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M.A.S.S.I.V.E. Projects for sustainable development

The current period the world is living in relation to economic, social, environmental aspects, puts people in front of important decisions.

Floods, tyfoons, hurricanes and global warming urge us to do something. The question is ‘what can we do?’.

High-scale economies, but also day-to-day issues put us in front of unconventional and urgent decisions. If we do not have the courage to take brave decisions the ‘safe operating space for humanity’, defined as the ‘planet boundaries’ will be broken and humanity will have to face a ‘irreversible and abrupt environmental change’.

After II World War, we experienced for many years an incredible economic growth. During this growth, our cities and nations have changed dramatically.

From a rural based society, we quickly became an urban-based society. Economic growth started in 1700 in England and expanded rapidly in many other countries.

Convergence in economy has also allowed reducing the gap between rich and poor countries.

The growth we have experienced worldwide was the fruit of governance strategies based only on reaching well-defined economic objectives. Until now, this is what has driven high strategic programmes and portfolios as well as small projects.

In the area of project management, the overall planning, execution, monitoring, closure of every project has still been driven by its ‘inner’ objectives without considering the wide ‘outer’ impacts the deliverables of the project will produce.

The ‘Management by Objective’ culture has developed management frameworks in which the goals are that we have to produce a lot and in the most effective way.

Nowadays executives are called to manage strategic programmes and projects considering also the ‘sustainability’ concept.

Sustainable development needs a holistic view on what the services or goods delivered by a project need to provide.

The main four areas of success a sustainable project should always consider are

  1. Economic
  2. Social
  3. Environmental
  4. Political

The link among these areas is not direct. We need to go through different levels of detailed analysis of the project requirements to shape exactly what the project needs to deliver and successfully bring value in each of the four areas.

Requirements that have to collect from all stakeholders impacted by the projects.

Project managers are mainly asked to consider cost, time, quality and scope when governing a project. It rarely happens that they are asked to consider sustainability as a critical project objective.

If sustainability is mentioned in the field of in project management, it is always interpreted as the ability of the project to deliver successfully the project only from an economical and financial point of view.

Nowadays it is important to have a much wider view of sustainability.

Not only having the goals projects as cost, quality, scope, time.

It is important that projects are not only oriented to the ‘inner’ benefits of the project, but also to the benefits that it produces towards the community that will interact with its deliverables. Those benefits in order to be sustainable will need to be positively measured over a long-term period.

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Projects must answer those needs as well!

In addition, sustainability should be seen as respectful of the environment and respectful of the social balance of the community it will influence. Thus, it is important to give high importance to the stakeholder management aspects of project management if we want to deliver a sustainable project.

I recall different cases from my project management experience in the filed of civil engineering. Projects were focused only on the ‘inner’ deliverable and not to the ‘outer’ sustainable impacts it would have.

I managed the construction of building where green areas were destroyed. A better focus on sustainability could have delivered the buildings as well as basins for collecting rainwater and playgrounds for children.

In the areas where we are experiencing climate change, it is important to consider areas free of concrete for the collection of rainwater and then usage for other purposes.

Our projects must be not only oriented to the deliverable itself but also to sustainability.

Company strategic plans must embrace the concept of sustainability. Sustainability has to be considered during strategic planning. Risk Management is the right project management knowledge area that should be used to pre-empt problems that can jeopardize the success of long-term sustainable objectives.

This of course has to go along with a well-defined list of economical, financial, environmental and social goals.

The management have to re-think about the impact of the projects in the context where it is and take specific actions.

With all this in mind projects need to be managed and sponsored by positive executives that will not only look at the business objectives to achieve. These projects will need managers that are focused towards the overall benefits. Benefits that will be reflected in every single piece of the puzzle of the end result.

I tried to find a way to summarize the needs that a project requirement must provide in the M.A.S.S.I.V.E. acronym. I believe this can properly define a sustainable project.

M = Massive

A = Ackowledge

S = Social

S = Sustainable

I = Inclusive

V = Valuable

E = Extensive

M.A.S.S.I.V.E. projects must have the following seven attributes.

Massive – They must have strong and long-term beneficial impacts from a sustainable point of view.

Nowadays we always have little time to manage all the issues linked to sustainability. Therefore, every choice we make now must have long-term massive impacts.

Acknowledge – There is need of full acknowledgement at all levels that a new thinking of the stakeholder term is needed. Project plans should reflect it.

Project stakeholders need to have full visibility of the project goals from the initial stages of the project. Social communities impacted by the project must be listened and all their requirements must be analysed. There is need also to keep them informed and receive their feedback during the whole project lifecycle.

Social – Projects need to be social. They have to be thought as an advantage for the community at all levels. It has to bring benefits to the local communities as well as to a wide variety of people with higher degree of influence.

Sustainable – as we have been going through this article.

Inclusive – Projects need to be inclusive. Every person influenced by the project has to be provided with the right fare amount of benefits. There must be only winners. No losers.

Valuable – The impact of sustainable project must be measurable in order to deliver sustainable value.

Extensive – Scope of sustainable projects must be extensive. They need to cover needs in the Economic, Social, Environmental, Political areas. From a time point of view, they have to cover long-term as well as short-term needs.

Modern management should make sure that every single project is a M.A.S.S.I.V.E. project.

M.A.S.S.I.V.E. projects will contribute towards a sustainable economy. Benefits will also be experienced in the economic, social, environmental and political areas that today are facing a multitude of challenges. From an ethical and social point of view project managers are called to deliver M.A.S.S.I.V.E. projects.

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