Welcome to my permaculture "explorer's notebook," so to speak. Some of these entries may be quite raw, as they may literally be my notes from watching a YouTube video or a thought captured as it was dancing through my head. Other posts might be more elaborate as I take an idea and explore it in more detail or transcribe or polish a lengthy observation from my field book. Either way, I hope to capture some permaculture ideas and methods here as a recollection for myself and a resource for others. Thank you for stopping by. - Karla

Monday, May 26, 2014

Project Management for Permaculture Practitioners - Part 1 - Introduction

"A project is a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service, or result." - Project Management Book of Knowledge (PMBoK) (Fifth Ed.)

As designers, we might not always be involved in the actual implementation of a design or parts of a design.  As practitioners on our own property or as consultants for someone else' property, a solid understanding of the Project Life Cycle of a property could be as useful as understanding its Forest Succession Cycle or its Water Life Cycle.  This series will attempt to familiarize you with the Project Life Cycle as expressed in by the Project Management Institute® (PMI.org).  While we won't be able to cover everything that is presented in the nearly 800 page Project Management Book of Knowledge, I hope that this overview will help you to manage your projects and time-scale niches and opportunities.  In addition, while I usually apply these principles to business projects, I will frame them here with a permaculture viewpoint.

For the purpose of this series, we will use two examples for our projects:
  • The creation of a design
  • The implementation of a design as a project
The second example can be clearly seen as a project; however, the creation of the design can be a project in and of itself.  This would be especially so for the creation of a large and/or very detailed design.

Projects, Programs, and Portfolios
As stated above, a project is temporary, and it produces something - a unique something. In our first example, the design itself is the product: a drawing, some printouts, a computer file, some lists and other documentation.  In our second example, the product would be a sustainable ecosystem.  The first project might take hours, days, weeks, depending on the size and complexity of the design.  The second might take decades before it is fully realized, and while the ecosystem my exist in perpetuity, the project to create it will have been completed at some point in time.

But what happens if you have a bunch of related projects?  These become known as a program. In a program, the projects are related, and thought is put into the managing of the projects together, as a whole to take advantage of their relationships to each other.

Example 1: Perhaps the client does not have time or resources to pay for a whole property design.  In such a program, you might have a project to do a sector analysis and zone 1, and another project to design zones 2 & 3, and a third project to design zones 4 & 5.  One could manage these as totally independent projects; however, if managed together, one might incorporate observations of all of the zones while working on the zone 1 design.  With these additional observations in hand, one might be able to plan things for zone 1 that can later take advantage of elements that are already in place in one of the other zones.  These various projects might take place sequentially, or they may happen in parallel or they may overlap - depending on budget, time constraints, and what makes sense to capitalize on various opportunities.

Example 2 : Your client has a lovely and complex design in hand, and is chomping at the bit to get started; however, time and budget means that everything cannot happen at once.  In this case, the various elements that need to be implemented might each become a project in the program to create the ecosystem.  A dam, a few swales, a fire break along a fence line, roof water catchment, zone 1 herb spiral, zone 2 orchards, zone 3 animal rotations, zone 4 food forest, and etc.  Sometimes it seems that the list is never ending.  With program management, however, one can sequence the various projects to take advantage of the season, or that use the same equipment, or the purchase of something in bulk that can be purchased at a cheaper price, and that can be used for one of the projects and stored on site for a future one.

Example 2 A : Your client has multiple properties - you might be able to run them as one program.  One day you are completing the "swale project" on one property, and the next day you are working on the "swale project" for the other.  This may provide an advantage in costs for the equipment, having a lower cost per day, and may provide an advantage for being able to work with the same operator on both projects, especially if you plan to build during the peak season.

Your portfolio would include both the individual projects that you may be working on, and any programs and program projects that you are working on. The items in your portfolio might only be related by their strategic ability to forward your business.

Example: If you are an "earth works specialist," you might only take on projects where you are designing and implementing dams, swales, and perhaps food forests, and you might not take on designing much of anything for zone 1.

Example: If you are a designer who prefers working in an urban and suburban environment, your portfolio might include projects for homeowners, schools, restaurants, and parks; however, you might not often design properties over one acre.

In both cases, you have made a strategic decision on what types of projects and portfolios that you wish to manage.

I hope to help you improve your permaculture and design projects by helping you to understand the Project Management Life Cycle and some of their key elements.  For Part 1, the key points to remember are that:
  • Projects are tactical - they have a distinct start and stop, and they create something
  • Programs are where tactics and strategy intersect - where a group of projects are managed together for a strategic advantage
  • Portfolios are strategic - where projects and programs are selected and managed for the strategic benefit of the business
<<Part 1 | Part 2 >>

Karla Upton is a PMP® Certified Project Manager. Certification number 2310531.

No comments:

Post a Comment