“Promises are weird when someone actually acts on them.” This comment by senior Greenpeace member Charlie Chronicle after COP26 last year reflected the sentiment of many towards corporate climate commitments: skepticism.
Most climate plans remain heavy claims of desirability rather than action. With the planet against the clock to undo decades of environmental damage, the talks are no longer progress. Instead, it’s time to focus on stakeholder engagement, coordinated planning across all major business lines and – ultimately – organizational and personal transformation to build a realistic path to pure zero.
Comprehensive change – such as the challenge we face in the field of climate – can only be achieved through projects, modern means to implement integrated change in measurable ways. This is a determining factor for “Project Economics,” an era in which organizations deliver value to stakeholders through successful project completion, product delivery, and alignment with value creation flows. How leaders will navigate this paradigm shift will determine their success in the coming years, and their project management principles need to be adapted accordingly to ensure that they do not lag behind.
Adopt a gymnastic mindset to make progress
The climate crisis is a problem that British business has not faced before. Now professionals need to go beyond proven processes and consider revolutionary approaches to achieve their goals. This is what we call ‘gymnastic’ thinking – focusing on results over the process – and currently only a third of businesses in the UK adopt it. It cultivates agility throughout the organization, which is important when faced with a complex, evolving challenge such as environmental sustainability.
The electric vehicle (EV) market is one example of a sector that is forced to move to drive progress. The constant emergence of new technologies, new collaboration partners and growing consumer demand means that manufacturers can no longer rely solely on traditional processes to grow. Only by adopting an ultra-agile gymnastic approach can they take advantage of new opportunities to grow their business and achieve the goals of implementing EV.
People who create climate-based change are evolving
To successfully integrate gymnastic principles into their organization, leaders must create teams of professionals equipped to turn ideas into reality. We call these people change.
The creators of change are actively developing and constantly improving, developing a holistic set of skills of power, business acumen and experience around new ways of working. “Strength skills” is our term for “soft skills”, examples of which are the ability to adapt, joint leadership and mastery of innovative thinking. Strength skills form the basis of skills that create change, and divert attention from the more technical “difficult” skills that have traditionally dominated hiring priorities.
In order for businesses to make progress in their climate program, it is important that the principles of sustainable development are integrated into the framework of project management. From goal setting to measuring success sustainability needs to be considered at all stages. Such a monumental shift can be daunting, but by putting climate at the heart of development that creates change, businesses can integrate sustainability into the foundation of their domestic culture. Because project teams do not work in isolation, sustainable operational practices must be implemented throughout the organization. As we have seen in digital format, sustainability will soon be the subject of discussion.
Ultimately, businesses need to give their people the skills, opportunities and work environment to take responsibility and contribute to a more sustainable future. By creating climate change groups operating within the framework of gymnastics, leaders can structure projects in such a way as to turn ambitions into action and create a more environmentally friendly tomorrow for their organization.
Ashwini Bakshi is the Managing Director for Europe and Sub-Saharan Africa Project Management Institute.
To learn more about the principles of project management that can facilitate the transition to pure zero, visit: https://www.pmi.org.uk/
This article is sponsored by the Project Management Institute.