Project Management

Consider green project management for your projects


Tom Mochal, PMP, winner of the 2005 PMI Distinguished Contribution Award, has been TechRepublic's resident project management mentor for the past five years. He is President of TenStep, Inc., a methodology development, training and consulting company. This column was co-authored with Andrea Krasnoff, PMP, Director of Consulting Services at TenStep, Inc.

The world is going green. We are collectively realizing that we don't have an unlimited amount of air or water or space to continue to utilize resources like we have in the past. Concerns over global warming merely serve as the central rallying point for an environmentally friendly movement that has been underway since at least the 1970s.

How can we apply these "green" concepts to our project management discipline? One way is to run a green project, one that will result in using less packaging in your products

On the other hand, most project managers don't run these kinds of projects. Most of us deal with projects such as installing a new software package or upgrading network infrastructure. How can these projects become more environmentally friendly?

The answer is Green Project Management (GreenPM).

Green project management is a model where we think green throughout our project and make decisions that take into account the impact on the environment - if any. Here are two examples using the Project Charter and issues management.

Project Charter

I have seen many Project Charters templates in my day. But I've never seen a charter with a section on environmental concerns. But maybe they should become second nature.

For instance, if you're upgrading your network infrastructure, some of your equipment will be obsolete. Instead of burying the old equipment in a big dumpster, seek out a recycling company. It might cost you a few bucks, but if you identify the recycling need up-front you can build the cost into your estimate.

Issues Management

You know the process - identify an issue, determine the cause, estimate the impact to your project, look for alternatives, make recommendations, etc. Now let me add a section to your Issues Resolution template for identifying environmental impacts. I'm not saying that every alternative will have any impact one way or the other, just that you should apply "greenthink" to the process.

Let's say you have an issue that will require an additional six hours of user testing to resolve. One option would be for the testers to work in the evening to complete the work with the least disruption to the schedule. Normally, you would consider the impact of this evening testing in terms of poor morale and overtime pay.

If you had a section on your form for the environmental impact, you might also include the energy required to run air conditioning (or heat), lighting, water, etc. I know many of you are saying this is crazy because the costs are so low. However, it's not the costs we're worried about. It's the impact on the environment of using the extra electrical, natural gas, water, etc. I also know the impact is small, but consider that you're making these decisions along with millions of other people also making similar decisions. It could all add up. In fact, would choose to delay a project for a day rather than use these additional natural resources. It's not always such a stretch.

The point about green project management is not that we make every decision in favor of the one that's most environmentally friendly. The point is that we start to take the environment into account instead of ignoring it. You might make most decisions the same as you do today, but there may be some decisions you would make differently. These different decisions, multiplied by tens of thousands each day across the world, can make a difference.

6 comments
guerrerag
guerrerag

Another approach to green project management is to take your team's use of resources into your own hands: don't hold a meeting for something that can be done through email or a conference call, don't print things that can be emailed, and if possible keep soft copies of files instead of hard copies. These are just a few easy ways to save money and reduce waste. Check out 3 Principles of Green Project Management at http://www.nuwave-tech.com/it-project-blog/bid/39331/3-Principles-of-Green-Project-Management for more ideas.

jgersey
jgersey

The concept of Green PM is utterly ridiculous. Nothing in project management can live on its own without approval from above. Any "green" ideas should start with the company's strategy and then filter down into its projects. Once a company can agree to make the environment its concern, then its projects can have this as an objective which will then directly impacts its requirements. Any PM doing this on their own and adding into their projects will fail to do so when cost, schedule, and scope compete with being "green."

donstrayer
donstrayer

Many companies have embraced green and product stewardship (taking responsibility, cradle to grave, for any effects, intended or unintended, the product might entail.) Whether this is due to a sense of social or environmental responsibility or to mitigating business risk is moot. It's happening. Incorporating green considerations into your project should not be a hard sale.

SteveX
SteveX

I know a lot of people are going to reject Tom's post in the interests of getting the project completed as quickly and cheaply as possible. But he raises a good point - many of us are already making green choices as we select appliances, vehicles, do short trips by bike etc, so why not our projects as well? By introducing environmental concerns in to the Charter then you're guaranteeing senior management support by definition (since they sign it), so there should be no adverse consequences if a "green" decision adds minor delay or cost. This idea gets my support - let's all do what we can to minimise our impact on the planet - it's the only one we've got.

htmapes
htmapes

Don't hire consultants that have to commute from other cities Don't hire employees who live more than fifteen miles from the office Make cubes smaller Don't hire people who might have a lot of children Minimize system performance Make sure employees only work during daylight hours Get rid of all of the printers No travel for training No vacation so people don't travel And so on.... If I was your employer and I found out that you had delayed product testing because of some concern about keeping the lights on late, I'd fire you in a heartbeat.

tom.mochal
tom.mochal

John, You are correct if the PM makes these decisions. Our thought, however, is that the PM only asks the green questions. The sponsor and customers make the decisions. Tom Mochal