Guest Post: The Green Spectrum of Projects and the Role of the Product Manager
We’re very grateful to Greg Geracie for his contribution to EarthPM’s blog, “What’s the difference between product and project management?” And we’re looking forward to further collaborations between our particular two groups – but more importantly, an increased collaboration and improved understanding between these two key disciplines.
In return, we’d like to share our viewpoint on the green spectrum – a concept introduced in our Cleland Award-winning book, Green Project Management, and steer that concept towards product management a bit for the sake of the product managers of the world (noting along the way that many of us serve as both at the same time or at least have gyrated back and forth between the two).
Our spectrum of green projects moves from projects which are “Green By Definition”, like a project to track the flight of endangered birds, or to build a wind farm, to those which are “Green By Product Impact”, where the end product of the project will have an impact on the environment or have some other significant Corporate Social Responsibility impact. It continues to encompass projects that are “Green by Project Impact” where the execution of the project itself has a large impact – think Boston’s ‘Big Dig’. And then, there are projects which we call “Green in General”, which have no apparent sustainability elements.
To summarize the key points from our book’s section on this topic (it was a whole chapter!), we assert that the role of the project manager as an agent of sustainability moves up as we move towards the “Green in General” type of project. See the figure below.
But what about the Product Manager? What’s their role in the area of integrating sustainability into their product or product line? And what attributes of the product manager’s discipline fit into the need to increase sustainability thinking?
The simple answers to the above two questions:
– it’s huge
– most of them
We’re only scratching the surface here, admittedly but here are a few key bullets:
- The Product Manager, as a more ‘lifecycle-focused’ role actually has the opportunity to serve as a mentor for the project manager, who, by definition, is short-term focused – wanting to get their specific project done – and often having blinders on to anything that goes past the realm (in space or time) of their own project.
- The Product Manager can connect more firmly to sustainability efforts at the enterprise level to justify decisions that are longer-term, more holistic, more “CSR-oriented” than they may normally take. This can mean:
- More use of Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) tools
- Thinking about the steady-state use and disposal of the product
- Creative partnerships with NGOs especially when dealing with internationally produced and/or consumed products
Most importantly, we’ve helped open a key channel of communications here with the collaborations between our organizations and the work done to help the Product and Project Managers of the world understand the broader perspective – both of each other’s disciplines as well as their connectivity with sustainability thinking.
Let’s work together to ensure a greener and more sustainable planet!
Editors Note: EarthPM and their green project management concepts are collaborations of Rich Maltzman and Dave Shirley. EarthPM – At the intersection of Green (or even better – Sustainability) and Project Management.