Climate Change and the Case for Agile Project Sponsorship
According to the National Needs Assessment of the UK’s infrastructure, the disruption caused by flooding costs the UK £1 billion per annum. I understand that Donald Trump plans to scrap the International Climate Change Agreement, and since there is no wall that Trump or anyone can build to confine the impact of greenhouse gases, that cost is likely to rise alarmingly. On the positive side, it was reported last week that for a 24 hour period the UK generated more electricity from solar than from coal. It’s the first time that has happened. There is also much progress being made in smart technologies that can predict periods of peak demand and manage both supply and demand accordingly. Similarly, the emergence of driverless cars offers the possibility of releasing much needed capacity on our road networks. Unfortunately the range of estimates of climate change are quite wide. Princeton University predict a repeat of Hurricane Sandy between now and 2100 is between 3 and 17 times more likely due to climate change. Similarly the best estimate for mean global sea level by 2100 is between 0.2m and 2m.
Project Managers often come in for criticism when costs escalate. Pity though the poor Project Sponsor, who has to estimate a project’s benefits, which in the case of infrastructure, may be over a 100 year lifespan. The case for a particular solution may be founded on environmental or technological assumptions which can completely change very rapidly. We have seen how political, social and economic assumptions can also be turned on their head, all too recently.
The practice of project management has being undergoing something of a revolution with agile techniques. These prioritise communication over standard procedures; delivering a working solution, over thorough documentation; greater collaboration with clients; and openness to change.
The fundamentals of project sponsorship remain valid. But I think some things can benefit from speed. Stakeholder management could be more scrum-like. Ten minute morning video conferences, rather than monthly board meetings. Regularly updated, scenario based business cases could span a wide range of possible futures rather than a sensitivity test. Project Sponsors will need to be ready to change tack dramatically as events unfold.