Project Management

People, Planet, Profits & Projects

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Richard Maltzman
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Recent Posts

What wood $1B do? (Part 1)

Doc Brown Would Be Proud (Part 2 of 2)

Doc Brown Would Be Proud (Part 1 of 2)

PM and Sustainability - Symbiosis - Part 2

PM and Sustainability - Symbiosis - Part 1

What wood $1B do? (Part 1)

Categories: forest, plant, tree, USDA

Author’s Note: That’s not a typo, it’s a Dad Joke.  Wood, not would, because this is about trees, and a very lofty sum of over one BILLION dollars.

A recent article in The Guardian got my attention for two reasons.

Reason 1 – and this may seem trivial, but maybe it is kind of important – was the terminology we use in project management.

Reason 2 – this is an example of what we called in our book, Green Project Management a 'Green by Nature' project, one in which the objectives of the project are laser-focused on an improved sustainability outcome.

In this post I will talk a bit about the terminology and will follow up with more details on some of the individual projects under the umbrella of a program, in a follow-up post.

Let’s start with PMI’s definition of a project.

From the PMI 7th Edition PMBOK® Guide, a project is: “A temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service, or result”.  A program is “Related projects, subsidiary programs, and program activities that are managed in a coordinated manner to obtain benefits not available from managing them individually.”

Yet, the announcement, and the coverage in the press, is sloppy with the use of these terms, and throws a bunch of other terms, like initiative, effort, endeavor, in the mix.  It’s not just the press.  In my experience as a practitioner and a consultant and lecturer, I have come across major confusion and mishegoss (look it up) with respect to (or perhaps because of lack of respect for) project management titles and job descriptions. 

Again, words are important.  When it comes to organizations, sometimes the way project managers are titled is a “tell” regarding the maturity level of the organization.  Those which respect the discipline of project management (or even project leadership!) follow through with appropriate titles for the people and the names of the initiatives on which they are working.  Note: I use the word “initiative” – a positive word – as the overarching term for projects, programs, and portfolios.

If you follow this blog,  you know that I’m not happy with the title Project Manager, because I assert that we are project LEADERS.  That’s covered as a theme in many posts, so I won’t repeat it here, but words do matter.

So, what about the words thrown around, like endeavor, project, initiative, effort, work, scheme, gambit, stratagem…?

I think this one is clearly a program and should be called such. 

Here are some snippets form the US Department of Agriculture’s announcement:

“The Urban and Community Forestry Program is the only program in the federal government dedicated to enhancing and expanding the nation's urban forest resources. This is the largest single USDA Inflation Reduction Act investment to date in urban and community forests.”

“Studies show that trees in communities are associated with improved physical and mental health, lower average temperatures during extreme heat, and increased food security, and create new economic opportunities. This historic funding will help the Forest Service support projects that increase tree cover in disadvantaged communities, provide equitable access to the benefits of nature, and deliver tangible economic and ecological benefits to urban and Tribal communities across the country.”

To their credit, the USDA did use “Program” for the most part when referring to this initiative.

To (excuse the pun) plant a seed for the next blog post, have a look at this video which talks about the rationale for launching the program.

In the follow-up post (Part 2), I will talk much more about this Program, and leave the terminology behind.  See what I did there…?

Posted by Richard Maltzman on: September 23, 2023 12:22 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Doc Brown Would Be Proud (Part 2 of 2)

In Part 1 of this post, I introduced you to (probably re-introduced you) to Dr. Emmett Brown, that slightly wacky scientist of Back To The Future fame.  I referenced several articles, and in this one I’ll continue with those and others, like this one from Clean Technica, which opens like this:

"Researchers at MIT, led by professors Franz-Josef Ulm, Admir Masic, and Yang-Shao Horn, have discovered that mixing cement, carbon black, and water in certain proportions results in concrete that doubles as a supercapacitor that is able to store electrical energy.  I like how Professor Masic wraps it up.

“You have these at least two millennia old materials (carbon black and cement) that, when you combine them in a specific manner, you come up with a conductive nanocomposite, and that’s when things get really interesting.”, he says."

So, great.  We have our ‘conductive nano composite’ – our own ‘flux capacitor’.  Now what?

Well, the best place to start is to remember that we’re literally talking about something foundational.  The foundation of a home, the foundation of a wind turbine, the foundation of a highway.  If all of these things which were formerly structural are now sources of energy storage, well, that changes things.

Charging your car just by driving on the road

Doc Brown may have famously said, “Roads, where we going we don’t need roads”.  But we still do, and we need electric cars to be easily charged.  How about if that was done by … just driving?  This has been attempted in the past (see this article about Sweden’s first swipe at it), but these required installing electrical rails in the road.  Forget that – with supercapacitors, the job can be much easier.

From an article in New Zealand’s DrivenCar Guide magazine:

The researchers propose an intriguing concept: integrating this technology within a concrete road could potentially facilitate on-the-go charging for electric vehicles, akin to the principles employed in wireless phone chargers. With this application, the road surface would become a battery while solar panels or windmills provide continuous power.

Don’t get too excited yet, though.  There is more project work (development projects!) needed to get this to scale.  The scientists have only produced a button-sized version of the material.  Can’t drive too far on a button.

Also adding more carbon black does increase the power storage capacity of the material, it also decreases concrete strength. There will be research needed to find the ‘sweet spot’ – probably between 3 and 10 percent carbon black that retains enough of  the strength of the material while providing the supercapacitor properties.  No good having your car charged but falling through a carbon black hole.

Same deal for home foundations. It’s great if your home can store energy down there, but not so good if it falls over.

There are skeptics (and that’s always a good thing especially when it comes to safety).  Witness this article from Eric Worrall, in Waats Up With That:

Eric says:

My concern is the application.

When capacitors fail they go with a bang. Old style televisions were notorious for this kind of failure, the loud bang which preceded the magic smoke was usually caused by capacitors suffering catastrophic dielectric failure, and releasing all their stored energy in a fraction of a second.

What concerns me is, if a TV capacitor explodes, abruptly releasing a few joules of energy, you spill your beer and curse a bit. But if a 10KWh household super capacitor goes, that’s 36 million joules of energy – equivalent to 8.6Kg of TNT, enough to turn your house into a sizeable crater.

10KW (10,000 watt hours) x 3600 seconds in an hour = 36,000,000 joules of energy
36,000,000 joules / 4,184 joules / gram = 8,604g = 8.6Kg of TNT

Even more interesting, brittle materials like concrete are vulnerable to mechanical shock. So that 8.6Kg of TNT equivalent, enough to utterly destroy a normal house, could trigger a chain reaction of adjacent dielectric failures, resulting in thousands or even millions of houses abruptly releasing their stored energy. And that’s not even considering the energy storage requirements of even greater concentrations of energy, like high-rise apartments and office buildings.

The failure of 115 adjacent household storage super capacitors holding 10KWh could release a kiloton of force – think the Beirut explosion in 2020.       Worse, each additional household energy storage system recruited into the chain reaction and  explosion would increase the risk to the next house.

               I’m thinking, that would not be a good day to visit town.

Of course, all this risk could be mitigated by using expensive spring or rubber loaded mounts and shock resistant supports, to minimise the risk of the house foundation capacitor detonating because of an adjacent explosion. I’m sure no building contractor would be tempted to cut corners and use cheap, substandard shock protection components, right?

See an example of a capacitor blowing up in slow motion here (and imagine this scaled up by Doc Brown levels of magnitude).

This type of advocacy for ‘what could go wrong’ is so needed, and it’s best to consider this NOW, not after the first 10,000 kM of roadway and 300,000 homes are built.

So: more  project work to do, but this is quite certainly a breakthrough that will lead us Back to a green Future.

Posted by Richard Maltzman on: August 15, 2023 04:37 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Doc Brown Would Be Proud (Part 1 of 2)

Most of you are probably familiar with Dr. Emmett Brown.  That’s a photo of him at the top of this post. He is not a famous psychologist from the University of Chicago, nor is he the leading cardiologist at the Boston Medical Center.  He doesn’t even have a PMP(R) credential, and he’s not even a real doctor.  Well, he is a real doctor character, the ‘mad scientist’ in Back To the Future, played eloquently by Christopher Lloyd.

And he uses an interesting device to power his Delorean electric vehicle: a flux capacitor.

See the sign below.  Watch out!

Of course, there is no such thing.

Or… is there?

I have encountered two recent articles which, while not using the term “flux capacitor” are using the term “supercapacitor”.  The articles are not from science fiction magazines, either, they are from IEEE Spectrum and from New Scientist.

To me, the irony of the story is very sweet, because this is about using two ancient materials - concrete and carbon – to create capacitors which can be built into the environment to power houses and potentially vehicles.

Here’s the paragraph that got my attention – in an article from New Scientist magazine, August 2023:

A mixture of cement and charcoal powder could enable houses to store a full day’s worth of energy in their concrete foundations. This new way of creating a supercapacitor – an alternative to batteries that can discharge energy much faster – could be incorporated into the foundations of both buildings and wind turbines. When paired with renewable energy sources, it could also someday let concrete road foundations wirelessly recharge electric vehicles as they drive along.

This is striking in several ways, not the least of which is the idea that the power source for homes, businesses and vehicles could be built into the environment, which smacks of the whole concept of The Built Environment, for which PMI now is offering a credential (the PMI-CP™).  Indeed, I am working with industry professionals and academics to work this into our curriculum at Boston University.

The Supercapacitor

But let’s get back to this supercapacitor – the project that led to its development and the projects it will undoubtedly launch – projects that would make Dr. Emmett Brown quite proud.

Here’s an image of the supercapacitor in the lab (courtesy of IEEE Spectrum):

Let’s start with the ingredients.  This is another irony.  To power the modern world in an environmentally-responsible manner, requires the generation and storage of electricity without the need for fossil fuels, without hazardous or rare-earth chemicals (like those used in batteries).  You would think that some brand-new whiz-kid material would be invented to do that.  Not so.  One of the main ingredients in this supercapacitor is carbon black.  To give you an idea of how new this material is – it was used to write the Dead Sea scrolls.  So: not new.  The other material is concrete, also ancient.

The trick is in the surface area.

To make the material for their supercapacitor, the team at MIT (see story here) stirred up a paste made of cement and water, and then introduced carbon black, a fine, charcoal-like form of carbon which is highly conductive, into the paste.

As this cement mixture cured, the water was absorbed, and when evaporated, left behind a veinous network of tunnels when ended up being filled by the carbon black.

The resulting material is now a latticework ... with a large surface area of conductive, winding, branching tunnels, without expanding the overall volume of the material, which can now serve as an electrode for the capacitor.

The Capacitor

I suppose I should digress here for a moment and tell those who don’t have an electrical engineering background about capacitors.

There is controversy over who developed the first capacitor, and there’s even controversy over the invention of the predecessor of the capacitor, the Leiden (or Leyden) jar. This was invented nearly simultaneously by German cleric E. Georg von Kleist, but was followed up with more research and intent by  by Pieter van Musschenbroek at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands in approximately 1745.  In effect, they layers of foil separated by an insulator (called a dielectric).  You can see them in action in this video:


 they are classically represented by this symbol, a quite logical one, two plates separated by a gap (air, glass, plastic, or other dielectric).


A black rectangular object with white text    Description automatically generated with medium confidence


As current (excuse the pun) electronic components, they often look like one of these:

Capacitor tutorial : Working and How to use in Circuits - Gadgetronicx


However, now, the concept of this small electronic component , with this innovation, is expanded into the very construction material itself.

In part 2, I will continue with the possible implementation ideas for this technology.


MIT article

New Scientist article

IEEE Spectrum article


Posted by Richard Maltzman on: August 12, 2023 10:20 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

PM and Sustainability - Symbiosis - Part 2

As a reminder, the theme for this two-part blog post is symbiosis.

In the first post I illustrated symbiosis with the example of the clownfish and the sea anemone.  This time: another example – the acacia tree and a species of aggressive, stinging Pseudomyrmex ferrugineus ants

Once again, I don’t mean to infer that sustainability is represented by the tree and project managers are pseudomyrmex ferruginei.  It’s just an an-t-alogy.  Learn more about this with this academic paper from SciencDaily.  Or, watch this 2 minute video from National Geographic:

The symbiosis to which I am referring is about the mutual benefit that the CSO (Chief Sustainability Officer) department of an organization can (and should!) have with the project managers.

To take this idea to another level – an important level, I decided to see what this meant in terms of careers and jobs.  I entered what I thought would be a very helpful prompt into ChatGPT, and here is what came out.

My Prompt:

Acting as a talent acquisition manager, identify the connections between project management and the positions of Chief Sustainability Officer or Director of Sustainability or ESG Director.

ChatGPT’s response (highlighting is mine):

As a talent acquisition manager, it's essential to recognize the connections between project management and positions like Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO), Director of Sustainability, or ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) Director. Understanding these connections will help you identify suitable candidates with the right skills and experience for these roles. Here are the key connections:

  1. Strategic Planning and Implementation: Both project management and sustainability roles require strategic planning and implementation skills. Project managers are adept at setting clear goals, creating action plans, and overseeing the execution of projects to achieve objectives. Similarly, sustainability professionals need to develop and implement sustainability strategies, which may involve a variety of initiatives and projects aimed at improving environmental, social, and governance performance within an organization.
  2. Cross-Functional Collaboration: Project managers often work across different departments, ensuring effective communication and collaboration among various stakeholders. Similarly, sustainability roles involve working with teams from different business units to integrate sustainability practices and initiatives throughout the organization. Both positions require the ability to collaborate and engage with diverse stakeholders to drive positive change.


  1. Performance Measurement and Reporting: Project managers are responsible for tracking project progress, identifying key performance indicators (KPIs), and reporting on project outcomes to relevant stakeholders. Likewise, sustainability roles involve measuring and reporting on environmental, social, and governance metrics to assess the organization's sustainability performance and demonstrate the impact of sustainability initiatives.


  1. Risk Management: Both project management and sustainability roles involve risk management. Project managers identify potential risks to project success and develop mitigation plans. Sustainability professionals must assess environmental and social risks and ensure compliance with relevant regulations and standards, addressing any potential negative impacts.


  1. Change Management: Project managers often deal with change within an organization when implementing new projects or initiatives. Sustainability professionals also play a crucial role in driving organizational change, as they advocate for sustainable practices and help shift the company's culture towards greater environmental and social responsibility.


  1. Long-term Vision: Project managers typically work on time-bound projects with specific objectives and deliverables. In contrast, sustainability roles require a long-term vision to develop and implement sustainable strategies that align with the organization's overall mission and values.


  1. Stakeholder Engagement: Both roles involve working with internal and external stakeholders. Project managers communicate with project sponsors, team members, and other stakeholders. Similarly, sustainability professionals engage with investors, customers, regulatory bodies, NGOs, and other stakeholders to promote sustainability efforts and ensure transparency.


  1. Innovation and Continuous Improvement: Project managers seek opportunities for innovation and continuous improvement within their projects. In sustainability roles, driving innovation to develop sustainable products, processes, and practices is crucial for the organization's long-term success.

When recruiting for positions like Chief Sustainability Officer, Director of Sustainability, or ESG Director, it's important to look for candidates with a strong background in project management, excellent communication and collaboration skills, and a passion for sustainability and environmental stewardship. These candidates will be well-equipped to lead sustainability initiatives, drive positive change, and align sustainability efforts with the organization's broader goals.

OK.  Now that you have seen that, I know that at least my students of my Project Value Strategies class will recognize much of what is taught there.  It could almost be the Syllabus of the course.

So the lesson here is that the intertwined needs and outcomes of good project leadership and sustainability professionals means that opportunities for holistic, long-term, value-based project leaders (I stay away from the word ‘managers’ here, because… well, because this is leadership) will be the ones that are in highest demand in the near future, especially with the advent of AI.

With that in mind, I asked ChatGPT what those skills would be to see if I was at all on target, or more like an ant climbing up the wrong tree.

My prompt:

Responding to a project manager concerned about losing their job to AI, what particular skills should they work on which will make them more resilient to the advent of AI in project management?


Chat GPT’s ant-ser:

To become more resilient to the advent of AI in project management, project managers should focus on developing specific skills that complement and go beyond AI capabilities. Here are some particular skills to work on:

  1. Strategic Thinking: Enhance your ability to think strategically and see the big picture. AI can assist with data analysis and provide insights, but it often requires human intervention to formulate and implement strategic decisions.
  2. Complex Problem-Solving: Develop expertise in handling intricate and multifaceted problems. AI might excel at solving routine issues, but complex challenges often require human creativity and judgment.
  3. Emotional Intelligence: Strengthen your emotional intelligence, as it plays a crucial role in managing teams and stakeholders effectively. AI cannot replace the empathy and understanding needed to build strong relationships and resolve conflicts.
  4. Communication and Negotiation: Focus on honing your communication and negotiation skills. These are essential for managing diverse teams, engaging stakeholders, and reaching mutually beneficial agreements.
  5. Adaptability and Learning Agility: Embrace a growth mindset and be willing to learn and adapt continuously. AI technologies evolve rapidly, and being adaptable will help you stay relevant in a changing landscape.
  6. Leadership and Team Management: Cultivate your leadership abilities to inspire and guide your team. AI may facilitate task management, but human leaders are still crucial for motivating teams and ensuring everyone is aligned with the project's goals.
  7. Domain Expertise: Become an expert in your specific industry or domain. Understanding the intricacies of your field allows you to provide valuable insights and make informed decisions that AI might not fully grasp.
  8. Risk Management: Specialize in risk assessment and mitigation. AI can help analyze data related to risks, but your experience and judgment are necessary to determine appropriate risk responses and contingency plans.
  9. Innovation and Creativity: Foster a culture of innovation and creativity within your team. While AI can automate repetitive tasks, human creativity drives innovative solutions and new project opportunities.
  10. Ethics and Responsible AI Use: Familiarize yourself with the ethical considerations of AI implementation. As a project manager, it's essential to ensure that AI is used responsibly, adheres to regulations, and addresses potential biases.
  11. Data Literacy: Develop a good understanding of data analysis and interpretation. This skill will enable you to collaborate more effectively with AI experts, understand AI-generated insights, and make data-driven decisions.
  12. Client and Stakeholder Management: Master the art of managing client expectations and stakeholder relationships. Human communication skills are vital for fostering trust and maintaining strong partnerships.

By concentrating on these skills, project managers can position themselves as indispensable assets in the AI-driven project management landscape. Remember that AI should be seen as a tool to augment your capabilities, not a direct threat to your expertise and contributions. Being adaptable, innovative, and focused on adding value will ensure your resilience in the face of AI advancements.

Notice the connection here?  The more you focus on holistic, long-term thinking, the more secure your career, and the more you can do well by doing good.

Bottom line: when it comes to integrating sustainability thinking into your project management work, remember – that’s going to make you more resilient.  Think: Project Leadership, not Project Management.

Posted by Richard Maltzman on: July 28, 2023 04:05 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)

PM and Sustainability - Symbiosis - Part 1

Photo: National Geographic

I’d like to start this post off with a very brief biology lesson.  It’s about “symbiosis”.

From National Geographic’s article, The Art of Living Together

Sea anemones live attached to the surface of coral reefs. They trap their prey with stinging cells called nematocysts, which are located on their tentacles. Nematocysts release toxins when a small animal contacts an anemone’s tentacle. This paralyzes the stung animal, allowing the anemone to easily bring the animal into its mouth for ingestion.

While other fish succumb to these toxic stings, clownfish secrete a substance in the mucus covering their bodies that suppresses the firing of nematocysts. This allows the clownfish to swim comfortably between the tentacles of anemones, creating a protected environment in which potential predators are killed off by anemone stings. This clearly benefits the clownfish, but how about the sea anemones? The brightly colored clownfish attract other fish looking for a meal. These unsuspecting would-be predators are then caught and eaten by the anemones.

Now, I am not saying that ESG leaders are clowns, nor am I saying that project managers trap prey with stinging cells.  Or vice-versa  This is not that strong an analogy.  What I am saying (and have been since 2010 with our book Green Project Management) is that there is a much stronger relationship between sustainability and project leadership than previously thought.

So, I was very pleased to see a pair of articles right here on that talk to this symbiosis of sorts.

My favorite part of Andy Jordan’s feature story on The Rise of the CSO is this gem:

“…every project committed to by an organization will ideally be developed and approved with sustainability in mind. I mentioned above that the approach to delivering a project should be subjected to a sustainability assessment, and that should be built into the organization’s overall project methodologies. But there should also be a review of each proposed initiative to ensure that the specifics of it are aligned with an organization’s sustainability goals.”

The symbiosis: projects that embed sustainability will be better aligned with company mission, and thus more successful in the true sense of the word, and sustainability professionals will get ESG-related projects done more effectively.  Do well by doing good.  Do good by doing well.

In Andy Jordan’s excellent post, he talks about the general role of the CSO but importantly says that some of it is project work, such as:

  • "Requiring a sustainability assessment to be carried out on the planned execution approach for every project. Regardless of what the project is designed to deliver, this assessment ensures that the work is carried out in a way that promotes sustainability.
    • That could be ensuring that software is optimized to minimize the power consumption needed to achieve performance targets.
    • It could mean verifying production methods to confirm that environmentally conscious materials and processes are used.
    • Or it could be addressing packaging and distribution methods to ensure recyclability and minimized waste.
  • Defining project environment best practices and policies. This is about building sustainability into how projects are delivered. While it may be limited by corporate policies, this would cover everything from recommended approaches that are designed to limit travel for team members (both regular work-from-home policies and plans for onsite meetings of remote work teams), to best practices around turning off lights, computers, and so on. Depending on the types of projects undertaken, it may also define a list of approved suppliers, provide a framework for securing sustainability endorsements from industry or community groups, etc.
  • Integrating sustainability into project environment maturity and improvement plans. Because sustainability is a relatively new consideration, organizations are generally starting from a baseline of low performance. PMOs are expected to continuously improve the overall performance of the project environment over time through things like improved planning, better resource management, greater variance recovery and so on. Sustainability can be built into these plans through targets focused on whichever sustainability goals are relevant to the organization."

The other article that gave me increasing hope about this symbiosis was from Antonio Nieto-Rodriguez, called The 10-Step ESG Health Check for Project Managers

In his article, Antonio details 10 steps (you really should read the article) for PMs, because the transitions and changes and initiatives needed to achieve sustainability goals ARE PROJECTS and REQUIRE PROJECT LEADERSHIP.  The 10 steps are highlighted below:

1. Align ESG Goals
2. Engage Senior Leaders
3. Create a Sense of Urgency
4. Focus on Benefits
5. Leverage Volunteers
6. Allocate Resources
7. Evolve Your Cultural (and Allow for Failure)
8. Develop an ESG Data Strategy
9. Persuade Leaders to Make More Sustainable Decisions
10. Embrace Continuous ESG Improvement

I am encouraged by the momentum developing in this symbiosis.  In Part 2, I want to make this as real as possible to you by (ironically) introducing artificial intelligence into the mix and to focus on jobs and careers for project leaders related to ESG, or supporting ESG efforts.

Thank you to Andy Jordan and Antonio Nieto-Rodgriguez for their excellent posts and the spark for this two part-blog post!

Posted by Richard Maltzman on: July 27, 2023 11:20 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)

"In youth we learn; in age we understand."

- Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach