Image: Inc. Magazine
In this two-part series of posts, I would like to point you to an excellent post made right here on Projectmanagement.com by Bruce Harpham.
It’s entitled Climate Change: Micro and Macro Opportunities for Project Managers
Climate change has arrived, and it is wreaking havoc across our world. The question now becomes: What can we do about it? There is no single correct answer to this complex question. The first step to coming up with solutions starts with understanding our situation.
Bruce goes on to talk about the disappointment some of us share that although global warming or climate change has been a topic of discussion for a long time, not much has been done about it.
Who are we?
We are project managers*! Get-r-done people. Don’t you find this lack of action reprehensible? I do. I think that we as “Executors” (see Dr. Barbara Trautlein’s wonderful book on Change Intelligence) want to get stuff done. But there is an ironic twist here. We executors like to get things done on time, accomplishing scope, and doing all of this within budget. That often blinds us to thinking about the product of our project in the long-term - see the video at the end of this post for an example. Whatever it is that we build – whether it’s an app or a bridge or a new house-cleaning service, we want it to go live, carry traffic, and clean houses. Once that has started to happen, we do the old “wipe our hands” gesture and say, “now give me my next project!”.
That means we have not thought through to the operation of our project’s outcome. Just that simple mind exercise, perhaps when doing risk identification, would make such a big difference in terms of making project outcomes sustainable.
But there’s a catch!
Many of the changes to the product or service we may want to make, which consider sustainability and impact (social, economic, or ecological) have to please our sponsors and may, on their surface, seem to be too expensive, or may delay the release of the project. The project manager may be hesitant to raise these suggestions, partially due to a culture in an organization that makes it unsafe to speak up. This topic is enough for an entire series of blog posts, and in fact is an entire chapter in an upcoming DeGruyter book, The Handbook of Responsible Project Management. So I won’t follow that thread here; suffice it to say that it will take courage, supported by facts, supported by likely high-level commitments at the corporate level to Corporate Social Responsibility, to make these suggestions and, yes, perhaps delay the project or make the product or service more expensive, but to move the needle a little bit in terms of (for example) climate change.
In Part 2, I will take a look at Bruce’s point-by-point list of things we can do as project leaders and, for what it’s worth, add my opinion and angle on how you can make those a reality in your projects.
*I prefer (and am starting to assert the use of)"Project Leader" instead of project manager. Look up the list of traits and attributes associated with manager, then do the same for leader. You’ll see. Your title should be Project Leader.
Image from https://www.successfuelformanagers.com/3-ways-develop-actionable-steps-project-planning/
Part 3 is the last (for now) in the series on Smart Farming - focusing on projects and programs in the area of growing and distributing foods. As I wrote it, I realized that it had to be further decomposed into Parts 3a and Part 3B. The decomposition theme continues here - in a WBS sort of way. Read on, brave project leaders, read on.
In Part 1, I covered agrivoltaics - the practice of installing solar photovoltaic panels on farmland in a way that primary agricultural activities (such as animal grazing, insect resourcing (honey production) and crop/vegetable production) can continue. In Part 2, we shift upwards - WAY upwards, to focus on satellite imagery and using data to discover and potentially repair problems with topsoil.
In Part 3, we bring our attention to the food that is grown on farms and projects surrounding its distribution. Again from UMass Magazine, there is a piece about Farm to Institution New England, a network backbone that connects farms to institutions, such as universities and hospitals. Their mission?
"Our mission is to mobilize the power of New England institutions to transform our food system."
A good mission statement deserves a vision that drives it. We know this as project (and especially Program and Portfolio) leaders.
"By 2030, we envision New England institutions and the FINE network playing leadership roles in cultivating a region that is moving towards self-reliance. We envision an equitable and just food system that provides access to healthy and abundant food for all New Englanders, and is defined by sustainable and productive land and ocean ecosystems."
This is a project-oriented organization. For a glimpse at some of their work, visit their projects page by clicking here. I was fascinated by the projects surrounding University dining. As a long-ago graduate of UMass Amherst, I am of course proud of the UMass year-after-year number one ranking for campus food (very, very different from when I attended - can you say "cube steak"?). FINE has published (amongst many other items) this interesting report about the supply chain of food from local farms to university campuses, called Campus Dining 201 (click on the link or the image below for an immediate download).
In it, you will find a treasure trove of data (D) advanced into information (I) and knowledge (K), providing wisdom (W) (see the Part 2 post of this series to learn about the DIKW Pyramid). Amongst the gems in this report, and of particular interest to project leaders, is the pie chart (see figure below) which talks about the definition of "local food". We know that in a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS), we need a WBS Dictionary to tell us what we mean when we say (for example) "Complete Electrical Wiring", and whether or not that includes installation of light fixtures. It's similar to the idea of defining project success, so that we know when we're done - but on a work package level.
To even begin to understand the food supply chain and the element of 'local food', what do we mean by the term 'local food'? The pie chart below tells us that we have some work to do in that area:
I was amazed by the fact that almost 3/4 of the schools don't define or know what is meant by local food. So it seems some work is in order to provide the equivalent of a WBS Dictionary for terms such as this. Otherwise we are in danger of compiling lots of data and creating lovely charts that are based on undefined or unknown inputs - a formula for disaster. Work being done by groups such as FINE are helping us avert this disaster by providing some definition.
Do your projects have concise and clear definition around the work to be done? It's worth some background work on your part as a project leader.
In Part 3b, I'll close out this series with more about projects focused on the food supply chain and advancing data into information, knowledge, and wisdom in the area of just how that Christmas fruitcake from Auntie Catherine made it from ... wherever fruitcakes come from ... to your holiday table.