Responsible project management

Project manager presents to colleagues in a meeting room with documents

What should we call organizational initiatives that are focused on the long-term as well as short-term and recognize their wider impact on society? I’d call that responsible project management.

The new generation of people growing up today are more switched on to the behaviour of organizations and their attitude to corporate social responsibility (CSR) issues such as environmental footprint.

Employers are well-advised to not ignore this movement, as young people are increasingly choosing to work for organizations demonstrating responsible CSR approaches.

How does this affect project management? The discipline is instrumental in organizational change and therefore needs to be at the forefront of strategic leadership and decision-making. It’s all about ensuring project management is focused beyond the immediate demands of getting a project done.

This remains something of a challenge: AXELOS’ PPM benchmark 2019 study reveals that commercial expectations of projects remain high. For example, 90% of PPM professionals say stakeholders expect projects to deliver greater competitive advantage, while 87% agree that budgets and timelines are getting tighter. Delivering more projects in less time is a scenario acknowledged by 81% in our study.

Difficult it may be, but developing responsible project management is a must. If not, organizations face compulsion from Government legislation; if they’re not compliant, they won’t be able to operate in the long term.

Thinking project management responsibility

How does an organization begin to develop its level of responsible project management?

  1. CSR policy: organizations need to implement a CSR policy with targets and KPIs; this means being specific about what the organization needs to do in order to do the right things.
  2. Objectives: you need to have corporate objectives that encompass environmental and community issues.
  3. Stakeholders: increase the range of stakeholders that your organization will consider as part of projects and programmes – such communities and the environment – so those affected extend beyond the obvious (i.e. internal and external customers).
  4. Living by principles: your organization has to be principle-driven with a method to support those principles.  
  5. Leadership: it is paramount that CSR – and therefore responsible project management – is driven from the top to ensure it actually happens.
  6. Deploying global best practice: using best practice methods and frameworks provide a foundation from which your organization can influence how change initiatives affect the environment and communities. There is a lot in PRINCE2®, MSP® and AgileSHIFT® applicable to responsible project management.

PPM taking the lead

Project and programme management functions in organizations are there to support change. Without involving PPM, neither overall change initiatives nor a focus on responsible project management will be robust.

Consequently, PPM professionals need to be part of the leadership team: their ability to optimize change processes means the organization is more efficient, develops more capable employees, delivers customer benefits and has the capacity to engage with longer-term, society-wide issues such as CSR.

Smart organizations are constantly looking at the demands of both the marketplace and society more broadly. Deploying responsible project management means organizations can respond incrementally to external pressures, whatever their source.

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