People, Planet, Profits & Projects

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Categories: government

Okay, total transparency here.  This post is mainly here because of the amazingly cool title and a chance to post a picture of a robot army.  Mainly, but not only.

We've been reading about (thanks to NPR) how a US Navy-funded project has begun to uncover some of the science of Arctic weather.  The article features comments from Martin Jeffries, an Arctic researcher with the Office for Naval Research, which paid for the development of the strange device.

"The Arctic essentially has been a closed ocean [to surface ships] because of the ice cover, which did not retreat so much in the summer," says Jefferies.

But climate change is causing the Arctic Ocean to thaw. In the summer of 2007 a lot of the ice covering the ocean melted; and in the summer of 2012, even more ice disappeared.

The Navy is paying researchers to develop gliders and other gizmos, and stick them in and near the ice, because it needs to figure out how quickly the thaw is coming.

The US Navy, after all, is about protection of the USA from ocean-bound threats, and thus changes to the ocean mean changes to strategy.  The military is interested in fact – and science – to make decisions. Relying on anything else is not only dangerous; it is counter to the Navy’s mission.   You can actually read about the Navy’s strategy for the Arctic here, in a document succinctly titled, “U.S. Navy Arctic Roadmap 2014 - 2030: American National Interests, Evolving Arctic Region Security Environment, Navy Roles and Missions, Alaska, Climate Change and Loss of Arctic Sea Ice":

http://www.navy.mil/docs/USN_arctic_roadmap.pdf

It opens with a letter from Admiral Jonathan Greenert, Chief of Naval Operations, with these words:

The U.S. Navy recognizes that the opening of the Arctic Ocean has important national security implications as well as significant impacts on the U.S. Navy's required future capabilities. The national security interests of the United States, an Arctic nation through the state of Alaska, extend into the entire Arctic Region. The United States has a history of maritime homeland security and homeland defense concerns in the Arctic Region along with a longstanding North American security partnership with Canada. The U.S. Navy, with its long track record of Arctic Ocean operations and exploration, is planning today to address future Arctic Region security concerns.

Here are a couple of other links with good information about the Seaglider:

http://www.apl.washington.edu/projects/seaglider/animation_1_640x480.html

 

http://www.apl.washington.edu/project/project.php?id=miz

 

So what about the PM and Sustainability connection?

Our interest in this is from the perspective of the project, the types of stakeholders and their interaction, and its deliverable.  Here you have an example of a green-by-definition project.  The purpose of the study being undertaken by the University of Washington on behalf of the Office of Naval Research.  So we have a state university, a Navy department collaborating on a project which, as an outcome, is all about taking data, advancing it to information and reports (see the PMBOK® Guide for this theme DataàInformationàReports) which can elevate the Navy’s knowledge and wisdom about operating in Arctic waters.  It’s all good.

And as we said above, it’s a good example of the ‘golden thread’ connecting Mission to Operations, as illustrated by the Stanford Execution Framework.  It’s the same ‘golden thread’ that we convert into the Sustainability Wheel™ which is the foundational element in our upcoming book, Sustainability in Projects, Programs, and Portfollios.

So, what do the results say?  What can a "Seaglider" tell us?

At the moment it looks like it (ice melt) is happening faster than expected, according to Craig Lee, a University of Washington researcher who led the Arctic study the Navy sponsored. Lee says scientists are still going through the data from last summer's study, but early indications are that warming Arctic waters are absorbing more sunlight and melting more ice than in past summers. "There's a positive feedback that happens," Lee says.

Whatever you believe about climate change and sustainability, you can see from this example that project, program, and portfolio managers can learn from the idea that an enterprise’s mission and its connection to what it actually does day-to-day, via projects, programs and portfolios, is a fundamental piece of learning.

Posted by Richard Maltzman on: February 15, 2015 07:56 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Market Basket Analysis

If you live in the New England area of the United States, you probably know about DeMoulas supermarkets.  Mostly branded, "Market Basket", these 71 stores dominate the area, often pushing aside large national (really international) chains, such as Stop & Shop and Hannaford.

Recently, however, the stores have been all but shut down by a labor and leadership dispute that is about the way in which the company is run and who should be at the helm. 

Why do we bring up a supermarket in a blog about project management and sustainability?

We actually never intended to do this until we ran into an editorial by former US Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, who served under Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter.

Now, before you read the editorial, we want you to be aware that we are aware that this is not a political blog, and we usually try to stay away from pure politics and economics.  And this editorial does drift into the philosophical and political area in the way it discusses capitalism and labor.  But at its heart, the editorial makes a beautiful point quite beautifully, whether you agree with Reich on anything else.

We think the editorial is important because:

  • it talks about a focus on a wide set of stakeholders (like Project Managers do)
  • it honors the intersection of business and sustainability (like we assert Project Managers should)
  • it takes, in general, a more long-term, holistic view of success (which we think all of us can use)

We place the editorial below, with the highlighting our own, so you can draw your own conclusions.

---

In recent weeks, the managers, employees, and customers of a New England chain of supermarkets called “Market Basket” have joined together to oppose the board of director’s decision earlier in the year to oust the chain’s popular chief executive, Arthur T. Demoulas.

Their demonstrations and boycotts have emptied most of the chain’s seventy stores.

What was so special about Arthur T., as he’s known? Mainly, his business model. He kept prices lower than his competitors, paid his employees more, and gave them and his managers more authority.

Late last year he offered customers an additional 4 percent discount, arguing they could use the money more than the shareholders.

In other words, Arthur T. viewed the company as a joint enterprise from which everyone should benefit, not just shareholders. Which is why the board fired him.

It’s far from clear who will win this battle. But, interestingly, we’re beginning to see the Arthur T. business model pop up all over the place.

Patagonia, a large apparel manufacturer based in Ventura, California, has organized itself as a “B-corporation.” That’s a for-profit company whose articles of incorporation require it to take into account the interests of workers, the community, and the environment, as well as shareholders.

The performance of B-corporations according to this measure is regularly reviewed and certified by a nonprofit entity called B Lab.

To date, over 500 companies in sixty industries have been certified as B-corporations, including the household products firm “Seventh Generation.”

In addition, 27 states have passed laws allowing companies to incorporate as “benefit corporations.” This gives directors legal protection to consider the interests of all stakeholders rather than just the shareholders who elected them.

We may be witnessing the beginning of a return to a form of capitalism that was taken for granted in America sixty years ago.

Then, most CEOs assumed they were responsible for all their stakeholders.

The job of management,” proclaimed Frank Abrams, chairman of Standard Oil of New Jersey, in 1951, “is to maintain an equitable and working balance among the claims of the various directly interested groups … stockholders, employees, customers, and the public at large.”

Johnson & Johnson publicly stated that its “first responsibility” was to patients, doctors, and nurses, and not to investors.

What changed? In the 1980s, corporate raiders began mounting unfriendly takeovers of companies that could deliver higher returns to their shareholders – if they abandoned their other stakeholders.

The raiders figured profits would be higher if the companies fought unions, cut workers’ pay or fired them, automated as many jobs as possible or moved jobs abroad, shuttered factories, abandoned their communities, and squeezed their customers.  

Although the law didn’t require companies to maximize shareholder value, shareholders had the legal right to replace directors. The raiders pushed them to vote out directors who wouldn’t make these changes and vote in directors who would (or else sell their shares to the raiders, who’d do the dirty work).

Since then, shareholder capitalism has replaced stakeholder capitalism. Corporate raiders have morphed into private equity managers, and unfriendly takeovers are rare. But it’s now assumed corporations exist only to maximize shareholder returns.

Are we better off? Some argue shareholder capitalism has proven more efficient. It has moved economic resources to where they’re most productive, and thereby enabled the economy to grow faster.

By this view, stakeholder capitalism locked up resources in unproductive ways. CEOs were too complacent. Companies were too fat. They employed workers they didn’t need, and paid them too much. They were too tied to their communities.

But maybe, in retrospect, shareholder capitalism wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. Look at the flat or declining wages of most Americans, their growing economic insecurity, and the abandoned communities that litter the nation.

Then look at the record corporate profits, CEO pay that’s soared into the stratosphere, and Wall Street’s financial casino (along with its near meltdown in 2008 that imposed collateral damage on most Americans).

You might conclude we went a bit overboard with shareholder capitalism. 

The directors of “Market Basket” are now considering selling the company. Arthur T. has made a bid, but other bidders have offered more.

Reportedly, some prospective bidders think they can squeeze more profits out of the company than Arthur T. did. 

But Arthur T. may have known something about how to run a business that made it successful in a larger sense.

Only some of us are corporate shareholders, and shareholders have won big in America over the last three decades.

But we’re all stakeholders in the American economy, and many stakeholders have done miserably. 

Maybe a bit more stakeholder capitalism is in order.

The editorial was retreived from Robert Reich's own web page - here.

Posted by Richard Maltzman on: August 21, 2014 11:15 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Good, Gooder, Goodest

We highly recommend that you watch this TED video first.  It would be a good thing to do.

 

Or, you could skip it, read this, and then go back and watch it.

But you should at LEAST spend the few minutes it takes to watch it.

In it, the speaker, Simon Anholt, describes the rationale, history, and makeup of the Good Country Index.  As he says, it's not about good, better, and best, but good, gooder, and goodest - meaning good as in "the opposite of selfish".  He's put together a set of measurements which assess companies and yield a ranking from top to bottom of the world's "goodest" countries.

In and of itself this is insteresting to project managers.  Why?  In our book, Green Project Management, we say that a project run with green (read that now as sustainable) intent is the right thing to do but it also helps the projet team do things right.  It means - as Simon Aholt says (although in relation to countries) that the success of the project actually goes UP if there is more focus on collaboration, more of an outward than inward view, more of an unselfish (think multiple-stakeholder rather than project-team) execution of the project.

But beyond that connection, Anholt's TED talk points to a website called goodcountry.org which has this Good Country Index we mentioned above.  And what is a major component of the weighted table (one of our favorite PM tools) that makes up this mega-database of counrty goodness?

It's a section called Planet and Climate.  Here is a deep link directly to that section.

In it, Anholt's team analyzes:

  • Biocapacity Reserve
  • Hazardous waste exports
  • Organic water pollutants
  • CO2 Emissions
  • Other GHG emissions

These elements make up part of the score of a country's goodness.

And if they apply to countries, and countries get their Gross Domestic Product (GDP) via a portfolio of programs and projects, then clearly, the same applies to us as project managers.  That's the origin of the very name of this blog!  Have a look at the scores in this area, and then kick up a level and look at the other elements.  It's interesting information, presented in a visually pleasing and intuitive way. 

Don't worry, we know what you're thinking.  You're probaly wondering which country was number one, right?  Which one won the World Cup of goodness, beating the good and gooder countries to be the very goodest...right?  Well, we're going to let you tell US since you watched the video.  Or, you can march right back up to the top of this post and watch the video to find out.

If you do, watch it from a project perspective.  Subsitute projects for 'countries'.  Maybe you, just like that mystery country, can be the goodest project team around.

Goodest wishes!

Posted by Richard Maltzman on: July 10, 2014 10:00 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)

Declaring Independence (and interdependence) for Projects, Programs, and Portfolios

Categories: government

With the USA's Independence Day celebrations upon us, it seemed appropriate to talk about independence and interdependence.  In both cases, we refer you to the very PMBOK(R) Guide that defines the framework, knowledge areas, and processes of project management.

Let's get ::interdependence:: out of the way first.  As we know, projects are run by organizations to accomplish the mission, vision, and values of the organization.  We only ininitiate a project if it is aligned with the business objectives of the entity that sponsors it.  So there is an inherent interdependency between projects and the programs and portfolios under which they are executed.

This concept can be carried forward to our message* of sustainability by virtue of the need to line up the projects with the CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) messaging of the parent organizations.  We'll repeat our ongoing challenge to project managers: check the "About Us" section of your company's external web page and se what your leaders are saying to the world about their commitment to the environment, to employees, to the community, to the shareholders.  Is your project connected to (interdependence!) these statements?

We have seen significant evidence of projects that may line up with one element (usually, of course, economic in nature) but are way, way, WAY off in terms of the other 2 pieces of the bottom line (social and ecological).

So - in the interest of brevity - just know that the PMBOK(R) Guide speaks to this significantly. If you don't believe us, have a look at Figure 1-1 of the Guide on page 5, and this sentence from page 4:

"Although the projects or programs within the portfolio may not necessarily be interdependent or directly related, they are linked to the organization's strategic plan by means of the organization's portfoliio".

So now on to independence!

In this context we want to talk about independence from bias and reliance on facts (as in, "we hold these truths to be self-evident"). 

As the hurricaine season begins to unfold, we were looking at Hurrricaine Arthur on wunderground.com, a website devoted to independent weather reporting.  There we found a great page which provides facts on climate change based strictly on independent science.  Unfortunately, due to the politicizing of this science, even an independent weather page was compelled to put this statement on their page:

"Based on the evidence, more than 97% of climate scientists have concluded that human-caused climate change is happening. Climate change is already causing significant impacts to people and ecosystems, and these impacts will grow much more severe in the coming years. We can choose to take economically sensible steps to lessen the damage of climate change, and the cost of inaction is much higher than the cost of action."

Click here for the full Wunderground page on climate change - it's a great resource for facts.

The other piece related to independent climate change facts was found oun this site:

Click here for a report on climate change funded by the Koch brothers which should please even those who are concerned about any fraud in climate change.

So to wrap up:

As project managers, we are - by definition - interdependent on our organization's mission, vision, and values.  We can use this interdependency to our advantage, as an opportunity as a source of authority and power when we want to assure that our projects are properly linked to the goals of the organization.

Also - as project managers, we should seek facts and base our decisions on independent, validated sources of information.  We should remain independent when it comes to negotiating differences amongst our project team members.  Independence is key for us, even as mentioned in the PMBOK(R) Guide in terms of procurement and arbitration.

So declare your own PM independence gather and deal with facts only as facts, whether it's dealing with CSR objectives, climate change, or a simple argument between team members that you are refereeing.

To our American readers, happy July 4th!  And since that is a date on EVERYONE's calendar, we wish EVERYONE a happy July 4th, too!

*The best way to see our message is here at Projects@Work in this blog, at http://earthpm.com, and even better by reading our book, Green Project Management.

Posted by Richard Maltzman on: July 03, 2014 02:05 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Powah of Oppahtunities

Categories: government

Growing up in New England as we have, we know and love our New England accent.  To us, in fact, it's not an accent.  All of the rest of you have an accent, we speak, well, we speak  noahmahlly.

We always get a kick out of those movies in which actahs (actors) from out of our region try to "do" the New England accent.  They get it horribly wrong.  When they try to play, for example, President John F. Kennedy, to us they may as well be speaking in Tamil.  It's just not proppah (proper).

Well, now you have the chance to hear the accent in all of its glory because Boston native, UMass-Boston alum, and US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Director Gina McCarthy (pronounced "m'cahh-thy") yesterday addressed the nation on the proposed limits to power plants to reduce cahhbin (carbon) generation.

Below is the video.  You don't have to watch the whole thing but we want to draw your attention to 3:52, where she makes an errah (error).  At least, she misuses a project management term if compared to the way we are told we are supposed to use it by the Project Management Institute (PMI®).

At that point in the video - wait for it, wait for it, THERE - she says, "we'll turn the risks of climate into business opportunity".

We know as practicing PMs that risks can be positive or negative.  Positive risks are opportunities and negative risks are threats.  Therefoah (therefore) she should have said, "we'll turn the threats of climate ito business opporutnity". 

A small sticking point, perhaps but one which has been a calling card for us for 5 years.  In our book, Green Project Management, the very cover makes this point by showing a tree that yields paper money.  The concept of a triple - or really at least quadruple - bottom line is one we've blogged about as well for years, and indeed is the name of the blog you're readning now - People, Planet, Profits & Projects.  We assert that there is a benefit to long-term thinking that means it pays off to consider social and environmental concerns and not only financial considerations - and that this 'extra' effort in long-term thinking is not wasted, often coming back around to provide short-term financial gain.

In McCarthy's reference we can also see the short term opportunities in the form of new projects to reduce carbon from power plants and to move effort to renewable energy - all of which will require a crop of sustainability-aware project managers.

By staying tuned to this blog and an upcoming book (yes, we finally have a follow-up book to Green Project Management, more about that later) you can be part of that crop and you can help gain yourself some powah!

Posted by Richard Maltzman on: June 03, 2014 11:09 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
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