Future-Proof: Foresight as a Tool towards Project Legacy Sustainability


By Marisa Silva

London, UK



The topic of sustainability has experienced a growing interest in the general academic and professional community recently. However, literature shows that it is still incipiently explored within the project management field, where the scope of research is limited mainly to construction and development projects. Moreover, since projects are a way of bringing a vision of the future into reality, and sustainability has at its core an orientation towards the future, it is surprisingly to note that links between the discipline of Foresight and Sustainability are scarce in project management literature.

This paper will thus review the existing literature linking foresight and sustainability, and explore its relationship with project management in order to assess whether foresight can be a useful tool to sustain project legacy over time. Drawing on conclusions reached, this paper will also propose a practical approach to incorporate foresight into project management methodology, and concludes with managerial implications, limitations, and recommendations for further research.

Key words: project management, foresight, sustainability, project legacy.

JEL code: M11, M19


In a world where markets are characterized by a fast pace of change and unpredictable events, complex interdependencies and extreme volatility, planning for the long-term and building a lasting legacy presents itself ever more as an challenge for organizations. In view of this scenario, to demonstrate abilities of agility, anticipation and resilience is to hold clear competitive advantages, and if in the past following a strategy by trial and error could be a successful approach, nowadays fail to think the future is to condemn the survival of an organization.

It is in this context of extreme uncertainty and complexity that different approaches to deal with uncertainty are beginning to be introduced and that the discipline of Foresight, also referred as Future Studies, has gain recent interest amongst academia and business players. Despite the growing awareness for this subject, the element of Foresight is elusively described in the Project Management field, and literature review conducted shows that there is a clear insufficiency of Foresight research in Project Management literature. Since projects play a pivotal role in shaping and building the future and are by nature delimited by uncertainty, it is thus surprisingly to note the little attention devoted to this topic so far.

Hence, the aim of this paper to identify how Foresight fits in the context of Project Management and its value to the discipline, following preliminary work produced by Pich et al (2002), when exploring approaches to cope with uncertainty and complexity in Project Management, and expanded by Taleb (2010) and Flyvbjerg (2003). For this purpose, particular emphasis is put in the legacy of a project, since while a project is a one-off endeavour intended to deliver a set of outputs and outcome, intended for the short-term, it is the legacy of a project which is oriented towards the future, intended for the long-term, that might benefit strongly from using Foresight as a future-proof tool.

Further to this point, the paper addresses the project legacy from a view of sustainability, here comprising both the act of embedding and building on the legacy over time (to sustain change), and the alignment to principles of sustainability that allow current needs to be satisfied without neglecting the needs of following generations. Although the author acknowledges important differences between the two perspectives, both should be part of the responsibilities of a professional project manager and are represented together due to this fact and to the close relationship with the concept of Foresight, where all concepts express a common concern about the future.


To read entire paper (click here)

Editor’s note: Second Editions are previously published papers that have continued relevance in today’s project management world, or which were originally published in conference proceedings or in a language other than English. Original publication acknowledged; authors retain copyright. This paper was originally presented at the 4th Scientific Conference on Project Management in the Baltic States, University of Latvia, April 2015. It is republished here with the permission of the author and conference organizers.

About the Author

pmwj34-May2015-Silva-PHOTOMarisa Silva


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Marisa Silva is an accomplished Project and Portfolio Management (PPM) professional and trainer with over 7 years of experience gained internationally and cross-industries. Passionate about PPM and Project Management Offices (PMOs), Marisa has developed her career from management consulting and has held positions as PMO Analyst, PMO Manager, PPM consultant, PPM Competency Centre Manager, and Country Manager. Currently she works as PMO Analyst at Oxford University Press.

Marisa holds a BSc. in Management, a specialization in Competitive Intelligence, a PgDip in Foresight, Strategy and Innovation, and is currently a MSc. candidate in Strategic Management of Projects, at University College London (UCL). As a trainer, Marisa delivered over five hundred hours of training in Project Management foundation and advanced courses and PMP preparation courses. She is certified as a PMP, PMD Pro Level 2, PRINCE2, and P3O professional, as well as a Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP) in regards to PPM tools.

Marisa has authored Project Management articles and scientific papers presented and published in international conferences, and is also an active member of the Project Management community and professional bodies. She is a member of PMI, APM, Founding Member of the IIBA Portugal Chapter, and has served as a volunteer in the PMI Portugal Chapter.

Marisa can be contacted at [email protected].