Managing Sustainable Development Programmes: A Learning Approach to Change

PM WORLD Book Review 

pmwj20-mar2014-riewe-IMAGE1 BOOKBook Title:  Managing Sustainable Development Programmes: A Learning Approach to Change
Author:  Goran Brulin and Lennart Svensson
Publisher:  Gower Publishing Limited
List Price:   £70.00   Format:  hard cover; 218
Publication Date:   2012     ISBN: 9781409437192
Reviewer:      Susan Riewe
Review Date:              February 2014

Introduction to the Book 

Managing Sustainable Development Programmes” promotes the need for ongoing evaluation during the stages of a project and beyond, as well as the importance of using knowledge learned from projects to improve other projects and programmes – termed sustainable development. The book’s subtitle, A Learning Approach to Change, is a concise way of saying we can use learning from past projects to facilitate future projects.

The book cites examples from the authors’ environment – namely the EU and Sweden; however, projects everywhere have the same core characteristics and the reader will probably mentally insert their own.  The argument for sustainable development through ongoing evaluation and sharing of knowledge is a universal project and programme best practice that can improve change worldwide.

Overview of Book’s Structure 

This book is organized into eight chapters, the first four of which are focused on the need for sustainable development, while the next four discuss initiatives and innovation – products of sustainable development.

The authors make a strong case for developing on-going evaluation programs as an integral part of every large project in order to measure the effects of the project on regional growth. Quoting from the book – “Ideally, education (an activity) should lead to learning which provides broader and more responsible work tasks (a result), which in turn contributes to developing the activity, that is, by it becoming more innovative and competitive (an effect).” Evaluation begins at the start of a project and should continue long after the project manager has moved on to new opportunities. The owners of the project use this learning approach to create greater focus on goals, results and long-term effects. The learning that is accumulated during a project term should not gather dust in a Lessons Learned folder. The learning should be utilized during the phases of each project and an exchange of the knowledge made part of the initial phases of future similar projects. The authors use the metaphor ‘walking on two legs’ to mean ‘taking action and learning from it’, adding that the action and learning need to be synchronized in order for them to be coordinated to take place at the right time.

Two initiatives used for nurturing innovation are co-location and incubators. The authors discuss the merits of companies and people in the same industries being situated in a limited geographical area and how this facilitates collaborative learning. Knowledge spillover is greater where companies, organizations and individuals have confidence in each other. Incubators are support agencies that help start-ups prepare to run as a company and assist in finding external financing. The authors walk the reader through several examples of Swedish/European projects (from the Social Fund in Chapter 6 and the Regional Fund in Chapter 7), explaining where they fell short in sustainability results and the reasons why. Chapter 8 presents a great summary of the concepts presented in the book – definitions, recommendations and theoretical conclusions. 


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Editor’s note:  This book review was the result of cooperation between the publisher, PM World and the Dallas Chapter of the Project Management Institute (PMI Dallas Chapter – www.pmidallas.org). Publishers provide the books to PM World; books are delivered to the PMI Dallas Chapter, where they are offered free to PMI members to review; book reviews are published in the PM World Journal and PM World Library.  PMI members can receive PDUs for PMP recertification by reviewing PM books.  PMI Dallas Chapter members are generally mid-career professionals, the audience for most project management books.  If you are an author or publisher of a project management-related book, and would like the book reviewed through this program, please contact [email protected]. 

About the Reviewer

flag-usapmwj20-mar2014-riewe-IMAGE2 RIEWESusan Riewe, PMP

North Texas, USA 

Susan Riewe has been in the project management field for the past 15 years, and earned her PMP certification in February of 2008. Most of her experience has been with IT related projects for a major retailer. She is currently working as a contractor for a national pharmaceutical company in the Dallas/Fort Worth area of Texas, USA. Susan may be contacted at: [email protected]