efforts.
That good press helps their image. A good image drives sales - and revenues - and profits. This builds morale. Visibility of projects like these helps project managers with a bent for sustainability and CSR link their 'workaday" projects to the more lofty goals. It's then up to the individual project managers to make that connection. When companies do what New Balance is doing, it's much easier. And it's not just consumer product companies; we've seen a similar effort from Alcatel-Lucent and its contribution with the creation of the non-profit GreenTouch consortium and their recent breakthrough in huge energy savings in the telecom/IT world with their Bit-Interleaved Passive Optical Network protocol. Visible programs such as those by Alcatel-Lucent and New Balance help the project manager who is working on a new optical product release, or a new atheletic shoe, connect their project's 'sustainability goals' to corporate goals.
Take a lesson from these companies. If you're a corporate executive, note the good press they're getting, sense the way it makes their employees (including project managers) feel. If you're a project manager, find out what similar efforts your company has undertaken. Use them as inspirations for your projects and use them to help demonstrate why you are 'psyched' about sustaianbility elements in your project, and how they go do indeed serve but also go beyond altruism; it really is about People, Planet, Profits, and Projects.
If you take nothing away from this article other than the link to Earth Beat, an outstanding resource from Radio Netherlands, we've done our job.
But don't head off there quite yet.
We just wanted to bring to your attention the project started by 10-year-old Daniel Cashdan, of Oak Park, California, USA, in which he decided to try to - in effect - grow his own peanut-butter and jelly sandwich.
It is a bit about understanding how food is sourced and grown, how food is so convenient but really takes a lot of energy and effort.
Here's a link to the specific radio segment on Daniel Cashdan:
Now, zoom out a little. Earth Beat is a program on Radio Netherlands, in English, which covers all sorts of interesting stories on all things sustainable. Many are about projects, and projects not as limited in scope as growing your own PBJ sandwich.
This week's particular program, Food, Glorious Food, was about food in general. But Earth Beat's host, Marnie Chesterton, can always be counted on to inform, entertain, intrigue, and while doing so, tickle your funnybone.
So we suggest that you sit yourself down to a home-made (and perhaps home-grown?) peanut-butter and jelly sandwich, and listen to a few episodes of Earth Beat.
You can thank us later. Seriously. Please thank us. We'll know you're listening.