Project Management

People, Planet, Profits & Projects

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Richard Maltzman
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The Many Colors of Hydrogen

The Inflation Reduction Act and ...projects!

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Implement Risk Responses: Boston Style

Smart Farming - Part 3a

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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.

 Merry Christmas!


Posted by Richard Maltzman on: December 25, 2021 12:07 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Co$t of Inequality (part 1 of 2)

Image (C) Megan Pendergrast


"In the fall of 2016 an environmental struggle in rural North Dakota made headlines worldwide. The local Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and climate activists were pitted against the corporate and government backers of the Dakota Access Pipeline, which was being built to carry oil from the state's Bakken shale fields to a terminal in Illinois. Private security guards unleashed attack dogs on protesters, and the police blasted them with water cannons in freezing weather.

The tribe feared that a leak in the pipeline as it crossed under a reservoir along the Missouri River would contaminate its water supply. Climate activists joined the protest to fight ramped-up extraction of fossil fuels. Supporters of the $3.8-billion project argued that it would save the oil industry money, being less costly than the alternative of oil shipment by rail, and that its construction would bring jobs with multiplier effects to the local economy. Because the price of oil is set on world markets, the cost saving would not mean lower prices for consumers—but it would bring higher profits to producers.

By December 2016 the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced that it would deny approval for the pipeline crossing, a decision greeted with whoops of joy at the protesters' encampment. But four days after taking office in January, President Donald Trump overturned the ruling, and a few months later the oil began to flow."

Doesn't this sound like it comes from a leftist political magazine or Greenpeace website?

But no, this is not political at all – this is scientific.  Indeed, it comes from the oldest continuously-published magazine in the United States, one which has published authors such as Albert Einstein.  It’s not from Mother Jones or the Democratic National Committee.  It’s from a distinctly non-political, and very well-respected journal, Scientific American

In fact, the blue text above is the opening paragraph of an article written by University of Massachusetts, Amherst professor Dr. James K. Boyce.

The article’s title, How Economic Inequality Harms the Environment caught my eye.

After reading through the article, it further solidified the connection between this subject and the intersection of sustainability and Project Management.  Let’s start with the connection to Phillip Crosby's concept - the Cost of Quality.  As a PM we should be familiar with the concept.  If not, check out the excellent short video below from ASQ (the American Society for Quality).

Link directly to ASQ video:

Let's get back to the environmental cost of inequality, and the article from Scientific American.  Here’s the main point of the article:

When people who could benefit from using or abusing the environment are economically and politically more powerful than those who could be harmed, the imbalance facilitates environmental degradation. And the wider the inequality, the more the damage. Furthermore, those with less power end up bearing a disproportionate share of the environmental injury.

The author debates (with himself) the idea that as economies develop and economic conditions improve, the environmental degradation would decrease.  He doubts this, however, after reflecting on his time in Bangladesh, living among some of the poorest people on earth, and comes up with the theory that “inequality, not per capita income, might underlie environmental degradation: the two seemed to rise and fall together”.

The author introduces the idea (of which I hadn’t heard before) of the EKC – the Environmental Kuznets Curve.  This is a representation of environmental degradation plotted against economic improvement, and yields a U-shaped curve.  See below for an example, and check the references at the bottom for great background in this concept.

Stay with People, Planet, Profits, and Projects for Part 2 of Cost of Inequality, in which we'll further connect this concept to project management and provide further research and wisdom from this intersection of economics, environment, and PM.


Introduction to the Kuznets curve

Primer on EKC

Introduction to the Environmental Kuznets Curve

Posted by Richard Maltzman on: November 04, 2018 02:47 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)

"I'd rather be a failure at something I love than a success at something I hate."

- George Burns