Good project management is the key to pursuing sustainability | Comment

We can all agree that saving the world from serious environmental damage is the responsibility of every person in every sector. With countless proposed strategies, all addressing important aspects of climate change, I think we can all agree that now is the time to act.

Alongside our common mission, we are universally connected by a lesser-known golden thread: project management. With a GVA of £156.5 billion and covering virtually every sector, it’s a driving force behind positive and lasting change.

Basically, project management will play a key role in delivering ambitious net-zero strategies.

Its specific importance for construction has been highlighted in two recent government plans – the Net Zero Strategy: Building Back Greener, and the Heat and Buildings Strategy.

A project manager’s mindset and leadership skills can influence, empower and motivate team members

Mastering this important process can be challenging, especially when applied to ESG strategy. Fortunately, there are research-backed steps specifiers and contractors can take to increase their chances of project success.

Interpersonal skills are a crucial ingredient for better project results, although they often play a secondary role in the process and material-based solutions that are offered. As the latest APM research points out, a project manager’s mindset and leadership skills can influence, empower and motivate team members, which improves team building, problem solving and problems and customer satisfaction.

While some people are naturally gifted with soft skills, they may require a longer term investment to ensure that all team members are equipped to an adequate level. The government recognizes this and, as part of its green strategy, is considering reforming the UK skills system to support employers and workers in their role to achieve net zero.

Effective knowledge management can dramatically improve project productivity and performance

A joint approach is essential. With so many innovative and sustainable projects underway around the world, effective knowledge management can dramatically improve project productivity and performance.

Already implemented in some departments, companies that do not have a specific knowledge management role are missing an opportunity. People in such roles can move between projects to facilitate knowledge cross-pollination, saving organizations time and other valuable resources.

Clearly, construction needs to change course, and skill diversity will help it do so by introducing a full range of perspectives to support much-needed evolution. Companies will benefit in particular from the priority given to the needs in terms of training, ethnic groups and nationalities as well as different socio-economic contexts.

Diversity of perspectives can also increase the potential for conflict, so leaders must be prepared to manage conflict and get the most out of their teams. Excellent soft skills, again, are essential.

Hurry up. As we look beyond COP26, UK construction must move from planning to action and keep one important thing in mind: strategies don’t deliver projects. People do.

Professor Adam Boddison is chief executive of the Association for Project Management