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.
It's possible that in the future it will make sense to establish "environmental management" as one of the foundational skills for project managers. However, in the meantime, we think that the quality management plan is probably the place to recognize the environmental considerations of a project.
There are two levels of quality management programs, each of which can accommodate green project management (GreenPM) concepts. One focuses on the organization level, and one focuses on the project level.
Quality initiatives at an organizational level include Six Sigma or Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI). Individual project teams don't implement large-scale quality programs such as Six Sigma on their own; this typically occurs at the organization level.
If you have a Six Sigma initiative in your organization, then it makes sense to adopt Six Sigma principles on your project. Similarly, if you're practicing GreenPM, you should first look to see if your organization has an environmental management policy or something similar. If so, then you should make sure your project aligns to these environmental policies and standards as well.
The second aspect of quality is the specific quality criteria that make sense for your specific project. The project's quality management plan focuses on the stakeholders' expectations (i.e., requirements) of quality, and the resulting activities needed to meet these expectations.
If a project manager is practicing GreenPM, he or she should seek to expand this discussion of quality to discuss the environmental considerations of the project. This doesn't mean that every project will have environmental considerations. However, if you start to ask the questions and start to raise awareness, you might be surprised to learn that there are green areas of interest to your stakeholders.
Once you know the expectations of quality, you can create a proactive plan to achieve these expectations. This proactive plan will consist primarily of quality assurance (QA) and quality control (QC) techniques that you will apply to the project.
You can incorporate environmental elements into these discreet quality activities as well. For instance, you may incorporate a QC checklist to validate deliverable quality. Perhaps it makes sense for your checklist to include questions that tie in environmental aspects to the deliverable you're building.
One idea could be to have a checklist item to ensure that you use recycled paper to create your project paper-based deliverables. This is a small thing, but it could have a large impact when multiplied over hundreds or thousands of projects.
Another example might be the types of metrics you gather on your project. You could define environmental metrics that show how much fuel your product uses, how much pollution it generates, and how much scrap it creates. These may not be obvious measures initially, but they might be of interest to support a green initiative.
It's likely that environment goals and metrics will not follow the best practices of current quality management processes exactly. However, there are areas of similarity and concepts that you can adapt.
As green becomes more routine within the world of project management, you'll further understand how to best apply and adapt current project management processes into a structured, proactive approach for managing environment-related aspects to projects — and contribute to your organization's environment policies and goals.
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