Sustainability is a topic that is always on my mind, or rather, how we can do a better job of addressing past and current social and environmental impacts, how we might live more sustainably, and most importantly, how we might proactively plan future products and developments in a responsible, sustainable manner.
When it comes to the last point, I speak and write about this topic quite frequently, with a particular focus on the industrial sectors, an area that often causes a lot of controversy between business and the general public.
A few major things come into play to cause problems for these projects –
So, the situations that tend to arise are protests, delays of approvals (for example the XL Keystone pipeline), and even outright work stoppages, if construction approvals were somehow granted without gaining agreement from all external stakeholders (even landowners). This is the case for the current Dakota Access Pipeline project, if anyone has paid attention to media coverage on the protests.
I’m reiterating here, but in the extractives sector, studies have shown that up to 70% of project delays (and the costs associated with those delays) are caused by social and environmental challenges.
And having read a number of reports on causes of project failure rates in general, I would be willing to bet that these sustainability issues cause delays for other sectors as well, just perhaps to a lesser degree.
In my opinion, what most of this boils down to is:
While the first point may not be as common, the rest are seemingly common themes within the project management community, no matter what the sector – a simple observation anyone can make from a scan of the articles and support available online to project managers.
So our projects aren’t so different after all, are they?
Without appropriate engagement and communications, project teams are bound to miss critical requirements for their project – and as such, develop an incomplete scope to proceed. PMI’s own studies clearly show that poor requirements management (including identification of them) is a primary cause of project failure.
Without ensuring we are all well-aligned to the ultimate project goals, and to understanding when it might be okay to shift strategies to get there, we set ourselves up for failure.
Without the ability to “coddiwomple”, without taking a staged and iterative approach to our projects, and without a willingness to adjust scope and make alternate decisions, as more information is obtained, it is then inevitable that the ultimate goals of the project are put at risk.
But we like to lock in scope, to avoid the management of change, right?
I urge you to stop and think about your project’s ultimate goals.
A team representing various areas of expertise will be located in the exhibition hall in the “Ask the Expert” booth at the upcoming North American PMI Congress in San Diego.
I’ll be there to help answer any questions you might have about sustainability, integration of these issues into project planning, and stakeholder engagement. Come find me!