Recently, temperatures in Canada and north USA hit 50oC, 5oC higher than previous records. All round the world weather events are hitting new records. Climate change is real and affecting us. So, what does that have to do with project management? Plenty. Projects and programmes are both consumers of resources but also vehicles of change; 2 great opportunities to help build a more sustainable future.
Once again, plenty. Below are a few suggestions on how to run a green project but as resourcefulness and imagination are typical PM qualities, I’m sure you can think up some more of your own.
Start with what you can control. You. Be clear in your mind how you feel about the sustainability issue because if you are unclear on the issue or how passionate you are about it, this will rub off on the project team and stakeholders. Conversely, if you have passion for it and that comes through, it makes convincing others that bit easier. It’s probably worth understanding how your organisation has impacted the environment, is currently impacting the environment and what the future holds. And how much you want tom be part of a better, greener future for the organisation.
Before going off on your own journey, check to see what is already there. Most organisations either have green strategies and policies or are working on them. A good starting point is alignment of plans with that strategy. Not only does that tick the sustainability box but it also gives the plan greater strategic alignment, a useful extra when funding or resources are needed. Green Strategies will also have Green Strategy Owners, individuals in the organisation who may have both useful insights and influence. Never pass up the opportunity to get free help or advice!
Having established that the work has some (possibly only tenuous) green credentials, next step is to get a green attitude in the movers and shakers who will determine the shape and direction of the work. Probably the hardest and most important step of all. Senior stakeholders typically tend to be traditional and cautious, essential traits to avoid wasting the organisation’s resources. But amongst them will be sustainability advocates to ally with and, for the rest, you can demonstrate how short-term green savings and long-term green changes bring tangible rewards (as well as helping ensure the world is still habitable in 50 years). Ideally, the plan’s sponsors should be holding you accountable for a greener project (this may cause you some pain later!).
With the Leadership on board, and a green champion at the helm, a green team to make it all happen is critical. This can be a real opportunity as it’s a great cause to bring out the passion and energy of the team – not only are they delivering organisation goals but saving the environment at the same time. The group mind is also a great way to convert intentions into specifics. As a side benefit, you will find expertise and interest in team members that may not have felt comfortable in saying much previously and this can help integrate them and get the most out of the whole team.
Don’t forget that team members have an impact on the environment outside of the project and the team can be a place to encourage more sustainable behaviours as a way of life.
Here’s where things become more tangible. The project objectives are limited by the scope of the project but there is always some room to either a) make existing objectives greener or b) add additional green benefits that can be achieved with minimal change to the scope. Be realistic about what can be done but check out the project vision from a green perspective and you may even find additional benefits not imagined.
As well as green strategies, some organisations have climate impact assessments for projects to ensure that as much as possible is being done. There may be some useful pointers in there on greener objectives. And if the impact assessment doesn’t exist, you could create one! Below is an example of a climate change impact assessment from our award-winning PPM tool, PM3.
Back at the beginning we said that it isn’t just what you do but also the way you do it. Even projects with the least green relevant objectives can adopt an approach to limit impact on environment. Your green team will be a rich source of ideas around reducing paper, reducing electricity usage, etc. Embedding a commitment to a more sustainable approach in the project documentation and also making it a key topic of team meetings will bring some great ideas.
You’ve convinced your leadership and the team, so time to get all stakeholders and end users on board. Your product may not excite them but helping build a more sustainable future will and that may even persuade them to attend the user training. If the green agenda is already active, you may find that there is another channel to promote your project and even communications resources to save you time/money.
So, a number of ways that you can help make a greener project team and do your bit for a sustainable future. If you have any success stories or different ideas, the BestOutcome team would love to hear them. If you would like to see how PM3, can help you assesses your projects impact in the environment, please contact us at: email@example.com
If you’d like more ideas on the topic, have a look at “Green Project Management” by David Shirley and Richard Maltzman (Published 2010 by CRC Press).