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Sustainability and Project Management – Perspectives, Challenges and Threats (Part 3)

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Achieving sustainability requires project managers applying systemic thinking, taking various interrelationships and reciprocal transactions into account. For example, changing from diesel engines to electrical cars sounds like a good idea to protect nature, but in some countries electrical power is still produced through coal, which may cause more damage to nature than diesel engines. Another example is Norway. The Government decided to ban petrol-powered cars by 2025. However, due to the lithium-ion batteries there is a significant rise of electric car fires in Norway which led to new firefighter procedures and to new products for extinguishing fires in electric vehicles. And there are other challenges: the subsidies make sales dependent on public funds and the charging capacities are running short, first warnings were announced that not all cars could be charged at the same time due to a shortage of charging stations and long charging times…

What could be done in order to analyse the project, its context and all influencing factors and their interrelations? There is a variety of methods and tools available, twelve of them are listed below:

The interrelations could result from past developments and have effects on the present and the future state of our project. Thus, we need to better understand the situation our project is in, the potential development path and the interventions that would make sense leading us into the desired (sustainable) direction. Typically, we do not have simple cause-and-effect relations, the world is too complex to manage the project based on those assumptions. We need to continuously monitor the developments, decide on the best options for an intervention and implement whatever is necessary to reach a sustainable development. The competence element “project design” of the IPMA Individual Competence Baseline (IPMA ICB®) requires a project manager to “successfully integrate all contextual and social aspects and derive the most advantageous approach for a project to ensure buy-in and success.”

- Author of this post

Reinhard Wagner has been active for more than 30 years in the field of project- related leadership, in such diverse sectors as Air Defence, Automotive Engineering, and Machinery, as well as various not-for-profit organizations. As a Certified Projects Director (IPMA Level A), he has proven experience in managing projects, programmes and project portfolios in complex and dynamic contexts. He is also an IPMA Certified Programme and Portfolio Management Consultant, and as such supports senior executives in developing and improving their organizational competence in managing projects. For more than 15 years, he has been actively involved in the development of project, programme and portfolio management standards, for example as Convenor of the ISO 21500 “Guidance on Project Management” and the ISO 21503 “Guidance on Programme Management”. Reinhard Wagner is President of IPMA, past President and Honorary Fellow of GPM (the German Project Management Association), as well as Managing Director of Tiba Managementberatung GmbH, Germany´s No. 1 PM Full Service Provider.

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