Built in, not bolted on

by Rich Maltzman: | March 23, 2017 11:31 PM | COMMENTS (1) |



In a prior post, I promised to provide more detail and some examples from the outstanding book by Kris Kohl, "Becoming a Sustainable Organization".

In this post I would like to start at the beginning - with the Project Charter.  Kris has done what I have proposed to PMI in 18 proposed changes to the PMBOK® Guide, 6th Edition.  I'm not sure how many (if any) made it into that new edition, expected in the third quarter of this year, but whether or not they did, they share the exact same "DNA" as Kris' template for a "Sustainability Project Charter", or as I would like to call it, "The Project Charter".  So that's one of my points - there is no need to have a 'special-interest' charter.  All project charters should have this long-term consideration built in.

Yes, sustainability, like quality, should be 'built in', not 'bolted on'.  The documents and methods we use to manage projects should, in and of themselves, contain the long-term thinking, the focus on benefits realization, the considerations of the triple bottom line.

In her Table 5-1, Kris, for example, adds to the section on "Project Goals and Desired Outcome":


  • Long-term impacts
  • Internal  & external impacts
  • Environmental & social impacts
  • Behavior change
  • Policy & process change

Under "Benefits",

  • Outline the goals of the project and alignment with business & sustainable strategy.

These very simple changes appear minor, but they enable a sea-change in mindset.   Later in this same section about the project charter, Kohl says:

Following are some questions to consider when integrating sustainability into projects:

  1. How are sustainability issues integrated into strategic planning?
  2. What areas of sustainability are being addressed through project selection
  3. How can sustainability be incorporated into project concept formulation?

Now, because this part of the book is about launching a 'sustainability project', what could get lost in context is the fact that a so-called Sustainability Project Charter can and should apply to all projects.

Let's take an example.  Let's say you are the PM for a project to build a new, fairly long stretch of interstate highway.  That project can, and should, consider not only the objective of building the highway but also the objective of improving the safety and fuel efficiency of vehicles driving on that highway.  The drivers on the highway are clearly key stakeholders.  So, if for example, a choice must be made between two materials to use for paving the highway, one of which is more costly - for argument's sake, 40% more expensive - but provides better grip for tires, and improved mileage, the decision to select the pricier material becomes (correctly) the better choice - for the very reason that the charter (the guiding document) advises the project team to consider long-term impacts.

I know if I was a taxpayer/driver stakeholder in a project like this, I would want the highway project to serve me in the long-term by keeping me alive (through the better-gripping surface) and providing me with lasting savings (through greater fuel efficiency) as well as lowering the ecological impact, even if the 40% higher price for paving drives the project cost to be 10% higher. 

Again: it's about long-term thinking...  and benefits realization.  And it starts with the project charter building in sustainability, not trying to bolt it on later as an afterthought.

Owl Aboard - Part 2 of 2

by Rich Maltzman: | March 08, 2017 05:31 PM | COMMENTS (0) | CATEGORIES: Yale

“Owl Aboard”– Part 2 of 2

As I said in Part 1, Project Managers need to be wise, and that it’s true for decision making, including those very large decisions, in which we (for example) are choosing which Corporate Social Responsibility goals link up to our project objectives.  Those decisions must be good quality decisions, which means that they should be wise.  And in the first post we brought you the DIKW model which considers that data (miscellaneous tidbits of info) can be advanced into Information (connected data) and then into Knowledge (applied info) and finally into Wisdom (understanding). 

In case you missed it, please go back to Part 1 to learn how we as project managers are in the business of advancing data into wisdom.  One of the most important areas in which we do this is in our assessment of stakeholders.  Stakeholders – anyone who cares about the project while it is underway, or after it is implemented – bring both threat and opportunity to the table.  Attributes of power, interest, and attitude (support or opposition to your project or its objectives) will modulate your decision making and your dealings with each of your stakeholders, be they individuals or organizations.

One set of stakeholders that project managers cannot ignore is the public.  As users, consumers, voters, laborers, legislators, team members, even colleague project managers, the population at large is a stakeholder in your project, especially if you think of your project as we coach you to: with the long-term in mind and thus with the project’s outcome and use in mind.  To that end, it make sense for us to be wise about the public as a stakeholder, which means understanding the data, information, and knowledge that we have about their perceptions of important issues.

One such important issue is climate change.  And it turns out, there is a great source of data, information, and knowledge about the public (at least the USA’s public) opinion on this subject.

For example, one of the questions on the issue of climate change is “do humans have a role”?  Well, here’s an example of data: the national average of US adults who think global warming is mostly caused by human activities is 53%, according to Yale University.  But that’s data.  Remember: we’re owls.  We’re not satisfied with data.  We want context, trends, surrounding information and knowledge to propel that data into wisdom.  So rather than that single data point, how about if we were able to understand our stakeholder by posing all sorts of questions about their beliefs surrounding climate change by using some simple drop-down menus and letting the data paint maps of the US in various colors right before our eyes?

It’s possible, thanks to the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication.

For example, that 53% is a rather ‘grey’ statistic.  It just tells us that about half the country thinks that humans ‘mostly’ cause climate change.  It doesn’t tell us about striking differences between, for example, about Rich County, UT, where the number is 39%, or Almeida County, CA, where the number is 68%.  Or, quite interestingly, two neighboring Texas counties where there is a 21% swing, with McMullen County being 11% more cynical about human-caused climate change than the national average, and Duval County which is 10% more convinced that climate change is mostly caused by humans.  See?  We’ve become owls, simply by looking at context and gaining an understanding and awareness. 

Below is an example of one of the maps I generated to provide the stakeholder analysis above.

There are other questions answered on this site, for example, trust in scientists about their information on global warming.  Moving to the State level from the County level gives us the interesting finding that, for example, neighboring states Maryland and West Virginia have a 12% swing, with Maryland trusting scientists 5% more than the national average (of 71%) and West Virginia trusting scientists 7% less than the national average.


My plea to project managers is not about this climate change data alone.  It’s a great example to use, and I of course encourage project managers to be longer-term thinkers and to consider the facts when it comes to ecological sustainability and issues related to helping to preserve the environment.  But the coaching here is to – in general – better understand your stakeholders and to always seek to advance data into information into knowledge and finally into wisdom.  Get your owl on. 

Get your owl … aboard.

Owl aboard!

by Rich Maltzman: | March 07, 2017 09:59 PM | COMMENTS (0) | CATEGORIES: dikw

Yep.  An owl.  The symbol of wisdom.

Project managers need to be wise.  Why?  When you get out your magnifying glass and look at what projects are all about, what do you see?  Look closer.  No, even closer.  What’s coming into focus? Decisions. Daunting decisions.  A cacophony of choices.  A plethora of preferences. Some are small (what color should this user entry screen feature?) and some are very large (to which Corporate Social Responsibility goals does our project link?).  Those decisions must be good quality decisions, which means that they should be wise.

What does that mean?  And...what is a wise decision, anyway?

There’s a system called the DIKW model which considers that Data (miscellaneous tidbits of info) can be advanced into Information (connected data) and then into Knowledge (applied info) and finally into Wisdom (understanding).  Below are my own short definitions and illustrations of these terms (although there is quite a bit of debate about these definitions).

  • Data: raw observations and measurements
    • Answers to ‘smaller’ questions, like “how many Oscar nominations did Moonlight receive?”
  • Information: data enhanced with appropriate connections and relationships
    • Answers contextual questions, like “how did Moonlight rank compared to other films in terms of Oscar nominations?”
  • Knowledge: applying the information for action, for establishing a practice, a method, a trend
    • Answers ‘larger’ questions, like “is there a movement to recognize more diverse-themed films by the Motion Picture Academy”?
  • Wisdom: the application of knowledge, understanding why the practice or method is right
    • Answers ‘reasoning’ and ‘ethics’ questions, like ‘why is this trend taking place now, and do we think it will continue? Is it the right thing to do?’


The PMBOK® Guide, although it does not mention the DIKW model by name, does implement the idea quite formally.  You’ll notice a theme in the PMBOK® Guide.  Below are the three terms PMI uses and their glossary definitions: 

  • Work Performance Data
    • Raw observations and measurements identified during activities being performed to carry out the project work
  • Work Performance Information
    • The performance data collected from various controlling processes, analyzed in context and integrated based on relationships across areas
  • Work Performance Reports
    • The physical or electronic representation of work performance information compiled in project documents, intended to generate decision, actions, or awareness

The key word here is understanding, or perhaps as PMI puts it, awareness.  As project managers, we can be very tempted to process data and let our projects go on “autopilot”.  This can actually work well for a number of project attributes and to help manage day-to-day ‘smaller’ scope, cost, time, quality, risk, and other decisions.

However, when it comes to the ‘larger’ questions – the ones that will truly determine whether your project is a success., as measured by benefits realization – we need to be wise guys.  We need that extended sense of understanding and awareness that is wisdom - that owl-like comprehension of all around us. That is, we need to climb up that DIKW pyramid - and stay there.

Reference and credit for this image: https://www.climate-eval.org/blog/answer-42-data-information-and-knowledge

In Part 2 of Owl Aboard, I will apply this important project management concept to how we as PMs can better understand our relationship to the effects of climate change – not on the planet, but on our stakeholders.  If you want to do a little pre-reading on that subject, have a look at this article and its associate maps of the USA.


Becoming a Sustainable Organization

by Rich Maltzman: | March 03, 2017 11:25 PM | COMMENTS (0) | CATEGORIES: book review

This is a brief review of a book that deserves more – and will get it with a few focused future posts on its particular topics.

The book, “Becoming a Sustainable Organization – A Project and Portfolio Management Approach”, by Kristina Kohl.  This is a solid, thorough, and very meaningful treatment of the fundamental and necessary shift taking place in business, and the important role that projects, programs, and portfolio managers need to play in the transformation.

From defining and stating the business case for sustainability, through support and alignment of leaders, to the integration of sustainability thinking into projects, the book is absolutely loaded with cases, and interviews that support its assertions, and it also provides templates to assist project managers who want to help integrate sustainability into their projects.  We’ll focus on these tools and templates in a future post, most likely starting with an excellent “Sustainability Project Charter” template and a guide to specific connections between project planning components and project impacts on triple bottom line (TBL) results.

As a co-author of a book which covered this intersection (of PM and Sustainability) in 2011 - Green Project Management - I must congratulate Kristina on an impressive book that gives the subject (I must say) even better, more focused, more meaningful coverage.  Even though we had no contact during the creation of our books, this actually is quite complementary to our follow-up book, Driving Project, Program, and Portfolio Success.

The book's excellence is exemplified by a couple of quotes that describe the all-important intersection of sustainability and project management so well:

“From a project management perspective, the relevance of sustainability is pervasive and can impact each step of the project management process.  From initiation through closing, sustainable concepts impact all aspects from developing the business case and understanding the stakeholders, to planning each phase.  Project, not just green projects, require greater project management awareness of organizational sustainability principles and best practices…”

Kohl’s book is relevant even to the very last post from this blog – the "Frankenstein" post that references the latest PMI “Pulse of the Profession” report which connects benefits realization management (a PM/Sustainability foundational principle) with a recent rise in project success rates.

“The project charter should clearly state the goals of the project, including the benefits to the organization in terms of meeting business and sustainability goals.  Stakeholder engagement is a key aspect of implementing a sustainability project successfully, especially identification and requirements gathering from both internal and external stakeholders.

I highly recommend this book.  Get it.  Read it.  And stay tuned to this blog as we will provide what I hope to be additional context and linkage to our own work in this area.

It's alive. IT'S ... ALIVE!

by Rich Maltzman: | February 28, 2017 05:15 PM | COMMENTS (0) |

In a way, we’ve felt a little like Dr. Frankenstein, trying to put together a living, breathing body (of knowledge) on sustainability thinking in project management.  A small group of us who have labored in this area, writing books, presenting at conferences, starting LinkedIn groups, tweeting, working within our own organizations, even suggesting over 25 specific changes to the PMBOK® Guides over the past 5 years… we have been pushing for the fundamental idea that if project management – as a discipline – thinks PAST the end of the project, good things will happen.  This focus on benefits realization is only one element of what we mean by sustainability thinking in project management, but it’s an important part – maybe even the monster’s heart.

Well, we are beginning to see the monster stir.

Recently, the PMI Pulse of the Profession report was released and it had some good news about PM – Project Management Success Rates Rise.  It’s a headline.  You can see it in press releases and on the PMI.org site itself.  And the part we’re proudest of: it’s at least partially attributed to this focus on benefits realization and long-term thinking.  Here are some examples proving that our monster is alive:

From Medianet of Australia:

“organisations are becoming more mature with project management and are distinguishing themselves by:

·        Managing project benefits. There’s growing attention to benefits realisation management, which is the collective process of identifying benefits at the outset of a project and ensuring, through purposeful actions during implementation, that the benefits are realised and sustained once the project ends. One in three organisations (31 percent) reports high benefits realisation maturity.

From CIO magazine:

What's changed? The bottom line, according to Langley, is that organizations are becoming more mature with project management, and are focusing on benefits maturation and realization, instead of solely on cost, time and resources. In other words, there's less focus on the means by which a project is deemed successful and more on the ends: does the project deliver the business benefits promised?

"We're seeing this as a macro trend -- in the past, organizations might only think about benefits maturation and realization once the project had closed! But now, we see they're looking at that from the beginning and using that as a measure of success or failure," Langley says.

The Pulse of the Profession report says, in part:

"Since organizational performance includes an organization’s benefits realization maturity level, we have evolved our measure of success to include the percentage of projects that are completed on time, on budget, and meeting original goals and business intent with levels of benefits realization maturity. The organizations we are calling “champions” enjoy more successful business outcomes. They waste nearly 28 times less money due to poor project performance—and fare better at other measures of project completion

Benefits realization management (BRM) is a powerful way to align projects, programs, and portfolios to an organization’s overarching strategy. But the discipline has intimidated many, because there is no single, widely accepted BRM process to follow. Despite that, more organizations are taking steps to establish procedures for identifying benefits and monitoring progress toward achieving them throughout the project life cycle and beyond. In fact, 31 percent of organizations in our survey report high benefits realization maturity.

Organizations that report high benefits realization maturity also report better project outcomes – in the range of 30 to 60% improvements in budget, scope, and schedule, and, of course, meeting original goals and business intent."

The 2017 Pulse findings continue to show what we’ve learned in the past: that when proven project, program, and portfolio management practices are implemented, projects are more successful. At the same time, the definition of success is evolving.

The traditional measures of scope, time, and cost are no longer sufficient. Projects must deliver what they set out to do — the expected benefits. So, for the first time, when determining project success, we looked at levels of benefits realization maturity as well as the traditional measures.

Find out more at the most recent Pulse of the Profession report – available for free download.  Just click on the cover page below and we’ll take you there.  Or just follow us back to our laboratory…just follow Igor...