The future is full of uncertainty. As project managers, you are placed in the position of predicting the future on a daily basis, something that scientists and world leaders are attempting to do as our global climate changes at an alarming rate. How do project managers fit into this mix? PMs are not necessarily scientists or leaders of countries, you are not the CEO, at the end of the day what power do you possess? My thinking is that you are the real shapers of the world. You make the choices and the decisions that have lasting effects across the Enterprise and across the Globe.
Every day you make choices, about human capital, about resources and materials, about risk management and change management. By looking at these choices through the lens of Sustainability, and across the Enterprise, NOT just for the duration of your project, you can be the change agents crucial to ensuring a sustainable future. You can develop your Sustainability Consciousness. Can you look at the outcomes of your project for the life of the product or program? Can you forecast first costs vs. last costs? Can you look at the LCA (Life Cycle Assessment) of the project? How do your choices tie into the Supply Chain? And into the Value Chain of the entire Enterprise? These questions can guide your decision making and allow you to reduce risk, and increase profitability and ensure the success of your project (not to mention making your project sponsors and senior stakeholders very happy)!
How can you shape the future with your successful project? Here are three ways:
- See your project through the lens of the SEEE™ Model- IIL has developed a model for the four pillars of Sustainability and Corporate Social Responsibility: Social, Economic, Environmental and Ethical
- Practice Relentless Risk Analysis– Every time you have a meeting, use the top ten risks as your agenda. Always be asking your team and stakeholders questions about the future. For example: What risks do you see in the near term and long term? What would we do if the top engineer left for another position? What’s the Plan B if we don’t receive the materials on time? Additionally, consider the broader context of Enterprise Risk: How does my project effect the Value Chain of the entire organization? Does my project contribute to Climate Change, or does it help to solve this crucial global risk we all face?
- Identify your project’s Sustainability Key Performance Indicators (KPI) and track them. You cannot manage what you do not measure. I am sure most of you are familiar with the old adage, but if has never been more relevant. What resources/materials are involved in my project? Were they sourced responsibly? What are the effects of your project on Air Quality, Water Quality or Ecosystem Services? What is my project’s carbon footprint? How much Greenhouse Gases (GHG) has my project produced or sequestered? How does your project effect the Human Capital involved and community in which it takes place? Have all stakeholders been taken into consideration? By embedding these questions and Metrics into your project from the onset, you will impact the outcomes and the total Value Chain across the Enterprise.
In order to reliably assess what the future holds for your project, you need to gather relevant data on a regular basis at frequent intervals. This not only instills a discipline in reporting, but it enables you, the project manager, and others, to detect trends and predict outcomes. If you are keeping track of trends, then you’ll be in a better position to see where those trends lead.
Another crucial aspect of success is to cross over business units and communicate. Do not allow your team to be put into a silo. Involve HR, Finance, and other business units in your project planning and outcomes. Understand the Enterprise functionality and how integrated thinking and communication is vital to the success of your project.
Predicting the future isn’t easy, but with the right global vision and the right team focus on enterprise risk and impacts, we can each be leaders to our stakeholders, and our projects will have the lasting impacts for a sustainable future.
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Shar Olivier is a recognized thought leader in Sustainability and the Director of IIL’s Corporate Social Responsibility Practice Area. With more than 18 years of experience in the field, Shar has presented to more than 100,000 professionals across dozens of business sectors. She presented most recently at the PMI Southern Caribbean Chapter in Trinidad on Organizational Survival, and graduated at the top of her class in Environmental Leadership and Sustainability at Duke University’s Nicholas School for the Environment.