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.