After 32 years in the training business, Brian Cracknell, newly assigned Language Works International Network Director, still finds his work gratifying. For it embodies LW’s mission – to help people develop through learning. “The business is successful and I enjoy what I do. We are providing a service to people.”
However, he’s becoming increasingly aware of a growing divide. “Something is wrong with the way we operate businesses, manage our projects and run our lives.” Because of this disconnect, work-life balance is resurfacing. Balance is just one of the more common expressions, others being ‘back to the land’ and the latest, ‘going green’.
As a primary school student in Sudbury, London, Brian always looked forward to his school’s Nature study walks. “I remember we went to parks with our teacher to sketch and collect leaves.” That’s where he learnt about acorns and conkers, items that he still picks up whenever he’s back in England walking or running. “More than the things I learnt, what I liked best about those activities was the connection to nature. I was learning about the real world around me.”
But, since those years, school curricula, career turns and life’s expectations got in the way. “That connection got lost and dropped. Yet now we know that connecting to the environment is one of Howard Gardner’s recognised multiple intelligences that we need to cultivate.”
It’s pretty obvious, states Brian, that for the last 50 years or so we have been trashing the planet, basically losing the link with that intelligence. While people profess to going green and going back to nature, both laudable in their own ways, Brian feels this is incomplete. “We need a systematic approach for looking at how we run our businesses, manage our projects and structure our lives.”
As part of LW’s revamped structure, the company is committed to a focus on Green Project Management (GPM). LW is already dedicated to providing sustainable learning, both within ASEAN and beyond. The company will continue bringing together people with a wide range of expertise to enable a variety of learners to build skills they need for the future. But, along with its core business of sustainable learning, it will also be championing the principles of sustainable project management.
The focus on GPM is necessary, “There is still the opportunity to reconnect despite the various distractions in our workplaces and personal spaces.” The challenge? “Everything is geared towards achieving material gain. That makes it – even with the best will in the world – quite difficult to achieve the very balance in our lives that we seek.”
According to Brian, we have to address that fundamental aspiration, and that’s why he fully supports the GPM P5 model. “It’s about striving in your projects, and in your lives as well, to achieve that balance between those 5 Ps – People, Planet, Profit, Process and Product.”
“We have to be mindful of how we use the planet’s finite resources and that we do not mess up for future generations.” He believes there is over-emphasis on eco, but going green is not just about planting trees and recycling rubbish. He reiterates about balancing Planet with People, whose basic needs have to be met: enough food to eat, fair and properly rewarded work, and respect for one another and the places we occupy.
Profit is equally important for business. “But not gained at the expense of the environment or people. I believe that you can strike the balance if you run a business mindfully, guided by ethical behaviour.” That means approaching ethics and entrepreneurship in a way that is not selfish and greedy, “Where you genuinely think about the benefit of other people apart from yourself.”
The last two Ps, Process and Product, relate to the first three in that they irrevocably impact People, Planet and Profit. “Process is a system of governance.” For example, it can be the processes in a manufacturing facility where raw materials are delivered, and then go through the various stages of being made into an end product. “In the past we used a linear model that led to our throwaway society. The reason why we are currently facing a pollution crisis. Luckily, that model is being replaced by the idea of a circular economy, i.e. reduce, reuse, recycle.”
The Product, on the other hand, is a service or a physical product that, when purchased, shouldn’t have a harmful impact on the other Ps. For example, questions are now being raised about the ethical disposal of mobile phone components in a society that hankers after an updated version every year or two. “Sadly, we still have not come up with a sustainable system of dealing with disposal and recycling of mobile phone parts that can be damaging to the environment.”
Even when we enjoy drinking a cup of coffee when we feel like it, he emphasises, “we are not looking at the complete cycle of that product.” He calls on us to think: about where that coffee comes from, whether workers are paid properly for producing it. And how about workers’ living conditions and the final disposal of the coffee grounds?
“Be it people, planet, profit, process or product, whatever we do it needs be part of a sustainable cycle that helps rather than harms. That will be more fulfilling for all of us.”