Research Paper: Project Management, Sustainability and Whole

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[. . .] This level of clearly defined accountability is crucial to maintaining scope control throughout the duration of a project which may span multiple decades, because it allows stakeholders and participants to effectively measure progress across a wide range of project parameters.

Targeted Use of Project Metrics to Measure Success and/or Failure

One of the most reliable ways to ensure that the boundaries of project scope are adhered to is the development and implementation of precise project metrics through which relative success/failure ratios can be accurately assessed. Proper project management practices involve the establishment of a series of increasingly difficult goals to guide the project to its most efficient form of completion, and a number of distinct metrics are used to gauge the extent to which these goals are met as a project progresses (Cleland, Bursic, Puerzer & Vlasak, 1998). In the case of UNEP's globally implemented Life Cycle Initiative, the use of project metrics to measure the impact of the organization's efforts is subtle yet effective. By publishing a set of Life Cycle Initiative Long-Term Deliverables, which are broad benchmarks that the project hopes to reach in terms of facilitating the broader incorporation of Whole Life Cycle Thinking (Life Cycle Initiative, 2013), the project managers at UNEP have provided the hundreds of activists, bureaucrats, and business executives associated with the project tangible goals that either will or will not be met. This leadership strategy is integral to the theory of project of management, because by providing key stakeholders with a series of Deliverables that may or may not be delivered, the UN's project management apparatus has essentially incentivizing the pursuit of progress. By applying a broad series of project metrics to a concept that could very well be subsumed by the abstractions of lofty idealism, UNEP has contributed to the legitimacy of the Life Cycle Initiative by assuring transparency in the appraisal of its efficacy.

Effective Management of a Dynamic Project Environment

As renowned project management researcher Simon Collyer, of the University of Brisbane Business School, reported in his study Project Management Approaches for Dynamic Environments in 2009, the unpredictable nature of projects carried out in complex, quickly changing settings presents project managers with a unique set of organizational dilemmas. (Collyer, 2009). With the stated goal of achieving a global transformation in the world of industry, convincing multinational conglomerates to voluntarily shift from the self-serving production practices of old to progressive and sustainable Whole Life Cycle Thinking methodologies, UNEP's Life Cycle Initiative epitomizes the idea of a dynamic project environment. In order to meet project goals, officials working under the auspices of the UN are charged with the unenviable task of detangling the web of domestic regulations, geopolitical tensions, and economic ramifications which are inextricably linked to the worldwide adoption of Whole Life Cycle Thinking manufacturing and production practices. By participating actively in the Marrakech Process on Sustainable Consumption and Production (SCP), a globalized multi-stakeholder platform allowing for the advocacy of SCP and Whole Life Cycle Thinking throughout many of the world's emerging economic powers, as well as in developing nations which are prioritizing their struggle to develop basic infrastructure over the pursuit of sustainability.

Connections Between Whole Life Cycle Thinking and Project Management

Recognition of Project Management Principles to Aid Message Delivery

One of the great ironies of a global organization like the UN, long known for its project management failures, attempting to promote an agenda based on transforming Whole Life Cycle Thinking from a promising theory to the industry standard in sustainable production, is that the very process of considering product life cycles shares many similarities to proper project management techniques. The planning phase which is so crucial for experienced project managers involves several of the same principles as the materials sourcing department of many major industries, because when major manufacturers decide to pursue a particular production method there must be an abundance of evidence indicating that this path presents the most cost-effective option. The Life Cycle Initiative encourages businesses and industry leaders to make carefully targeted adjustments to their sourcing methodologies, with an understanding that slight increases in costs can be offset by the increased sustainability which comes from only using responsibly mined ore, legally felled trees, and biodegradable materials. This recommendation may appear to be a simple proposition: sacrifice a small level of profit margin in exchange for the assurance of sustainability across a company's supply chain. To industrial supply chain managers, however, this proposition represents nothing more than an external risk factor which must be mitigated, because the parameters of sourcing projects have always been focused on obtaining the highest quality materials at the lowest possible cost. As part of the Life Cycle Initiative's Phase III, spanning 2012 through 2016, UNEP has developed a series of environmental life cycle impact assessment indicators (Finkbeiner, 2009) to assist industries in developing reliable measurement tools to assess the sustainability of their product life cycles, as well as the resources and knowledge needed to make improvements while retaining profitability. By respecting the fact that the fundamentals of proper project management involve an objective analysis of risk factors, UNEP and the Life Cycle Initiative have increased the viability of their message in terms of its wider acceptance by the financial analysts driving sourcing policy at major manufacturing firms.

Clear Use of Project Management Theory Guides UNEP and the Life Cycle Initiative

Having celebrated a 10th anniversary in June of 2012, at the Rio+20 United Nations Conference in Sustainable Development, the Life Cycle Initiative has clearly met the project parameters set out by its organizers upon its original conception and implementation. By structuring the Life Cycle Initiative project's overall progress into a series of three Phases, UNEP established a clearly defined set of metrics through which participants could gauge progress (Williams, 2008). This use of project management theory paid immediate dividends by allowing Phase I (2002-2007) to accomplish its primary objective of providing Work Programmes to facilitate the adoption of life cycle management, life cycle inventory, and life cycle impact assessment into major industries around the world (Life Cycle Initiative, 2013). The relatively smooth and successful progression from Phase I to Phase II (2007-2012), and now to Phase III, indicates that the attention paid to integrating project management theory, and specifically project planning and project metrics, throughout the Life Cycle Initiative's network of worldwide ventures has created a productive project environment in which key stakeholders are active participants. Another clear example of project metrics being used to ensure that the Life Cycle Initiative prevents scope creep and adheres closely to predetermined project parameters is the organization's willing participation in the 10-Year Framework of Programmes for Sustainable Development, because this pledge binds UNEP to prearranged amount of time in which key project objectives must be completed. A definable deadline allows organizers and planners within the Life Cycle Initiative to allocate resources appropriately, anticipate external risk factors, and adapt to inevitable contingencies.

The Emerging Field of Life Cycle Management

In order to provide businesses and firms of all sizes, from local standalone shops to chain stores spread across a continent, the Life Cycle Initiative has developed a concept known as Life Cycle Management (LCM), and this business management approach is available for use by all types of business, as well as other complex, multifaceted organizations, as an effective means to augment their own sustainability performance (2013). Representing the synergy between Whole Life Cycle Thinking and modern project management theory, LCM is designed to turn the theoretical promise of product life cycle assessments into an operational tool available for savvy financial analysts, executives, and supply chain managers. The main purpose of the LCM methodology is to provide businesses with an efficient and effective means to target, organize, analyze and manage product-related information and activities (Remmen, Jensen & Frydendal, 2007), because when businesses are empowered to apply the same level of analytical precision used in the due diligence which guides investment strategy to the realm of product life cycles, executives are far more willing to embrace the findings of this relatively novel approach. When LCM is applied to a newly developed product, managers will consider the issue of sustainable production methods and distribution routes, ecologically innovative designs, socially conscious procurement and sourcing, and marketing strategies aimed at promoting responsible product use. Over the ten years that the Life Cycle Initiative has been actively promoting Whole Life Cycle Thinking, there have many executives and CEOs of major companies, including Ronald Sargent of Staples Inc., who have recognized the clear economic and social advantages of integrating LCM into their firm's overall project management philosophy.

Conclusion

As the world continues its inexorable march towards complete globalization, with national economic boundaries blurring to the point that international trade is predominant, the need for sustainable practices to become industry standard has never been greater. The diligent contributions of the UNEP/SETAC partnership and its Life Cycle Initiative represent a perfect fusion of idealistic environmental activism with pragmatic project management directives, as evidenced by… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Project Management, Sustainability and Whole.  (2013, February 25).  Retrieved July 24, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/project-management-sustainability/3109760

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"Project Management, Sustainability and Whole."  Essaytown.com.  February 25, 2013.  Accessed July 24, 2019.
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