Green PM: Top 5 Things ALL PMs Can Do Now, Without Procrastinating

At the end of last year, I ran a poll to ask what topics my readers would like to hear about in 2011…I want to talk with you, not at you.  The top 3 topics included 1) The Human Side of Project Management 2) Agile and 3) Green Project Management.  Over the course of the next 2 weeks, I will be focused on Tweeting & Blogging of the latter topic…Green PM.  This week I am tremendously excited and honored to have a guest contribution from two of the leaders in this space – Rich Maltzman, PMP & Dave Shirley, PMP.  With over 60 years of experience between them, these two gentleman bring a wealth of experience and knowledge to Kelly’s Contemplation.  I invite you to read more about their impressive bio’s here (Seriously, very impressive…check them out!).  Without further delay, I turn it over to Rich & Dave:

We often get questions that go a little something like this:

“Okay, okay.  So we are bombarded with all of these advertisements and encouragements and messages about being green.  And we get that there is some kind of connection between this idea of conservation and sustainability and project management, because we know that projects by definition, do indeed use resources.  So what do we DO about it?”

This is a paraphrased, composite quote from many of you who have attended our webinars or have seen a blog posting at  So today, we’d like to give you 5 Things you can do today to work on what we call the “Greenality” of your projects, starting today.

Note that these 5 things will be very interconnected to the 5 Assertions of Green Project Management which form the foundation of our book.  So to really understand these 5 “things”, it’s best if you start by reading the 5 Assertions.  You can find those Assertions here.

Thing 1

Accept the idea that you are a change agent.

Projects are all about change.  As we tell our students, why would you institute a project (and expend both fuel and human energy) if you wanted everything to stay the same?  No, projects are about change.  We want a bridge right over there, where there was none.  We want enhancements to a software package.  We want sales for 2011 to be 10% higher than 2010.  Some outcome, or product, or deliverable – or more likely, a whole set of products, outcomes, and deliverables, will be produced by the effort and the energy of your project team.  And who is leading that project team?  You.  Once again, you are a change agent.  As that change agent, you may have, as one of your biggest tasks, to negotiate ‘borrowed’ staff, and to change the mindset of folks who typically work in certain silos, to “get” the idea of your project and to work on it.  Again – you’re being a change agent.

For now, no real connection to greenality (see Thing 4).  But hold that thought.  Just remember, and accept, that – as a PM, you are a change agent.

Thing 2

Connect your organization’s Environmental Management Plan (assuming that there is one!) to your project’s objectives.

We are told countless times by PMI and PRINCE2 and other trusted bodies of knowledge and methodologies that a project charter needs to be connected to the enterprise’s overall goals and objectives.  This is the whole concept behind Portfolio (and to some extent) Program Management.  Your organization’s public face is important.  If you don’t think so (and here is another thing you can do TODAY), visit and see if your company appears, and see what “color” it is.  People are watching.  Go to your organization’s external web page and read what your leaders are telling the world about their environmental and sustainability goals.  Go to your internal sites and read what your leaders are telling employees.  We are willing to wager that you will learn something new from each of those exercises.

Now, take that information coming from your leadership about the Portfolio of projects and apply it to your project’s goals and objectives as directly as possible.  For example, if your corporate goal calls for reducing energy consumption 20% year-over-year, look for a similar project from a year ago and write an energy-based objective (in that same proportion) into your project.  Perhaps you commit to having 20% fewer on-site meetings and adopting a web-based conference whenever possible to consciously reach that goal.

By the way, if your company has no Environmental Management Plan, you can think about being the change agent that gets one going, after all, as a PM you are a change agent.  See Thing 1.

Thing 3

Dare to think beyond the delivery of your project’s product to the sponsor.  In fact, dare to think beyond that sponsor.

Project managers, in our experience, are laser focused on their sponsor and the particular scope of the project.  We are not preaching a change to this.  We are, however, suggesting that you also open up the beam width of that laser.  In other words, let the laser light get a little less coherent, and expand beyond the delivery of your project’s product to the point at which it’s put into operation.  This will allow better understanding of the long-term impact of your project’s work, not just the project work itself.  Remember Thing 1?  Well, as a change agent, it may be you, Mr. or Ms. Project Manager, who points out that the main consumable component of the widget that is your project’s product – is not recyclable.  In our book we give an example of a very significant situation like this involving a coffeemaker.  This leads us to the second part of this Thing, which is to think not only of the sponsor (We know, this sounds like blasphemy!) but to the ultimate sponsors, users of the product in the steady state, and in fact, an expanded set of stakeholders (like our grandchildren) who will inherit the environment in the long(er) term.

To make this more pragmatic, in terms of a Thing You Can Do Today, we suggest you read chapters 9 and 10 of our book, co-written with PhD EPA Director Mary Ann Curran, which cover Life Cycle Assessment, Lean Manufacturing, and long-term thinking.  It’s a real eye-opener if you have been project managing a little too long…and you’d be surprised how much – and how effectively – you can apply the ideas of these focus areas onto your project.

Thing 4

Understand the concept of Greenality.

Take a moment and think about project quality.  If you think about it, really everything we do is about this one area.  We manage risk, procurement, human resources, and communications, for example, to achieve what the sponsor has asked us to do.  So quality is built-in, not bolted-on to our project.  And although it’s a separate knowledge area in the PMBOK® Guide, it’s really integrated through the project plan – or at least it should be.

We invented the word Greenality to highlight that concept.  It’s no coincidence that the words end the same way.  We believe you can put the thinking about environment and sustainability into everything you do on your project.  See Thing 2!

Thing 5

Build your own green credibility.

Agree or not, like it or not, the language of sustainability and ‘the environment’ is working its way into business.  And like we say, project managers are the “business end” of business ends – we are the folks who take business ideas and make them real.

Read our book.  Read Green to Gold,  Read The Truth About Green Business, and Lean and Green.  And if you don’t feel like doing any of those things, at least subscribe to our blog and/or take a 1-hour webinar here and there to keep your vocabulary up to date so that you can at least talk intelligently on this topic.  Again, we assert that even if you are a cynic about climate change and somewhere off the scale (on the Hummer side) of what we call the Hugger-Hummer spectrum, you probably won’t be turning down a $240,000 annual salary to oversee the turnover of 5 new biofuel manufacturing plants, or the institution of a program to reduce plastic in packaging by 40% in the next 18 months.

So don’t procrastinate.  You can do these things – or at least start to do them – today.

Click on the picture below for this week’s video…


5 thoughts on “Green PM: Top 5 Things ALL PMs Can Do Now, Without Procrastinating

  1. Rafael:

    Great point…we need to do something and it doesn’t haven’t to be very time consuming or expensive. The idea that Green is extreme has got to be put to rest. You do not need to be an activist to implement more sustainable products and services.

    Thanks Rafel!


  2. I guess we all need to think about “green” things. These 5 tips are so helpfull, and everyone should consider it. Here in Brazil we are trying to do “green” things, and we know we all are just in the begin. But we need to do some effort to make it happens, and we need to do it now! Maybe some people could think “I don’t care, why my actions could do some diference?”, but any action, even a small one will be one step closer to a better “green” world.

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