Author: Mark Romanelli

Mark Romanelli is a full-time lecturer in the Sports, Culture, and Events Management program at the University of Applied Science Kufstein Tirol (FH Kufstien Tirol) in Kufstein, Austria. His curriculum includes courses in Project Management and Strategic Project Development. He is a member of the Project Management Institute and a Certified Associate in Project Management.

Strategic Management Demystified – A better approach to strategic management and how you already know how to use it

Strategic management is a topic that sounds very impressive.  It conjures images of cross-functional teams dressed in business attire gathered around a table – or maybe facing a whiteboard – analyzing data and applying models in order to make decisions for the company with millions of dollars riding on the outcome.  Many of us who practice strategic management as a profession don’t mind perpetuating this image.

Sometimes this is exactly how things play out.  But other times, actually most often, the application of strategic management is much more basic.  In fact, strategic management, at its core, is so simple that most of us apply it on a daily basis without even knowing it.  Understanding how this works is the first step in really understanding strategic management.  By doing so, we can build on that understanding and create a better position to apply it in more complex settings.

What is Strategic Management?

Strategic management is the systematic analysis of the factors associated with the external and internal environments of a business to provide the basis for maintaining optimum management practices (Thompson et al, 2010). This is a pretty well-accepted definition and explanation of the topic.  Most other definitions will follow along the same lines.

While that definition is very accurate, it is also a little complicated.  An easier way to understand strategic management is to simplify the definition:  Strategic management means deciding what to do in order to get what you want given what’s going on around you.

How does Strategic Management Work?

As with most concepts, an example can show us what this is all about much better than a definition. Let’s assume that you have a long day ahead of you.  You plan to wake up in one city, travel to another, work there attending meetings, and then end the day in your hotel room.  During the day, you want to stay connected on your mobile phone, which you know you will be using extensively (calls, emails, Über, etc..).  The problem is, between home and your hotel, you will be using that phone more than your battery will last.  What are you going to do about it?  You have a number of options available to you.  You can reduce or limit your use of the phone to only the essentials.  You can bring a charging cable with you to plug in where necessary.  You can also bring a power bank along in your travel bag to power up on the go when you need to.   Simply put, how you answer this question IS your strategy. And, how you make that decision IS strategic management.

In making the decision, you have applied strategic management.  You have considered your external environment – where you are and how long you are away from your normal charging opportunities. You have considered the goals that you want to achieve in your optimum management practices – staying charged up and therefore connected throughout the day.  Finally, you have considered how you can adjust your internal environment in pursuit of your goals – you decide to bring a charging cable and a power bank along for the trip.

Similar decisions are made by all of us throughout our day.  This can mean deciding to bring a snack with you when you know you won’t have time for a proper meal.  It can be deciding what to wear for a particular occasion.  Strategy can also be seen when you select a golf club for making a particular shot.  We use it all the time.

In a classical context, strategic management means applying this exact same logic to a business environment.  It can come in the form of deciding on a strategic approach to marketing, to distribution, to recruiting, a competitive strategy, or to any one of a countless number of areas in business analysis and management.


Elements of Strategic Management

The working definition for strategic management is, once again, “deciding what to do in order to get what you want given what’s going on around you.”  This definition identifies four elements of strategic management to consider:

  1. Goals
  2. External Environment
  3. Internal Environment
  4. Strategy


Goals are what you are trying to accomplish in a given situation.  In the definition identified, this is the, “get what you want,” part.  The questions to ask and answer for this element include, “What are my objectives?” or, “What am I trying to achieve?”.  Some standard business goals include profit, increased market share, new market penetration, bringing a product to market, and growth.  Other, more altruistic goals might be raising awareness of social issues or community enhancement.  No matter what the goals are, there should be a clear end-state that you want to achieve.

Those goals should be clearly understood and stated while developing a strategy.  After all, it is a lot easier to get what you want when you know what it is that you want to get.  There are times when we already know what our goals are.  There are also circumstances where an important first step in applying strategic management is setting those goals, to begin with.

External Environment

The external environment is the environment you are operating in that is outside of your organization, and in most cases outside of your immediate control.  Customers, competitors, tastes, trends, economic patterns, legal requirements and regulations are all elements of the external environment.  In our definition of strategic management, this is the, “what’s going on around you,” part.

Typically speaking, most elements of the external environment are beyond our influence or control.  In some cases, they can be influenced; laws and regulations can be influenced through lobbying and political action, markets can be chosen to take advantage of a lack of strong competition or because of existing demand.  Usually, however, it us up to us to decide what to do to adapt to the environment we are operating in.

An essential part of strategic management is knowing that environment and understanding how elements of the environment that will have an effect on your chosen strategy.  The formal definition of strategic management refers to, “systematic analysis.”  That systematic analysis often comes in the form of various frameworks for analyzing and understanding the environment.  It can be a simple framework such as SWOT Analysis, or something more complex and detailed to get a comprehensive picture of the operating environment, such as a Five Forces Analysis.

Internal Environment

The internal environment is the environment you are operating in that is within your organization and/or within your control.  Aspects of the internal environment include employees, resources, processes, procedures, and other things that you are able to decide on.

The internal environment is, in a simplified explanation, what you have available to work with and what you can decide to do.  It can be ready on hand or able to be acquired, but it includes all of the elements over which you have influence and control.


Strategy is the final element.  In our definition of strategic management, the strategy element is, “deciding what you are going to do.”  In consideration of what you want to accomplish (goals), and what’s going on around you (external environment), strategy means deciding what to do and how to do it in the areas you can influence and control (internal environment).

Altogether, these four elements combine to create and affect strategic management.

How Strategic Management is Applied

With a firm understanding of what strategic management is and the elements involved in practicing it, strategic management can be applied in various settings.  The depth to which an individual or organization applies structured, organized strategic management is at the discretion of the company.  It can be done superficially, or with rigorous data-driven analysis.  The depth depends on the needs of the organization and the complexity of the individual situation.

However strategic management is applied, it should be applied repeatedly.  The one constant in business is change, and this applies to both external and internal operating environments.  As those environments change, so does the big picture.  Over time, goals shift as well.  A good strategy is updated regularly to ensure a good fit among the various elements.

There are a lot of tools, techniques, frameworks, and processes that can be examined and applied in strategic management.  A good business analyst will be familiar with several and be able to select the best one, or combination, to use in a given situation.  But no tool or process can be used to maximum effectiveness if the basics of strategy, and the heart of strategic management, aren’t first understood.

Managing Cultural Sector Projects: Tips & Best Practices

One of the exciting things about project management is the variety of different types of projects available to work on. 

From building construction to product development, event management to process design, there is no limit to the number of fields where the craft is applied. 

While a lot of project management involves applying a standard set of processes, tools, and techniques to unique and challenging processes, it is also important to remember that in some fields different and specific considerations are encountered that need to be kept in mind.  For example, a project to oversee the redesign and renovation of a corporate office space is going to be very different from a project to develop a mobile app for a trade show conference.  Knowing some of the specific differences for certain areas will help PM’s to successfully manage projects in those sectors.  

One area with very specific project management needs is the cultural sector.  Cultural project management is a growth area with some distinctive considerations that are unique to the field.  This article set out to provide a few tips and best practices for managing cultural projects.  Four experts in the field of cultural science and cultural management were consulted.  All four are university academics and active, expert practitioners in the field.  They were asked a series of questions surrounding a single topic- What should project managers know and keep in mind when managing projects in the cultural sector? 

What is the Cultural Sector?

The cultural sector is a wide field, consisting of a multitude of various areas and activities.  While a single, defining, and agreed upon definition is hard to pin down, the cultural sector is most often associated with the arts.  This includes areas such as music, film, literature, fine arts, theater, music, dance, and other such creative endeavors.  Activities in these fields are associated with institutions such as theaters, galleries, and museums. Part of what makes the field so difficult to define is that cultural patterns can be found everywhere.   

One of the most unique elements surrounding activities in the cultural sector is the intention of connecting with emotions and experiential activities associated with and evoking deep feelings. 

There is a lot of grey area when discussing the cultural sector.  For example, debate exists as to the inclusion of both for profit and not for profit activities.  There is also a lack of agreement regarding the inclusion of areas defined as creative industries and cultural activities. Simply put, a checklist of items to define activities in the cultural sector does not exist and the field boundaries are open to interpretation. 

What is much easier than defining culture and the cultural sector is identifying the possible types of projects in the area, as well as the potential applications of project management.  Some typical examples of cultural sector projects involve events within the field, such as performances and shows, exhibitions, performances, and festivals.  Other cultural sector projects involve the production of cultural works.  However, even when projects in the cultural sector are event projects, they still have some very unique considerations to attend to and differences from events in other fields, such as sports or entertainment. 

Managing Cultural Sector Projects

All of the consulted experts focus on different areas of specialization within the cultural sector.  Still, throughout our conversations several common themes arose in the content of the discussions.  While managing projects in the cultural sector can be seen as an area of specialization itself, with no shortage of best practices, the following five items ascended to the top of the list as things for professional project managers to keep in mind when managing cultural sector projects:

  1.      Audience Consideration
  2.      Planning & Execution
  3.      Agility in Project Financial Management
  4.      Special Issues in Project Team Management
  5.      Varying Objectives

Audience Consideration

The output of cultural sector project activities is produced for consumption by audiences.  While the cultural sector itself is very wide, the audience for specific cultural sector projects can be very, very narrow.  Unlike other types of projects produced for an audience, cultural projects do more than deliver a service like entertaining people.  These projects raise questions, change awareness, and have strong aesthetical implications. 

Audience consideration goes deeper than just looing at differences in taste and interest.  The ability of a target audience to imagine and relate to the content must also be considered.  The level of sophistication leads to varying degrees of engagement.  For example, not everyone can engage equally in an exhibition of 14th century French art.  While a wider audience may enjoy it aesthetically, a much smaller audience, with specific interest and background knowledge, will be able to enjoy and appreciate an accompanying discussion on the works by an art historian. 

These types of considerations are addressed during the initiating and planning stages of project development.  Because cultural projects are very concerned with engaging an audience, it is important to match the levels of the output with the audience’s ability during the initial concept planning stages. 


Planning & Execution

Another area of unique consideration in managing cultural sector projects is that activities in this area have vastly different skillsets when it comes to the areas of project planning and project execution.  The specific terminology in the cultural sector for these areas is programming and production. 

Programming is most similar to planning, and comes before production in cultural sector project development.  Activities in this area include developing a time schedule, budgeting, venue selection, and the host of other items that need to be done to plan the project.  Production is most similar to project execution, and presents very different questions to solve.  Production also involves areas such as security coordination, operation of technical equipment, plus other items in addition to the actual creation of the primary output and deliverables. 

While there are strong similarities between programming & production and the activities of planning & execution, divergences occur when considering the skills of the individuals involved in them.  In cultural project management, programming and production are two very different areas and with significantly different qualifications.  Ideally, people who want to develop proficiency in cultural project management need to cultivate skills in both areas.  Practically speaking, a when managing such projects a good project manager should work to facilitate collaboration, communication, and interactions between the two camps. 

Agility in Project Financial Management

Cultural sector projects regularly involve multiple, complex sources of funding.  Admissions, grants, endowments, subvention, and patronage are just some of the many sources.  The processes involved in receiving the funds do not follow a regular schedule and are frequently late.  Even spending can be erratic due to common occurrences like last minute programming changes.  Subsidies sometimes come in after an event is over and festivals often have lineup changes.  

These issues combine to create a lot of uncertainty in the financial management of cultural sector projects.  Project managers need to be agile in the areas of budgeting and financial management.  Monetary considerations for cultural sector projects will require more, and more frequent, attention due to the continuous changes and adjustments that are experienced. 

Special Issues in Project Team Management

In addition to working with cultural sector professionals on projects in their fields, many projects will involve non-professionals as well.  Those non-professionals present special issues and challenges in managing the project team. 

Volunteers are a key component of many cultural projects, particularly with larger events such as festivals.  Many of the team members who do receive compensation are not paid very much.  In both cases, a good portion of the team can accurately be described as underpaid and highly motivated.  Their reasons for involvement stem from intrinsic motivations to be a part of the project rather than from financial compensation as their primary objective.  Team members of these sorts can easily experience frustration and a loss of motivation if not carefully managed. 

When working with these team members, management needs to engage them frequently and keep their actual motivations in mind.   Space needs to be made to allow them to identify with the topic of the project, while at the same time making sure that their roles, responsibilities, and limits on their functions are clearly defined.  Most importantly, management needs to treat them in a friendly way, showing appreciation for their effort. 

Varying Objectives

All types of projects are more likely to achieve successful outcomes if the goals and objectives are known and kept in mind.  This is true for projects in the cultural sector as well.  However, those goals and objectives can be considerably different from projects in other fields.

Motivations usually go far beyond profits for cultural projects.  Festivals, for example, are more of a gathering rather than a vehicle to sell tickets and generate revenue.  Exhibitions are held with the intention of inviting artists in order to build discourse.  Events can operate with the objective to reach new audiences so as to legitimize future public funding.  Other altruistic aims are societal influences through communication of topics like anti-racism and anti-sexism.

Whatever the included goals of a project are, they need to be explicitly clarified.  Project managers should make a full effort to understand the goals and objectives of the project owner.  Those goals need to be communicated, articulated, understood, and kept front of mind throughout the project lifecycle. 

Managing projects in the cultural sector presents many more differences and uniquely challenging elements as well.  No amount of advice can replace experience, but some guidance can help to achieve success while that experience is being developed.  Cultural projects also have the potential to be rewarding and inspiring endeavors to work on.  The cultural sector contributes to society and its members.  The successful management of projects in the sector can help to further the depth and reach of that contribution.

The Power of the Popsicle – Leadership and Team Motivation in Practice

Jack Pippin is a manager who specializes in leading change in the leisure sports industry. 

Most of his history is with ski schools, but he has worked in other areas as well.  He has a proven track record of taking over distressed departments and turning them around to create high achieving operations.  He has done this for some of the biggest, and some of the smallest, companies in the industry.  One of the most visible, observable, aspects of his technique is the approach he takes toward team leadership and motivation.  His methods are subtle and unconventional, yet very deliberate and extremely effective. 

One of the tools in his bag of tricks is to buy a few boxes of popsicles and then go around to his team members during the middle of busy, high pressure situations, and hand them out.  His team members gladly accept the popsicles, enjoy them, and then return to work.  If you ask him why he does it, Jack will reply, “Have you ever seen anyone who isn’t smiling when they eat a popsicle?”  This is a small and calculated gesture meant to motivate his staff.  The shift isn’t over and they still have more work to do.  In this industry they are working directly with customers, so a positive attitude is important in order to create a satisfactory experience.  Jack refers to this approach and the result that it achieves as, “The Power of the Popsicle.”

The trick works.  Jack’s team goes back to work with renewed motivation to push through to the end of their shift and to do it with energy and enthusiasm. 


Positive motivation and creating a personal connection is an important part of team management, especially in scenarios where the industry is filled with competent and highly motivated individuals.  This is often seen in leisure sports industries, but not at all exclusive to this domain.  An approach that is highly effective in such circumstances is Servant Leadership, where leaders work to facilitate the performance of team members to work toward achieving their goals.  An overly simplified, but not entirely inaccurate, description of Servant Leadership is where leaders strive to “serve” their followers, ultimately enabling them to do their best.  Doing this goes beyond seeing that the direct needs of people to perform their jobs are being fulfilled, it also includes looking after the emotional wellbeing of people.  After all, happy people feel better, do better, and are able to contribute more. 

In speaking about Servant Leadership, business guru Ken Blanchard advocates for leaders taking their time to go out of their way to praise team members in a personal way – in a caring way, in his words – for hard work.  According to him, this means, “Walking around and catch them doing something right, then giving a one-minute praising.”   In this context, the popsicle is that praising.  It’s an edible reward. But, just like Blanchard’s one-minute praising it’s the gesture that is most important in this situation.  When done correctly, it works.  And that, is the true “Power of the Popsicle.”

The true brilliance of Jack’s approach in handing out popsicles is how well he has fit the positive reinforcement to the situation.  In other environments, the application of the technique should depend on the location and the specific circumstances.

When leading teams, your ‘popsicle’ can be given out anywhere.  It can be in work groups, project teams, or anyplace where you are in a leadership position and motivation is called for.  The popsicle itself doesn’t always have to be a popsicle.  It can be bagels or doughnuts, it can be a high five, or in a more traditional sense, it can be that verbal one-minute praise that Blanchard suggests.  The key to selecting your popsicle is to know your team.  It is to know what makes them smile and makes them happy.  The gesture itself and the thought behind it is more important that the physical item or action employed.  In some cases, it just might be an actual popsicle. 

One of the metrics on which leaders are often judged is the successful achievement of organizational goals by members of their team.  Knowing how to motivate helps to bring out the best performance from members of the team.  It not only helps to get the task accomplished immediately, but helps to build a good connection and foundation for getting things done the next time as well. 

And remember, everyone smiles when they eat a popsicle.

Project Leadership – How the Three Skills Approach Applies to Project Management

What does it take to effectively lead a project team? Pretty much the same things it takes to lead any other team in business. 

Project managers are responsible for overseeing the completion of assigned projects.  At times, we are called on to select the right tools and techniques for a particular job.  We need to manage, lead, and motivate our project team members.  We need to keep an overall view of the big picture to know how all the different elements of our projects work together.  Effective project management requires various different sets of skills. 

The Three Skills Approach

Robert Katz presented a model of three skills necessary for effective management in his 1974 article titled, “Skills of an Effective Administrator.”  There are three categories of skills necessary for effective leadership:

  • Technical Skills
  • Human Skills
  • Conceptual Skills

Technical skills address the hands-on, direct skills necessary for accomplishing certain types of tasks.  This means having knowledge about and being proficient in a specific type of work or activity.  Technical skills include specialized competencies, analytic abilities, and the use of appropriate tools and techniques.  These kinds of skills involve hands-on ability with processes, products, and equipment. 

Human skills refer to the people skills necessary to lead and manage.  This means having knowledge about and being able to work together with others.  Good human skills mean being aware of one’s own perspective and the perspectives of others at the same time.  A skilled manager can assist group members in working cooperatively to achieve common goals. 

Conceptual skill is the ability see, and understand, the big picture.  It is knowing how all of the various parts of an operation or organization work together and affect each other.  A leader with conceptual skills works easily with hypothetical notions and abstraction.  This kind of capability is necessary in creating and articulating a vision and strategic plan for an organization. 

Applying the Model to Project Management

For project managers, the skill categories and their corresponding descriptions probably bring to mind the various skills necessary for managing projects of all types.  The skills of an effective project manager can also be divided into these three categories.


Technical Skills

In project management, technical skills can be further divided into two categories; technical skills involved for the type of project being managed and the technical skills of project management itself. 

Technical skills involved for the type of project being managed address the “How To” details of the discipline area a project is involved with.  For example, if the project at hand is to develop software applications, then the project manager should have a certain level of understanding for software development.  If it involves implementing new medical processes and procedures, the PM should have some medical knowledge.  Even when working with subject matter experts as a part of a project team, a project manager needs to have a base level of knowledge in order to effectively manage the project, even from a purely administrative standpoint. 

Technical skills of project management address the ability to utilize project management tools and techniques.  These are the hands-on skills of project management and involve everything from scheduling, to planning, to execution, monitoring and controlling, resource analysis, and all of the other skills we think of as the skills of project management. 

Human Skills

Any project involving more than one person has a need for human skills in its management.  In dealing with project workers and team members, this includes the knowledge area of Project Human Resource Management.  In interactions with people outside of the project organization, skills in the area of Project Stakeholder Management come into play. 

However it is broken down, human skills are the various abilities in dealing with the people involved in projects.  Sometimes this involves negotiating.  In other cases, it means acting as a motivator.  The vast majority of projects involve more than one person in some way, so human skills are a central part of managing most projects. 

Conceptual Skills

Projects involve a lot of moving parts.  Different areas, both inside and outside of a project organization, need to be connected and coordinated in order for projects to run smoothly and achieve success.  Schedules need to be coordinated with available resources, budgets need to be maintained, equipment and resources need to be procured.  The list of items that come together goes on and on.  In technical terms, this all refers to the knowledge area of Project Integration Management. 

A skilled project manager needs to understand the different parts of the project.  They need to understand how to coordinate, communicate, and integrate all of the interconnected elements. 

The Idea in Practice

Various versions of the Three Skills Approach model offer differing opinions on how the skills mix applies.  Earlier versions prescribe the idea that different levels of leadership require different levels of each skill category.  More contemporary models suggest that higher levels of capability in all three skill areas are necessary for higher levels of administration and management. 

In a project management context, identifying the needs of each skill area can be a good starting point in deciding how to match projects with capable project managers.  Project owners can examine the needs of a project according to the required skill sets and try to select a PM with the necessary skills.  For example, in highly technically oriented projects such as construction, engineering, and biomedical projects, project managers with specialized skills in these areas need to be considered for engagement.  For wide ranging projects that involve sweeping changes for large organizations, higher levels of administrative and conceptual skills are necessary and so project managers with these skills should, therefore, be selected. 

Project managers should also reflect on and be aware of their own level of skills in these areas.  This will help them to select assignments for which they can be most effective, and to identify areas for future development and improvement.  As we develop further in all three skill areas, the better we will be at managing projects of all types. 

Skills acquisition and development is an ongoing part of professional development.  Knowing which skills to develop first can be a good way to make the most efficient and effective use of our training time. 

Sustainability in Event Project Management

Sustainability is an important topic in all fields. We use, and hear it used, in a wide variety of areas.

It is easy to agree that sustainability is essential. The question is, how to achieve it? This article provides an overview of some of the fundamental concepts of sustainability for event project management. It examines elements from the topic areas of event management, sustainability, and project management, while demonstrating how the disciplines can intersect to strive for the achievement of best practices in managing event projects. 

Projects have impacts. Of course, there are the direct impacts of projects – the intentional impacts resulting in the form of project output. The extent of those impacts can determine the type of legacy that an event leaves behind.  It can also shape the possibilities to stage future events of both similar and different types. Sustainability, in this context means planning and executing events that avoid depletion of the resources of the various environments surrounding an event. 

Sustainability is a hot topic, but not a new topic. The origin of sustainability is centuries-old and comes from the forestry industry. The concept is that to be able to continue forestry operations into the future, trees can’t be cut down at a faster rate than they are able to be replaced. By striking a balance between cutting, planting, and growing, the supply of trees can be sustained well into the future, thereby allowing future generations to continue to use the resource.  While the concept has grown and evolved well beyond the original concept of cutting down trees to include waste management, recycling, carbon emissions, and a host of other ecologically minded practices, the generally tenant remains the same; the preservation and protection of finite resources for the use of future generations. 

Current thinking on sustainability has grown even further beyond its original roots. Ecological measures are critical, but they aren’t the only element of sustainability. In order to achieve true sustainability, in a way that allows for continued future practice, further considerations are necessary in addition to ecological elements. Sustainability needs to be achieved socially, as well as economically. These three areas – ecological sustainability, social sustainability, and economic sustainability – form the three pillars of sustainability for the Triple Bottom Line (TBL) framework. This framework proposes that true sustainability incorporates these three areas; People (social), Planet (ecological), and Profit (economic).

TBL is usually referred to as an accounting framework for sustainability. Just as most accounting and financial statements include an end result – the bottom line – the Triple Bottom Line framework advocates for the measurement and maintenance of the final result for all three areas. Economic results as the traditional bottom line, plus ecological and social results as the other two. The phrase is attributed to business writer John Elkington in his 1994 work on the topic. It has been applied to a number of various areas in business, commerce, and beyond. 

Social sustainability (people) includes, among other items, consideration of the well-being of the stakeholders of an endeavor. Ecological sustainability (planet) refers to the classical understanding of sustainable environmental practices. Economic sustainability (profit) addresses the financial considerations. All three areas are necessary for true sustainability and cannot exist alone. Conceptually, this approach makes sense.  Ecological sustainability can’t continue at the expense of the human stakeholders involved.  Unless a financial balance is achieved, ecological and social sustainability issues simply won’t be pursued. All three areas are necessary and compliment one another. 

Event projects provide huge opportunities to pursue all three types of sustainability in the TBL. Ecologically, events consume all types of resources in staging. They involve stakeholders of all types, internally in the form of attendees, workers, venders, and suppliers, as well as externally in the form of the communities in which they are held. And, as project managers, we are all keenly aware of the necessity to keep a watchful eye on the finances of all projects, including event projects. 


In planning, managing, and executing event projects and operations, there is no clear, single, set of guidelines for achieving sustainability. However, we can start by looking toward the three pillars of sustainability in the Triple Bottom Line framework as we manage events. The first step is to consider some of the elements presented here when planning event projects.


Project managers should strive to design event projects with social sustainability in mind. This goes beyond giving consideration to the needs of the output consumer (event audience) to consider the needs of other stakeholder groups as well. Are measures being taken in consideration of the local community where the event is taking place? Do supply procurement practices give preferential consideration to area venders? Most of all, this means being able to answer ‘yes’ to the question, “Is this event project a good neighbour?” 


Event projects can consume a lot of resources and create a lot of waste. This is both bad for the environment and bad for the balance sheet. Events should be planned in consideration of the use of ecological resources. Asking a similar set of questions is another good first step toward reducing the environmental impact of events. How can we reduce the amount of waste generated by the event? Can re-usable items (cups, flatware, cutlery, etc..) be used for event catering? How can the use of public transportation be promoted for getting to and from the event? What is the plan to reuse or recycle materials after the event? 


Cost management is an important part of managing every type of project. The financial benefit of event projects needs to strive to go beyond looking solely at the positive balance aimed for by the event organizers. Profit itself should be sustainable. That is, not only in the hope of achieving positive income for this instance, but in the future as well. Are stakeholders looked after in a way that encourages future contentment with the presence of such events? Are the environmental efforts affordable financially, or will they cause cost overruns that are unmaintainable? Based on the financial outcome can the organization do this (or something similar to this) again in the future?  These are all some of the first questions to ask in consideration of financial sustainability. 

Practical Implementation

Every project is unique and different, so therefore the sustainability needs – and opportunities – for every event project will also be unique and different. Event project managers can start thinking about the practical implementation of sustainability measures across all three TBL pillars by considering an eye toward sustainability in all areas of the event project life cycle. Sustainability should be a goal when initiating an event. Planning should also consider sustainability, including how it is to be addressed in event execution. Monitoring and controlling already considers costs, but environmental and social impacts should also be measured so they can be maintained to achieve pre-established targets. Finally, sustainability lessons-learned should be considered in event project closing so as to carry them forward into the future and allow for continuous improvement. 

Altogether, a good balance should be striven for. As the TBL model tells us for true, workable, sustainable endeavours, all three pillars of sustainability need to be maintained. On top of that, constant improvement should be striven for. There are always going to be ways to do it better. While consideration and expertise are a great way to start, some improvements can only be realized with learning and experience. 

Initiatives and achievements in sustainability can also carry over from event project management into event marketing. When true efforts are made and successes realized, it’s ok to brag about them in promoting events. Especially when hard work is documented in the form of awards, recognition, and certification for event sustainability. Green event certification is available from various organizations globally, and can serve as a marketing tool. When this is done, it can help to roll efforts back into the other aspects of sustainability in the TBL framework. 


About the Authors:

Dr. Susanne Gellweiler ([email protected]) and Mark Romanelli ([email protected]) are both full-time lecturers in the Sports, Culture and Events Management program at the University of Applied Science Kufstein Tirol (FH Kufstien Tirol) in Kufstein, Austria. Dr. Gellweiler lectures and researches in Events Management. Mr. Romanelli teaches courses in General, Strategic and Project Management. He is a member of the Project Management Institute and a Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)®.