Green Project Management

Authors: Rich Maltzman, David Shirley
Publisher: CRC Press

I’m a typical German with a green attitude – I sort my waste and try to avoid additional packaging, pick for long rides the train as preferred transportation and think that nuclear power isn’t as clean as everybody wanted us to belief. The buzz words have been “carbon footprint” and “sustainability”.

But as project manager I never thought about what I could do within my professional life to influence my projects to follow a green approach.

The book Green Project Management (GPM) is giving all project professionals impulses to think about new opportunities and chances to develop and renew their own project portfolio under the aspect of becoming green.

For project managers and greenality, the triangle of PM reciprocates into a square for the additional tool that is social responsibility.

To be honest some of the ideas aren’t that new, because using resources carefully is one of the three angles of the magic triangle. But this book sets a new basis to look at the topic and think about deciding on different approaches.

For me, Green Project Management was setting a new dimension to project management itself. As we always look at Budget, Time and Quality some of us may already have implemented for themselves the social responsibility (i.e. people development and social impact). This would make the triangle to a square and the Green Thinking within projects could be complete the picture to a pentagon or be a new dimension on top of all other parameters (see figure 1).

In the end, we as project managers choose and decide on a daily basis and affect with these decisions our environment and set the surrounding conditions for further generations.

The book starts with a lot of explanations on the problem drivers and terminology of Green Project Management. This includes discussion of the right definition of sustainability as well as the different standards like the Kyoto Protocol or what is behind California’s AB32. This may sound less pleasant to read as we would like, but the book fills the facts with side stories to please the reader whilst providing basic training and setting a standard for further discussions.

Some project managers may say that you can’t succeed while trying to make decisions on economic and environmental basis at the same time, but this book proves differently. Some companies tried and were caught while greenwashing themselves. This can ruin all your efforts. So your focus should be to reduce the resources you have (not only personal) or recycle, but how to best reuse them. Recycling and reusing will cut off expenses and save money while implementing a green thinking or greenality (Green + Quality = Greenality). Just as an example think about reducing the weight of the packaging and saving money for raw materials and shipping.

It is also worthy to consider the entire life cycle. The life cycle approach isn’t new, but to take the challenge to add green or lean thinking to it, it will also earn more complexity and long-lasting value.

The authors mention that the project managers in all companies are the key figures to implement greenality. They are already used to changing processes and implementing new ideas, so it is ineluctably to convince the project managers first.

Richard and David aren’t only arguing what can be done – they also help project managers to ask the right questions while implementing a green approach in their companies. Additionally, they alter the known project management methodology to become a green project management methodology. An example could be the acronym SMART for dealing with goals and objectives. The new form adds up to SMARTER. The first five are well known as:

S – Specific
M – Measurable
A – Agreed upon
R – Realistic
T – Time bound

The last two are defined by the authors as

E – Environmentally
R – Responsible

This example shows that just by adding these two words you chance the way to define your objectives and goals for the project or the whole project portfolio. This can change the behavior of companies and inspire other project managers to try to establish the transformation themselves.

The main section in the book is describing the way green aspects could be implemented within the projects we manage. This includes project planning as well as communication and controlling. It is all about lean thinking and adding value to our planetary resources. David and Richard also deliver concrete examples for handling decision-making tools like brainstorming or cost-benefit analysis in a green manner. The authors encourage us to validate or make decisions on green aspects and adjust our communication behavior – is it always necessary to meet in person or could we just use a video conference? Greenality is just another aspect that can be implemented within all project management templates and methodologies.

But they even start to think beyond the challenges provided within your own enterprise. They question the greenality of suppliers and implement this into the decision making pro or con for each project.

As with all new ideas, it starts with acting, not intending. So if you read this book it can provide some new ideas, hints and tips to change the way you lead your projects. But you have to do it yourself – as always, project management is hard work, but it can also add long lasting value for the environment.

ABOUT OUR REVIEWER: May 2011 – Andreas Splett, Head of Project Management (M&E) at Abbott Laboratories Ludwigshafen, Germany, and always on the hunt for inspiration. Follow him on Twitter @splett; on xing; or on LinkedIn.
Open Positions

Share your Project Management Book Recommendations

Interested in project management books?
Would you like the opportunity to read and review a project management book for the Arras People newsletter?
Contact us to find out more information