Green Project Management and the BP Deepwater Horizon Spill(2/3)

A joint post from EarthPM and TenStep:
Last time we introduced this series and outlined the focus for the topic of green project management using the Deepwater Horizon disaster as motivation. In this post, we’ll cover how we’d work ‘green’ project considerations into the Project Charter, Project Scope Management, Project Integration Management, Project Management Plan, Requirements Management.

Project Charter

Have you ever seen a Project Charter template that has a section on environmental concerns? It’s rare now, but we predict it will become much more prevalent. Perhaps if the Charter for the Deepwater Horizon project included a detailed section on environmental impact, it would have raised the awareness of the project team and associated stakeholders with regards to improved means to prevent, mitigate (with activities such as relief wells), and respond effectively to spills. A charter written with an environmental view also may have allowed BP to focus more effectively on the clean up process, because decisions like the purchase of Ocean Therapy boats (see this posting) would be indicated at a Charter level.

BP may also have identified a need to further evaluate its vendors/partners experience in prior, similar projects. Lastly, it may have resulted in a need to further invest in considering alternate approaches with various stakeholder groups, to assure the necessary buy-in prior to undertaking the project.

Project Scope Management and Project Integration Management

If the oil rig required additional drills, or a change in the materials used to create the drill or the oil platform, then scope change management process should have been invoked. Note that the latter could have been a requirements change, part of project scope management. When invoking scope change management, the environmental impact could have been considered, in addition to the impact on all other project management processes (schedule, cost, quality, risk, procurement, etc.) as evaluated through integrated change control. Perhaps a change in materials requirements would result in procuring materials from a different vendor. We discuss this further in the section on procurement management.

Project Management Plan – An Environmental Management Plan component

Existing BP environmental policies – which we’re sure that BP has in great number, considering their size and experience – need to have been used as an input to the project\’s Environmental Management Plan, identifying the environmental policies applicable to the project and the sustainability requirements for the project.

Requirements Management

When gathering requirements for the oil rig, BP could have reviewed its defined project Environmental Plan (linked to the company’s parent Environment Management Plan) and confirmed that the requirements for the oil rig would adhere to the plan. Making it clear to the project team that this linkage exists is a way to reinforce what should be elemental to the team’s behavior but sometimes can slip behind other priorities if not kept in the forefront.

Much has been said about the regulating agency, the MMS and their oversight (or lack thereof) of oil companies. Ostensibly, the MMS should have been putting proper requirements on the companies doing the drilling. As is the case with good project management practices, however, the vendor themselves has to ask the question: ‘who are the stakeholders, and what are their requirements?’ Perhaps with this mindset and a well-conceived (excuse the pun) and ethically-responsible environmental management policy – not just at a corporate level, but at a project level – an increased focus on both preventing the spill from happening and being able to effectively clean up after, would have resulted in a more thorough collection and communication of these environmental requirements before beginning to drill.

Cost Management

When estimating project costs, did BP consider costs for implementing any risk response strategies?

As mentioned in the Charter section, one could look at the Kevin Costner-funded Ocean Therapy centrifuge boats as an example. For a relatively small investment, BP would be buying not only an easy way to clean up after a possible spill, but would gain valuable positive PR by aligning with the high-profile actor and his efforts to protect the Gulf. Perhaps it is too optimistic to think that the oil companies would have identified oil cleanup technology as a part of risk-response, but it certainly is within the realm of reason that cleanup technology and costs would be included in risk contingency plans (the plans that are put into effect if the original risk plan fails).

In fact, a recent news story shows that – although late – the oil industry has pooled their resources and is collaborating on oil spill response. See this Reuters news story.

Identifying the costs related to the project\’s environmental aspects allows the project manager to discuss the costs with the Sponsor and determine whether the cost is more than offset by the project results. The financial costs of the realized threat are so high in this case – in the tens of billions of dollars and in fact the continued life of the company itself – that a different type of thinking has to be applied. As is obvious now, BP could have invested more upfront to further mitigate or avoid the risk of spilling oil into the ocean. Even with Green Project Management, if BP\’s decision was not to invest more in a risk response strategy, then perhaps they should have estimated the contingent costs required for a clean-up activity as they are currently undertaking. See the risk management section.

Project Charter

Have you ever seen a Project Charter template that has a section on environmental concerns? It’s rare now, but we predict it will become much more prevalent. Perhaps if the Charter for the Deepwater Horizon project included a detailed section on environmental impact, it would have raised the awareness of the project team and associated stakeholders with regards to improved means to prevent, mitigate (with activities such as relief wells), and respond effectively to spills. A charter written with an environmental view also may have allowed BP to focus more effectively on the clean up process, because decisions like the purchase of Ocean Therapy boats (see this posting) would be indicated at a Charter level.

BP may also have identified a need to further evaluate its vendors/partners experience in prior, similar projects. Lastly, it may have resulted in a need to further invest in considering alternate approaches with various stakeholder groups, to assure the necessary buy-in prior to undertaking the project.

Project Scope Management and Project Integration Management

If the oil rig required additional drills, or a change in the materials used to create the drill or the oil platform, then scope change management process should have been invoked. Note that the latter could have been a requirements change, part of project scope management. When invoking scope change management, the environmental impact could have been considered, in addition to the impact on all other project management processes (schedule, cost, quality, risk, procurement, etc.) as evaluated through integrated change control. Perhaps a change in materials requirements would result in procuring materials from a different vendor. We discuss this further in the section on procurement management.

Project Management Plan – An Environmental Management Plan component

Existing BP environmental policies – which we’re sure that BP has in great number, considering their size and experience – need to have been used as an input to the project\’s Environmental Management Plan, identifying the environmental policies applicable to the project and the sustainability requirements for the project.

Requirements Management

When gathering requirements for the oil rig, BP could have reviewed its defined project Environmental Plan (linked to the company’s parent Environment Management Plan) and confirmed that the requirements for the oil rig would adhere to the plan. Making it clear to the project team that this linkage exists is a way to reinforce what should be elemental to the team’s behavior but sometimes can slip behind other priorities if not kept in the forefront.

Much has been said about the regulating agency, the MMS and their oversight (or lack thereof) of oil companies. Ostensibly, the MMS should have been putting proper requirements on the companies doing the drilling. As is the case with good project management practices, however, the vendor themselves has to ask the question: ‘who are the stakeholders, and what are their requirements?’ Perhaps with this mindset and a well-conceived (excuse the pun) and ethically-responsible environmental management policy – not just at a corporate level, but at a project level – an increased focus on both preventing the spill from happening and being able to effectively clean up after, would have resulted in a more thorough collection and communication of these environmental requirements before beginning to drill.

Next Time

In our third and last part of this series we’ll cover Cost Management, Communication Management, Risk Management and Procurement Management and give a brief summary.

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