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Author: Gary Scharf

Gary Scharf serves as Leader, North American Client Engagement at Project Management Institute (PMI). In this role, Gary leads the Client Engagement team, growing PMI’s impact in the region through organizational relationships, education, and sales. Gary previously served as a Client Engagement Leader for North America since joining PMI in April 2021.

To Drive Project Excellence, Take Charge of Your L&D Efforts

In an ideal world, you should be able to draw a straight line from your organization’s Learning and Development (L&D) initiatives to business success. It follows then that, as increased business success depends on excellence in project delivery, more companies should focus on building project management training into their core L&D programs.


Some already do. Sixty-one percent of respondents to Project Management Institute (PMI)’s 2020 Pulse of the Profession® Report say their organizations provide some level of project management training. And more than two-thirds (69 percent) say their senior leadership values project management.

But the world is becoming even more “projectified.” Seventy-nine percent of executives in an Accenture study say that work in the future will be based more on specific projects than on roles. And for some companies, project management has become so central to how they operate that it is now considered a core competency.


For all these reasons, some companies are developing more holistic approaches to project management training where the employee experience is embedded into the core of the program.

One of the finest examples of this is the L&D program at CGI. Among the world’s largest independent IT and business consulting services firms, CGI began offering formalized project management training and certification in-house to drive business performance and enhance client relationships. It has now expanded its training efforts to all employees – not just people with ‘project’ in their title.


“Project success is paramount to our company,” says Melissa Reeder, Director of Consulting and Project Management Center of Excellence at CGI. “Engagements are integral to service delivery, so we emphasize providing high-quality project management training to our consultants.”

An important related goal, Melissa says, is to improve its employee career journey and to create a supportive career-building environment. The CGI initiative empowers their employees to take charge of their career development by providing an all-inclusive project management track tailored to each employee’s career stage and project experience.


CGI now views project management/leadership as a core skillset and an essential element in driving improved client delivery success. This skillset, the firm believes, will only grow in importance as work becomes more hybrid.

But there’s another factor behind the CGI training effort. Several of its US-based clients in the government and healthcare sectors require project leaders to be certified in project management – specifically to hold PMI’s Project Management Professional (PMP)®certification.


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As PMI’s Leader for North American Client Engagement, that’s how I became familiar with the CGI program. We began working with the firm to develop its project management training track in 2010.

“PMI best practice guidelines are recognized worldwide, and its certifications align with the many types of services CGI provides our clients,” Melissa says. “CGI’s project delivery frameworks are based on industry best practices, so it makes sense for our people to have the same standards of training and credibility that comes with PMI certification.”

To develop well-rounded project professionals, CGI offers its employees the following:


  • PMI Project Management Professional (PMP)® Certification: Recognized by CGI clients as the project management certification of choice, the PMP certification distinguishes project managers who have proven they have the skills to manage complex projects successfully. The PMP exam covers the latest business trends across three domains – people, process, and business environment – giving certification holders the tools to determine the best way of working and the ability to manage any project using predictive, agile, or hybrid methodologies.
  • PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP)® Certification: The PMI-ACP formally recognizes the practitioner’s knowledge of agile principles and skills with agile techniques. The PMI-ACP spans many approaches to agile such as Scrum, Kanban, Lean, extreme programming (XP), and test-driven development (TDD).
  • PMI Membership: Through the PMI partnership, CGI members also have access to discounted PMI membership to help build a professional network. Becoming part of a professional practice community creates informal learning opportunities with peers, a ready-made professional support network, and space to share knowledge and expertise.


Since the start of the program, more than a thousand CGI members have successfully been PMP certified. The firm is now looking to expand its partnership by connecting its people in Australia and Canada with local PMI chapters.

“Membership in a professional organization is another way to enhance the employee experience at CGI,” Melissa says. “There are vast opportunities to connect and learn from each other, plus it’s a great chance for CGI employees to enrich the profession with their frontline experiences and knowledge. I’ve been an active member of my local PMI chapter for a few years. It’s a great way to meet new people who share a common passion and to give back by volunteering.”


CGI’s employee-centered approach to project management training shows that employee experience and client satisfaction go hand-in-hand. When you deliver quality project training across your organization, it will inevitably impact client delivery for the better.

“We are always looking at ways to enhance our project delivery and client relationships,” says Melissa. Leaders strive to exceed client expectations and the firm’s project management L&D training track is now an integral part of its client engagement strategy.


Delivering consistently high service standards leads to delivering strong projects and value for clients. By offering project-oriented training programs within an organization, your teams will be equipped with the tools and know-how to do just that.

How to Make Every Project a Sustainable Project

Every organization brings a variety of motivations to its sustainability initiatives. Some aim to satisfy regulations, some install them as part of company culture, and some derive brand value from them.

In most cases, it’s a mix. In many cases, there’s a direct tie between sustainability and the for-profit projects a company pursues. Building electric vehicles or developing renewable energy technologies are examples of this intersection of interests.

But now that sustainability and ESG performance are part of the management landscape, it has something in common with everything else: It feels the effects of the macro environment. With fears of a recession on the horizon, a recent KPMG survey found 59% of CEOs plan to put their ESG efforts on pause or under review in the coming six months.

That exposes a potential contradiction. If sustainability is part of the business now, it’s no longer an “extra” that companies should trim early in a recession-proofing effort. So how can they bridge the gap between intention and execution in today’s business climate?

Whatever an organization is in business to do, there is an untapped opportunity to approach all projects with greener ways of working by embedding sustainability into the heart of project delivery. Every project has the potential to be a sustainable project. Project managers, naturally focused on execution, are the ideal partners to make sustainability strategies a reality, while delivering tangible organizational benefits, such as reducing resource consumption and expanding stakeholder understanding and engagement of sustainability.

Here’s how to shift your mindset and approach any project sustainably:



Every skilled project manager understands the importance of stakeholder management: knowing who is impacted by a project and how it affects them. The most obvious, and longstanding, definition of stakeholders starts with the people a project is “for,” such as customers, investors, and your leadership team.

But a comprehensive view of sustainability execution requires you to broaden this definition. There are the employees who work alongside you and the contractors, partners and suppliers who do their part to move your work ahead. Your project likely has ripple effects throughout an entire community, or several—residents, small business owners, local governments, and others.

It’s clear that important environmental, social and governance goals and frameworks have birthed a new ecosystem of stakeholders. According to Green Project Management’s recent “Insights Into Sustainable Project Management” report, 97% of executives say that projects and project management are integral to sustainable development. As sustainability broadens our perception of responsibility, everyone who leads projects must be aware of all stakeholders and the impact each project has on them.


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One lens that can help us understand this new challenge comes from the United Nations, which created 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015. The list includes concerns such as “no poverty,” “zero hunger,” “responsible consumption and production” and “peace, justice and strong institutions.” What’s more important is that these aren’t separate items. They affect and support one another.

Not every SDG will be relevant to every project. For example, your project may have nothing to do with clean water or quality education. But at least one SDG relates to every project, and the link isn’t always obvious.

Suppose you’re developing software. SDG No. 8 likely comes into play: decent work and economic growth. No. 10, reduced inequality, is probably relevant too. What are the labor conditions, including for outsourced workers? Do your vendors and suppliers pay fair wages and provide equal opportunity in hiring?

Through this lens, it’s easy to see how ESG factors and the stakeholders they touch can multiply quickly. A broader stakeholder view, informed by sustainability goals and guided by the United Nations’ SDGs, can help a project deliver more positive benefits to more people.



Sustainability expands the project management view along another dimension: time. Your work plan may have an end date, but the effects carry on. Especially if you work to create something tangible, such as a building or a vehicle, your project can impact the world over the years or decades until that work product is discarded or dismantled.

How long will the building last, for example? How will it serve and shape its community while it’s there? What economic effects will it have? And when its day is done, what will be the environmental impact of deconstructing it and accounting for its materials? According to Green Project Management’s report, 38% of project managers say that extreme weather events such as flash floods, wildfires and sea-level rise impact their project work, up from 4% in 2019.

Whether you operate on long timeframes like that or produce end products that come and go within days, the scale changes but the questions remain. Anyone who leads projects should probe to find and answer as many of them as possible.



There is a strong link between sustainability and innovation: to see change happen on the ground, and quickly. The world needs new ideas and out-of-the-box thinking. Approaching projects through the lens of sustainability adds a new way of thinking and opens the way for innovative approaches to sustainability execution. And the payoffs are for society and the planet.

Doing work that generates more value can’t help but be a long-term benefit to you and your organization. The good news is that the tools you need to drive sustainability are ones you already have in your project management toolkit.

So, take a step back—and take a look around. You got into this line of work to make things happen. Your opportunity to do that just got bigger.