Listening to Those Voices

by Rich Maltzman: | February 14, 2017 12:28 PM | COMMENTS (1) | CATEGORIES: management, project, project management, survey, sustainability, voice

Three pioneers in PM and Sustainability have published a survey of over 200 project managers, called "The Voice of Sustainability Project Managers" and I’d like to share some highlights with you and even offer some partial answers to the challenges they identified in their analysis.

The authors of the survey, Kris Kohl, Pedro Echeverria, and Tom Baker(respectively from the USA, Brazil and Canada) have posted their survey as well as some introductory context here:

 In order to keep this posting brief and to-the-point, I am going to quote their central findings and identified challenges below, and then invite you to look at the data in detail by clicking on the link above (or right here). 

Then, I’d like to have you see some of the ideas that I have in response to the challenges – because in our books Green Project Management and the follow-up Driving Project, Program, and Portfolio Success – The Sustainability Wheel, we clearly are of the same mind as the authors of the survey (as well as at least some of the participants).


The central finding of this report is that organizations have adopted Sustainability strategically and are executing Sustainability initiatives, but their project managers do not have the resources they need to competently manage this process.  Their challenges range from project methodology gaps to specific needs in achieving organizational change.

Our survey results indicate that 50% of organizations have their Sustainability program to a point that is consistent with a Triple Bottom Line (TBL) approach.  Survey results suggest that the project management community is increasingly viewing Sustainability as relevant to their organization with 86% of respondents indicating that their organizations engage in some kind of Sustainability activities.  The large percentage of respondents reporting that their organizations are on the Sustainability Continuum suggests that incorporating Sustainability into organizational strategy is a priority for senior management.  This finding is not exclusive to this report.  From a program and project management perspective, 69% indicate that their role is related either directly or indirectly to Sustainability but that incorporating Sustainability into projects remains a challenge.  Respondents affirm that their roles as PMs are increasingly related to Sustainability and that more than 60% have professional experience working in the field of sustainability.  Yet, most respondents felt that there are significant barriers in working with Sustainability projects especially from lack of strategic planning and coordination, weak organizational support, and lack of training.  With respect to project management, respondents are seeking a better understanding of how to integrate sustainability into project management, especially around developing a culture of sustainability, engaging stakeholders and change management.

Key Challenges:

  • Working with the Executive on Sustainability
  • Providing tools to guide organizational change
  • Facilitating a professional community
  • Understanding sustainability-specific project management methods
  • Extending risk management to incorporate sustainability risks



Let’s look at these one at a time with our “angle” on the topics, as well as pointers to resources:

  • Working with the Executive on Sustainability
    • Identify the mission statement of your own organization and use that to assure linkages to your project for decision making that reflects what your senior managers are thinking (as shown in the survey – they are thinking about sustainability).
    • Resource: Using the Golden Thread


  • Providing tools to guide organizational change
    • The Sustainability Wheel (scroll to bottom of page to see a proposed tool to monitor and control how well sustainability is integrated into PM at an organization)




  • Extending risk management to incorporate sustainability risks
    • 18 formally-proposed changes submitted (by me) to the 6th Edition of PMBOK® Guide, especially in the Risk Management Knowledge Area
    • Go to the link above and help in this cause by commenting on standards such as the PMBOK® Guide but also the Program and Portfolio standards.The more of us who raise our voice, the greater the chance that there will be a “listening”
    • Reference the Sustainability Manifesto

What does YOUR voice say on this topic?

Oscars for Sustainability Leaders?

by Rich Maltzman: | January 27, 2017 11:20 PM | COMMENTS (0) |

Well, it’s that time of year.  Directors, producers, actors and actresses, the key grip, and of course audiences around the world await the big show that is the Academy Awards, in which that little (but heavy) golden guy, Oscar, is handed out. We’re in that “in-between” zone, after nominations but before the award ceremony (in late February).

This year the films up for “Best Picture” are:

”Hacksaw Ridge”
”Hell or High Water”
”Hidden Figures”
”La La Land”
”Manchester by the Sea”

If you want to know more about the Oscars, you can check out this video:

But let’s shift our attention to another glamorous award show that just took place a couple of days ago.

One of the best sources I’ve found for news about how business integrates sustainability thinking into business – including projects and project management – is  edie (they leave that first "e" in lower case!) delivers daily news and commentary, expert advice and business tools, downloadable industry reports and white papers, access to video and webinars, opt-in daily and weekly newsletters, recruitment news and a comprehensive directory of sustainability suppliers via thier online portal, as well as a year-round portfolio of high-level business conferences, award ceremonies and an annual flagship exhibition. Turns out that also does a fantastic job in the area of recognition and awards – and sometimes that’s newsworthy in and of itself.

As PMs, we know that we learn a lot from storytelling and best practice exchange, and that’s what these awards are all about.

Here from the website is some background on the awards:


Organised by specialist sustainability publishing house Faversham House, the awards began life in 2007 and since then the event has continued to grow and expand to include all key aspects of business sustainability.

Now for their 10th year, the awards have moved from November to Wednesday January 25th 2017 to coincide with all-new, two-day conference and exhibition, the edie Sustainability Leaders Forum, taking place on the Wednesday 25th and Thursday 26th January 2017 at the Business Design Centre, London.

Conference and exhibition by day; prestigious awards by night – combined these two established events offer the unique opportunity to bring together the most forward-thinking businesses and ambitious business professionals looking to move beyond environmental objectives; deliver transformational change in society and create more value within their organisation.


The awards are open to all businesses and organisations across the public and private sectors and of all sizes from the largest multi-nationals to the smallest micro-organisations. As long as the initiative,project, product or strategy shows commitment, credibility and concrete results, we want to hear about it.


By embedding sustainability in their operations, business models and products, our winners are in the vanguard of sustainability and are driving demonstrable results through innovation, engagement and a commitment to doing business better.


The edie Sustainability Leaders Awards are included in the highly regarded RSA accreditation scheme – one of only a handful of environmental schemes to be chosen for this honour. This means that award winners have the opportunity to gain further accolades on the international stage, as they are automatically given access to the European Business Awards for the Environment.

The good news here is that there’s a significant learning opportunity here.  You can get a 59-page report (PDF) by clicking here:

We’ll focus for a bit on Interface – the carpet company whose story towards sustainability integration is one of the main factors that drove us into this space in the first place.  It's featured in our first book - Green Project Management.  Interface has taken on a company wide effort called Mission Zero.  From Interface’s own web page:

Our Sustainability Journey – Mission Zero

Our journey started in 1994 with one person, our Founder and Chairman Ray Anderson. Ray challenged our then 21 year - old company to adopt a bold vision, one that required new thinking and a new model for business. We didn’t have a map, but Ray’s vision was a compass for our journey. As we progressed on our journey, a passion for sustainability took hold with our people and our company was transformed. We invite you to join us on this journey. Read on as we share our compass and our map.


 From the report:


Mission Zero has seemingly inspired every aspect of the organisation, embedding itself at the heart of all corporate decisions that now consider the environment alongside people, process, products, places and profits. Since Mission Zero’s inception, Interface has served to highlight the business case for sustainability time and time again, generating annual net savings of €7.6m across EMEA operations thanks to a huge range of low-carbon, resource efficient improvements.

A proactive approach to sustainability has seen Interface overhaul its sourcing of raw materials, revamp design processes to account for Life Cycle Assessments (LCA) and introduce new measures to manage the end-of-life of Interface products. Since 2000, Interface has been using LCAs to measure product impact on the environment, which has led to the introduction of some of the company’s most celebrated innovations – among which is Net-Works.

Established in 2012 in partnership with the Zoological Society London (ZSL), Net-Works has placed 14 discarded fishing net collection hubs across the Philippines and Cameroon to create an ongoing supply of 100% recycled yarn to be used in Interface’s carpet tiles. Net-Works supports more than 55,000 local people and has collected 100,000kg of nets no longer wasting away in oceans. The products deriving from these nets also have a substantially lower carbon footprint. In 1996, the average CO2 footprint for an Interface product was around 20kg/m2. Today, these footprints have shrunk to 6.8kg.

Sustainability is embedded at Interface to the point where the global innovation and sustainability teams now lead the measuring and reporting processes conducted by each department. This centralised leadership from the sustainability team has seen engineers source new solutions to produce less waste in the Netherlands, contributing to the zero-waste achievement.

The report is full of details like this that show how sustainability integration can be done.  And what’s intriguing to me is that project management is mentioned not only between the lines, but is called out by name several times in the report as a key contributor.  And that’s the point, isn’t it?  When you watch the Oscars this weekend, and you see how the actors and directors will strive to thank a boatload of people, think about how a project is that kind of effort as well (in fact, a movie is, by definition, a project) and that the integrated aspect of sustainability is that important to ‘doing well by doing good’ and considering, as our blog’s title says, “People, Planet, Profits, and Projects”.

The Long Haul

by Rich Maltzman: | January 14, 2017 11:36 PM | COMMENTS (0) | CATEGORIES: automotive


As project managers, we think more “in the moment” than most professionals.  We want our projects to meet objectives.  We want to come in under budget, on time, and we want to get on to the next project.  Pronto.

That thinking may lead, however, to some very poor decision making.  In prior posts here on People, Planet, Profits and Projects, we have discussed how thinking about the outcome and the steady-state operation of the project’s product can not only prevent ecological, social, and economic ‘sustainability’ mistakes, it better connects the project to the organizational strategy, mission, vision and values.  Of course, we have to hope that those values are good values.  That’s not so clear with recent news about emissions control ‘cheating’.

What we’ve seen in the past week or two in the automotive industry illustrates the danger of this sort of short-term-thinking whether you are a project manager or not.

Let’s start with VW.  To bring you up to speed (pun intended), we provide this summary, taken mainly from this excellent story by BBC.

In September, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found that many VW cars being sold in America had a "defeat device" - or software - in diesel engines that could detect when they were being tested, changing the performance accordingly to improve results. The German car giant has since admitted cheating emissions tests in the US.

The EPA's findings cover 482,000 cars in the US only, including the VW-manufactured Audi A3, and the VW models Jetta, Beetle, Golf and Passat. But VW has admitted that about 11 million cars worldwide, including eight million in Europe, are fitted with the so-called "defeat device".

The EPA has said that the engines had computer software that could sense test scenarios by monitoring speed, engine operation, air pressure and even the position of the steering wheel.

When the cars were operating under controlled laboratory conditions - which typically involve putting them on a stationary test rig - the device appears to have put the vehicle into a sort of safety mode in which the engine ran below normal power and performance. Once on the road, the engines switched out of this test mode.

The result? The engines emitted nitrogen oxide pollutants up to 40 times above what is allowed in the US.  And it may go beyond dollars and chemicals.  MIT recently did a study which shows that the carbon monoxide released may cause 60 premature deaths.

And the background on Chrysler Fiat?

For this, we provide you with a summary drawn from a recent article from USA Today:

U.S. regulators accused Fiat Chrysler Automobiles of violating emissions standards in more than 100,000 diesel vehicles, spawning concerns that the company could become ensnared in a scandal like the one that engulfed Volkswagen Group.

The Environmental Protection Agency said Thursday that Fiat Chrysler illegally installed software on about 104,000 pickups and sport-utility vehicles that spewed harmful pollutants while failing to disclose the technology.

The allegations involve the 2014, 2015 and 2016 Jeep Grand Cherokee and light-duty Ram 1500 pickup trucks with 3-liter diesel engines.

The EPA said the automaker installed eight different undisclosed software programs on the vehicles, collectively causing them to spew harmful nitrous oxide emissions, which can exacerbate respiratory conditions.

So here’s a question.  Is it only these two companies or is there some kind of endemic problem with the industry?  According to this article from Forbes, the US government thinks it may indeed be wider than these two companies:

Federal investigators have confirmed that they’re pondering the same possibility. If a design defect affects two major manufacturers, why not a third or fourth or fifth? Fiat Chrysler may not be the only company that needs to engage in some strategic soul-searching at this particular moment in time.

Finally, the sheer enormity of the Volkswagen case should directly impact Chrysler and the treatment it can expect as the inquiry goes forward. Even compared to the mega-settlements of recent years, VW’s financial cost is staggering. At $4.3 billion in criminal and civil penalties, with another $15.7 billion to settle car owner suits, it’s one of the most expensive scandals ever.

But it’s not just about penalties. “At its core this case is not merely one large scandal but three,” says Pete Anderson, a former DOJ environmental crimes prosecutor who now leads the White Collar/Compliance group at Beveridge & Diamond. “It involved serious violations of the Clean Air Act, multiple lies and cover-ups, and the fraudulent sale of automobiles. The other aggravating facts that give this case such shock value are the calculated means of the deceptions and the significant financial gains that motivated the crimes.”

So let’s come back to projects and project management.  If this is indeed a ‘culture’ thing, in which it becomes permissible to make decisions which are short-term oriented, as I’m sure you’d agree these decisions were, what can we – we who are known as short-term thinkers – what can we do?

Here are some suggestions:

  • Have your ‘antennae up’ for these practices and the culture that leads to it
  • Remember that as a project manager you are a change agent – by definition.That means you may have to be the one to speak up, to speak truth to power
  • Spend considerable time in your decision making in which you project (the verb!) the timeline out 2 years beyond the decision, thinking of the ramifications along the triple bottom line (ecological, social, and economic).
    • Ecological– consider waste, pollution, energy use
    • Economic – consider not only profit and loss, but damage to the brand, fines and penalties (here in the billions of dollars)
    • Social– safety, health and welfare of human beings and groups of human beings (this software allowed the cars to emit poisons which was particularly dangerous to pregnant women and elderly people)

In short, consider that your project is not making a short jaunt to the market, but rather is in it for the long haul – or there may be a significant price to pay.  And pay, and pay.

Photo credit:

When Worlds Collide

by Rich Maltzman: | January 03, 2017 09:35 PM | COMMENTS (0) | CATEGORIES: climate resilience

As a young man, I remember a sci-fi book called “When Worlds Collide”.  Perhaps instead, I remember the movie, because the book was actually penned in 1933, co-written by Philip Wylie and Edwin Balmer.  The movie came out in 1951 – a little closer to my own timeframe.  (I'm old but not that old).

This post is indeed about colliding worlds and colliding timeframes...  Long-term timeframes, and short-term timeframes.  As project managers we work mainly in the short-term.  I know, I know, sometimes our projects last (or seem to last) forever.  Some projects, like river diversions, and huge corporate mergers and acquisitions, do indeed take years, even decades.  But still, they are short term, relative to centuries.  Yesterday, the Boston Globe published a very interesting editorial about two very important reports requested by Mayor Marty Walsh and pits those two reports against each other, and refers to them being on a collision course.

The article begins:

“TWO RECENTLY RELEASED City of Boston planning reports are on a direct collision course.  The first one, “Climate Ready Boston,” forecasts an alarming future. The coastlines of mid-19th-century and mid-21st-century Boston will be eerily similar delineations, making Back Bay, South Bay, the Seaport, and other areas that were filled during an era of intensive land-making once again the subjects of major urban reimagination. The second report, “Imagine Boston 2030,” identifies five priority growth areas: Suffolk Downs, Sullivan Square, Beacon Yards, 100 Acres/South Boston Waterfront, and Widett Circle. Astonishingly, four of the five growth areas in “Imagine Boston 2030” are shown to be extremely vulnerable to flooding by “Climate Ready Boston.” How and where we decide to grow will have immeasurable economic and social consequences, so why would we intentionally grow in parts of the city that we know to be extremely vulnerable to flooding?”


The covers of the two reports (with appropriate links, for your convenience) are below:

I read through both reports and didn’t actually see the same dichotomy between them.  Perhaps I’m more naïve, but I thought the “Imagine Boston 2030” did speak to the issues of sea level rise and climate change.  But whether or not these two documents are really at odds is not the focus of this post.   That's not really the collision of which I speak.   For us as project managers, these reports raise an interesting and very important point, and in my mind, the need for a new competency for project managers: thinking long term, and pitting short-term project ‘handover” objectives against the benefits realization of the long term (and in this case, the very long term).  Sure, here we are talking about the future of a city, not a project.  But read between the lines – heck – read the actual lines – and you will see that there are scads of projects being launched in and around Boston to accomplish the near-term and far-ranging goals of these city planners, researchers, engineers, politicians, and architects.  That is actually the collision I see: a collision of worlds In one worldour world, the project management world - we maximize project efficiency and don’t think too much (or at least, I would insist, enough) about the project in the steady state.  In the other world – the world of these reports -  we think very deeply about what will happen in the next decades or even centuries.

Let’s bring some of the concepts here back down (excuse the expression) to sea level.  What the “Climate Ready Boston” report is – in effect – is a risk management plan.  The risk (mainly threats) is the collection of effects of climate change on Boston, including mainly some pretty tropical/desert type temperatures in greater portions of the year, and even more strikingly, sea level rise (already happening).

The report is nearly 200 pages, so I’d rather see you refer to it for details – but let’s get a taste for the risk management planning going on here.

Focusing on sea level rise (SLR) first, instead of only looking at the environmental and social effects (they investigate those as well) they did sum up economic impact.  It’s often much easier to speak to stakeholders in monetary terms, even if the timeframe is decades away.  In the chart above we can see how the projected sea level rises of 9 inches in the 2040 timeframe, 21 inches in the 2060 timeframe, and 3 feet (1 meter) in the 2070+ timeframe affects the annualized loss of revenue to the city.  This is only one of many charts but it is representative of the way in which they crisply identify the threat.

How about the response?

Overall, the report recommends a 5-part response to create “Climate Resilience”.  They are:

  1. Generate multiple benefits
  2. Incorporate local involvement in decision-making
  3. Create layers of protection
  4. Leverage building cycles
  5. Design in flexibility and adaptability

Again, I’d suggest reading through the document for the details on each individual part – it’s presented very well.  Below is one example of the “Layers of protection”.  I’d like to draw your attention to the obvious number of projects (and thus project management jobs!) involved with these initiatives.  Even if you are a climate change skeptic, you probably are not skeptical about a high-paying job overseeing one of these initiatives!  So regardless of your view of the science or the politics, paying attention makes sense.  From the relatively simple “elevating of mechanical systems to higher floors of buildings” to the larger “Harbor barrier” and creation of “Small Business Preparedness Programs”, there is a plethora of projects here waiting to be managed.


Below you will see a collection of criteria for prioritizing projects and some of the project types that are proposed within what they call “green infrastructure” – such as green roofs, rain gardens, porous pavement, and bioswales (landscape elements designed to concentrate or remove silt and pollution from surface runoff water).  Again – this represents a set of projects that will need short AND long-term thinking project managers.

Perhaps you cannot prevent the "worlds" from "colliding".  But as a project manager who takes the longer term into account, you may be able to help soften the blow.


Pareto Polluters

by Rich Maltzman: | December 31, 2016 11:59 AM | COMMENTS (0) | CATEGORIES: pareto

I start my first post of 2017 with - of all things - a limerick.  

There was a young man named Pareto

Whose mom and dad christened Vilfredo

When you’re using his chart

You can see with a start

Where to locate the rotten tomato

Indeed, a Pareto chart is the graphic version of the Pareto Principle, sometimes called the 80-20 rule.  Many of my PMP prep students are under the incorrect assumption that Mr. Pareto worked for the Project Management Institute, or the International Association of Ranked Histograms.  However, it’s nothing like that.  Vilfredo Pareto was an interesting man.  Here is a snippet from the International Library of Economics and Liberty:

Born in Paris to Italian exiles, Pareto moved to Italy to complete his education in mathematics and literature. After graduating from the Polytechnic Institute in Turin in 1869, he applied his prodigious mathematical abilities as an engineer for the railroads. Throughout his life Pareto was an active critic of the Italian government’s economic policies. He published pamphlets and articles denouncing protectionism and militarism, which he viewed as the two greatest enemies of liberty. Although he was keenly informed on economic policy and frequently debated it, Pareto did not study economics seriously until he was forty-two. In 1893 he succeeded his mentor, Leon Walras, as chair of economics at the University of Lausanne. His principal publications are Cours d’économie politique (1896–1897), Pareto’s first book, which he wrote at age forty-nine; and Manual of Political Economy (1906).

A self-described pacifist who disdained honors, Pareto was nominated in 1923 to a senate seat in Mussolini’s fledgling government but refused to become a ratified member. He died that year and was buried without fanfare in a small cemetery in Celigny.

So, Pareto’s work was about economics, not quality or project management, or sustainability, per se.  But they can certainly be applied to all three.

From an excellent article on applying the Pareto Principle, here are some great illustrating examples (by the way, remember – it’s a principle, or a rule (of thumb) and not a mathematical formula.  So sometimes it’s 70/30, sometimes it’s 90/10 and sometimes indeed, it’s 80/20.  The principle is the key.

The 80/20 Rule means that in any situation, 20 percent of the inputs or activities are responsible for 80 percent of the outcomes or results. In Pareto's case, it meant 20 percent of the people owned 80 percent of the wealth. In Juran's initial work applying the 80/20 rule to quality studies, he identified 20 percent of the defects causing 80 percent of the problems. Project Managers know that 20 percent of the work (the first 10 percent and the last 10 percent) consume 80 percent of the time and resources.

Other examples you may have encountered:

    80% of our revenues are generated by 20% of our customers.

    80% of our complaints come from 20% of our customers.

    80% of our quality issues occur with 20% of our products.


    20% of our contributors provide 80% of our funding.

    20% of our employees are responsible for 80% of sick days.

    20% of my ideas generate 80% of my traffic on my blog.


I like to use a "see saw" graphic to illustrate this.  There is a "more significant" 20% that outweighs the "less significant" 80%.  My drawing attempts to show this below.

To show how this is used in quality (and how it tends to appear on the PMP(R) Exam) below is an example of complaints from people staying at the Hotel Pareto – located fictionally, in the town of Turin, Italy.  Here, we apply the 80/20 rule, allowing us to focus on nominally 20% of the types of complaints (room, cleanliness, and appliances) that make up 80% of the total number of complaints and with a reduced effort, we can get rid of most of the complaints from guests at the Hotel.


I think you can see what this has to do with quality and project management, and if you’ve studied for the PMP Exam, you know the Pareto Principle already, to some extent.  So, what does this have to do with sustainability?

A recent article in Scientific American caught my eye.  It was actually the subtitle that grabbed me:

“A small number of industrial facilities emit an enormous share of toxics and greenhouse gases”

That’s the embodiment of the Pareto Principle, right there in the subtitle.  The first paragraph of the article:

A mere 100 facilities, out of 20,000, produced one third of U.S. industry's toxic air pollution in 2014. Another 100 released one third of industry's greenhouse gas emissions, among 7,000 installations that discharge the gas. And according to an investigation by the Center for Public Integrity that created the rankings, 22 “super-polluter” sites appeared on both lists (noted below). Many are coal-fired power plants, and some rank high because they are very large. This group is responsible for a significant chunk of U.S. industrial air pollution.

You can look at the figure below to see where these “Super-Emitter” facilities are located (in the US).  After all, this is Scientific American.  I’m sure that similar Pareto analyses have been done (or at least could be done) in China, Europe, India, Africa, Oceana and elsewhere.  Here, the role of "complaints" or "rotten tomato" is played by the super polluter.

So – what’s the point? The point, just as in applying Pareto to project problem root causes, is that we can look at these facilities first as the most effective way to reduce emissions.  As the article says,

The good news is that cleaning up the sites could make a big dent in toxic compounds that are implicated in respiratory illnesses and in the country's contribution to climate change. The researchers say that existing regulations are sufficient, but weak enforcement must improve.

Full article from Scientific American:

Note: if you want a more thorough listing of the facilities and the details on the quantities of emissions, you can go to this site: