Sustainable Projects

The (sustainable) impact of projects to the society | Ein Interview mit José Reyes

Beim Thema Sustainability geht es nicht mehr um das Ob, sondern um das Wie, denn es betrifft alle Unternehmen. Das Problem dabei: Der Begriff ist schwammig und bedeutet für jede Organisation – je nach Situation und Branche – etwas anderes. Licht ins Dunkel bringt José Reyes, Program Manager der Panama Canal Authority, im Interview. Lesen Sie, was Sustainability im Projektmanagement für ihn bedeutet und was (noch) zu tun ist, um mithilfe von Projekten nachhaltiger zu werden. Noch mehr Details zum Thema verrät er als Redner auf den » PM-Tagen 2018.

How important do you think sustainability is nowadays for projects and project management?

José Reyes: The 21. century has introduced contextual awareness in all disciplines. Project management has started to extend its boundaries beyond delivering a “temporary endeavor” considering that the project is part of a portfolio that is meant to achieve a long-term vision. These days the word “sustainability” appears more often associated with project planning, execution and benefit management which shows project managers that there are other stakeholders that can be impacted by his management efforts.

What exactly does sustainability mean to you in the context of projects and project management?

Reyes: Project Management is the way strategic initiatives are achieved to add value to a person, organization or country. With added value, operations can continue producing benefits. Both elements contribute to the business and strategic model that are set to achieve a vision. Without a successful delivery of projects and programs to respond to contextual needs there is no way to guarantee long-term sustainability of a person, an organization or a country.

Who can benefit from sustainable projects, and do you have one practical example from the Panama Canal Expansion Project that you were responsible for?

Reyes: The entire society can benefit of sustainable or inclusive policies implemented in project management processes. During the construction of the new Panama Canal Locks, areas impacted by the project footprint had to be replaced (reforestation or revegetation) in other rural areas of the country. Therefore, local tree species were planted – as many as needed to fulfill environment regulations. Nevertheless, sustainability elements were set as project requirements. Fruit trees were plant, not to be harvested only by locals but to help developing an “Industria Apícola” in the communities which is currently serving as a source of employment and local development.

What is to be done to manage projects in order to achieve sustainability?

Reyes: Organizations need to start aligning their project management efforts to overall society needs in addition to their own strategic goals. They have to start assessing benefits considering that they are no silos and that in order to maintain their operations and growth, they also have to contribute to make their surrounding grow. To introduce minor requirements sometimes not even containing costs can make the difference in the future. Project management offices need to be part of the strategic core of organizations doing thorough stakeholder analysis to identify expectations that can be introduced in their project efforts. This will help achieve overall sustainability of all interested parties.

What would be the consequence of NOT achieving sustainability through projects?

Reyes: If sustainability is not achieved by any person, organization or country, the project effort will only be temporary while producing expenditures for those executing them. That way, project management will continue to be just a tool to reduce the risk of failure in scope, schedule and budget. This transactional mindset will gradually lead to what nature always does to unsustainable elements. If you want to know the answer, just ask Mr. Charles Darwin.

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