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When we think of ethics, we make an image in our mind that they are the principles, rules, regulations, or policies set by the particular organization when we join a new organization. Organization asks us to undergo the training sets to have a clear knowledge of the company norms. We usually take the training as a task set for us by the organization but forget to implement or relate it in our professional career or personal life.
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What are Ethics in PMP?
Ethics is not about the policies or the rules and the regulations, but the best possible decision you need to take concerning the environment, resource, and the people. Ethics in project management is a fundamental data of feelings and emotions, not concepts. Ethical decisions are subjective. Ethics is the moral values, principles that we learned from our childhood by seeing our parents, grandparents, teachers, relatives, etc.
which made us known what is good or bad, what is right or wrong and to take the correct judgment and governs your behavior.
Similarly, Ethics in project management in an organization sets standards to identify what is bad or good in conduct and decision making.
Ethical issues in project management
Whenever there is an ethical issue, the actions of the person or an organization come to form and to decide which decision will harm or benefit the organization.
Ethics plays a vital role in project management and the key to execute projects successfully.
It points out the responsibility and ability of the person to come to his/her conclusions through analyzing, and to determine which principles would be appropriate in that particular case.
Ethics is a reasonable understanding for us to refrain from hurting others, and sometimes a duty to help others.
To live ethically, first, we should study and examine our own beliefs and conduct, and strive to ensure that we and the organization will help to shape and live up to the fair standards.
You need to figure out what the right thing is before you can do the right thing. Managers and leaders work to minimize ethical conflicts because of cultural differences and an organization with an established code of ethics and conduct functions better.
PMI plays a vital role
According to the PMI (Project Management Institute), project management ethics is an essential ingredient while managing projects to come over any conclusion.
Ethical choices reduce the risk, advance positive results, increase trust, determine long term success, and build reputations.
Leadership depends upon the ethical choice you make. Ethics and leadership can add moral dimensions to decision making process for success. Ensure ethics permeates all aspects of organizational operations.
Michel Ombrophyte (PMP and chair of PMI Ethics Member Advisory Group) states that “Ethics lead to trust, which leads to leadership, which in turn leads to project success.”
The PMI has come up with the Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct document to help project management professionals to do what is right and ethical.
The document express values to which a project manager should pursue, and defines the behavior they should adopt to be successful.
The purpose of the ethical document is to build confidence in the project management profession and to help an individual to become a better practitioner and help project managers to make a wise decision.
The PMI Code of Ethics
- Be responsible — take ownership of decisions including their consequences. This includes knowing and meeting all legal requirements, reporting unethical or illegal conduct to appropriate management.
- Fulfilling commitments and protecting proprietary and confidential information.
- Be Respectful of yourself, listen to others and protect resources entrust to us.
- Fair and transparent in decisions including disclosing conflicts of interest to appropriate stakeholders.
- Honest in communications and conduct.
These are the critical values that create unity and professionalism in teams, which in turn leads to project success.
Building trustworthy relationships across different cultures, time zones, teams and departments helps the smooth running of projects.
Trust is the one common thread that holds together different cultural differences, disparate work cultures spanning various time zones, team members with different behaviors and departments with unique objectives.
So, it is imperative for a project leader to grasp onto this and develop trustworthy relationships.
Once the foundation of trust is built, the road ahead is not easy for a project manager. There will be many difficult situations where his or her moral compass will be tested.
There will be times when he or she will face ethical dilemmas for challenges while managing projects.
Making ethical decisions is not easy because not every ethical dilemma has one clear correct answer;
That’s what makes it so Tricky.
During these situations they need to be careful to maintain their status as a trustworthy leader.
Once there is a lapse of ethics and the trust shattered, it is extremely difficult to regain trust and make things right.
Shortcuts and underhand behavior sometimes pay in the short term, but cause a lot of damage in the long term.
To avoid these kinds of incidents, the PMI has produced an Ethical Decision-Making Framework.
This document (which supplements PMI Code of Ethics and professional Conduct) describes steps that can be used to guide an individual in the project management profession.
Through a process to make a decision when confronted with an ethical dilemma. It is intended as a guide for critical thinking throughout the ethical decision-making process.
A good project manager should adopt the PMI code of Ethics and Professional Conduct and make good use of the Ethical Decision-Making Framework.
While senior managers or leaders should ensure that ethics permeate all aspects of organizational operations to be successful in the long run.
Framework for Ethical Decision Making
- Recognize ethical issue
- Get the facts
- Evaluate alternate options
- Make a decision and test it
- Reflect on outcome
Ethical Issues and Dilemmas
- Favoritism between subordinates.
- Admission of wrongdoing.
- The company is asking the problem manager and his/her team to do something unethical.
- Slack off in their work.
- Put the blame to subordinates.
- Acquire sensitive material or work of other teams.
- Hard choices regarding contracts between parties.
- Doing business in a different country is ambiguous and may contradict practices done at home.
Solutions to Ethical Problems
- PMs should make sure that their team members are all equally supported and their opinions heard.
- If PM is at fault for the unsuccessful venture of project completion, he/she must admit this wrong.
- PMs should have a strong sense of ethics and lead his/her subordinates by example.
- There is no “I” in the team. If a project is unsuccessful, the most ethical outcome is that the whole team failed.
- Before signing a contract, the company should make sure to ask questions & cut ties with people in the project team.
- To replace them with others given based on the contract.
- Distinguish between what is acceptable and unacceptable when doing business abroad.
- Noting the various laws of both your own country and those in your host country.
- Do not be influenced by anyone.
- Make decisions that give you a clear conscience.
- You should be reliable, fair, honest and ethical.
Reasons for Ethical Violations in Workplace
- Misinterpretation of data
- Personal value conflicts
- Disrespect of co-workers
- Unprofessional behavior
Principles of Project Management
A principle can be defined as an underlying fundamental law or concept. Therefore, the principles of project management are the fundamental rules that should be followed for the successful management of projects.
The Project Management Book of Knowledge (PMBOK) does not currently contain an official list of principles for successful projects.
However, PMI’s annual pulse survey can help highlight what principles successful project managers and companies are following.
The 9 principles of project management are:
- Formal project management structure
- Invested and engaged project sponsor
- Clear and objective goals and outcomes
- Documented roles and responsibilities
- Strong change management
- Risk management
- Mature value delivery capabilities
- Performance management baseline
- Communication plan
It’s important for projects to have a formalized structure, including processes, procedures, and tools. If you’ve ever tried to complete a project without a formalized structure (“off the books”).
You know how hard it can be to control it and provide it with the attention it deserves.
A project should have both a project charter and project plan, as well as a designate project team. This helps ensure it is prioritize and manage successfully.
An effective project sponsor is critical to the success of a project. Sponsors are there to champion your project and to be a spokesperson for it with the other executives. A strong sponsor can help overcome roadblocks such as the loss of a key resource.
Having an engaged sponsor makes it easier to communicate progress, escalate issues, and guide stakeholders through decision-making processes.
Goals and Outcomes
Without clear requirements and approval criteria, it will be difficult to tell if a project is a success or not.
For example, you may think you produce software that does everything that was request, only to have the customer or end user complain you left out a critical component.
The most common factor behind failed projects is a lack of clear goals. Project requirements and approval criteria should all be determine and document at the beginning of the project.
It’s important to ensure these are reviewed and approved by all key stakeholders, including the sponsor and customer.
Roles and Responsibilities
There are two forms that should be use for documenting and defining the roles and responsibilities of everyone involve with a project.
For project team members, a RACI or RASCI is use to define responsibilities and expectations. Here are what the letters stand for:
S= Sign-off authority (not always used)
In a RACI matrix, team members are list along the top and tasks are list along the sides.
Each team member is assign a letter (RACI) according to their role for each task.
In this example, Emir is “responsible” for installing parts. For stakeholders outside of the primary project team, a stakeholder register is compile.
This helps you document who your stakeholders are, as well as important information such as the following:
- Communication preferences (type and frequency)
- Contact information
- Level of influence on the project
- Engagement level with the project
- Their role within the company
- Other relevant information or notes
Management of Project Changes
A project needs to have a well-defined scope to ensure the outcome meets customer expectations, as discussed in the goals section above.
Without strong change management, a project could suffer from scope creep, which is when the scope of a project gradually grows beyond the initial project guidelines.
For example, team members or stakeholders may want to add additional features into the product. But if you don’t carefully control changes, you could end up with a really great product that costs twice what you expected and is delivered six months late.
Since we cannot execute projects in a bubble, they all face some risks. After all, a risk is simply an unexpected event that impacts your project. It can be good or bad, and it can affect your resources, technology or processes.
In order to minimize or eliminate the impact that risks will have on your projects, it’s important to manage risk. This includes identifying, evaluating and monitoring risks, as well as deciding upon action plans to implement if the risks occur.
Value Delivery Capabilities
Your value delivery capabilities are simply your project tools, processes, and procedures that help you deliver value to your customers. This can include your project systems, such as your scheduling software.
It may also include your processes, such as using an Agile project methodology. The more mature your processes and procedures are, the more likely your project will be a success.
For example, if you have establish and test approaches for delivering successful software projects, you will be better equip than if you’re starting from scratch.
Performance Management Baseline
Projects typically have three basic components: cost, schedule, and scope. Each of these components should have a baseline or plan that performance can be measured against.
When these baselines are integrate, it’s called a performance management baseline.
This means that when you have a change in any one of the components, its impact will be reflect in the other two as well.
So, if you have a scope change, you can see how it impacts both your project schedule and cost, which allows you to better monitor the overall impact of changes to a project.
It also improves decision-making, as you can view the whole integrated picture and identify all impacts of potential decisions.
If you’ve worked in project management for a while, you may have heard the saying that project management is 90% communication.
The success of a project requires communication of project activities, risks, issues, and status, both within the project team and with other stakeholders. Communication is important for a variety of reasons, including the following:
- Keeping stakeholders engaged.
- Coordinating tasks and schedules.
- Decision-making and problem-solving.
- Identifying and resolving conflicts (both within and outside of the project).
- Escalating risks and issues.
The Importance of Ethics in Project Management
While Ethics are important for all organizations and their employees and other stakeholders, they are more important for project managers who execute complex projects and interact with a wide variety of stakeholders.
Indeed, being ethical and following ethical norms is prerequisites for project managers who have to practice ethics and observe ethical rules.
The importance of ethics for project management can be seen from the way in which project managers have to bid for projects after full disclosure of their capabilities and capacities.
Without resorting to hyperbole or exaggeration and during the bidding process, ensure that they do not employ underhand means to bag the project.
As the rest of the discussion indicates, there are some red flags that project managers need to be aware In all phases.
Bidding and Prospecting
Indeed, bidding and prospecting for projects are the primary sources of unethical behaviour and unacceptable conduct. Take the example of global construction and infrastructure firms bidding for the recently concluded Brazil Olympics.
There were several allegations of firms and their project managers employing unethical means to bag the projects and ensure that their bids are consider before those of their competitors.
Indeed, even for the Football World Cup in Qatar in 2018, there have been multiple scandals that have come to light about the unethical practices employed by firms and their project managers.
While some might justify the practices such as lobbying, entertaining the clients by wining and dining them, and offering material and nonmaterial inducements to bag the projects as being part of the ways of doing business.
It need to remember that once a project is won base on such methods, the rest of the phases of the project are taint and compromise as the costs incur for the above mention aspects have to recover.
This means that the project manager would have to look for ways in which to cut corners as otherwise, the project would become unviable.
Project Managers have a Wider Social Responsibility
The point that needs to emphasize is that just like other professions such as Doctors and Lawyers.
The field of project management has a wider obligation towards society and the wider stakeholders including consumers and other members of society.
Therefore, the project managers cannot simply write off their responsibilities towards these stakeholders as yet another expense item and forget about it.
Instead, they must proactively seek to follow ethical and normative rules of conduct at all phases of the project starting with the bidding and ending with the project handover.
Consider for example what would happen if a project manager had spent considerable money and time on the bidding and prospecting as well as on the initial scoping.
He or she would be under pressure to recover some of these costs.
This would reflect and have its effect on the shoddy way in which the project is executed.
This can result in the end product or the end project compromising on environmental norm posing a danger to society. Indeed, being ethical also means that project managers have environmental and social responsibilities to shoulder.
These can be inseparable from the overall ambit of ethics and ethical norms that have to be followed.
Next, the actual people management and stakeholder management has to be done by following ethical norms.
For instance, project managers involved in large and mega projects have a duty and obligation under law to keep the regulatory bodies informed.
Also, update about the compliance or otherwise with various environmental norms.
At no stage must the project manager hide information or fudge data regarding the compliance or otherwise with such norms.
Doing so would mean that the project manager is failing not only the rules of conduct but also the broader responsibilities towards society.
Real World Project Management and Ethics
There would be some who would say that while all this sounds good on paper, it is not easy to follow this in “real world”.
They would contend that the real world of project managers is vastly different from what mentioned in theory or textbooks.
Hence, they might simply shrug some of the points discussed here as sermons. To that, we would say that while we understand the very real constraints and pulls and pressures that they face.
We are also of the view that one must start from somewhere and someone must take the lead. Hence, while ethics and norms are difficult to follow, somebody has to make a beginning.
Additional of Ethics,
In addition, we would also like to point that it is in the commercial interests of the project manager to abide by ethical norms.
As any exposure or leak of information regarding the actual processes.
It’s followed would be detrimental in terms of adverse publicity, investigations and court cases.
The increasingly apparent trend of a “Trial by Media” that is overly sensationalist and always on the lookout for such stories.
To conclude, while following ethical norms might be difficult for project managers, it needs to be remembered that at the end of the day;
“The softest pillow is a clear conscience”
Hence, being ethical and normative is an end in itself define and execute so that the end goals are met.
Moreover, it is better for project managers to follow the rules and be ethical in all interactions as otherwise.
Longer term sustainability and reputation would take a beating and organizations take a considerable time before they recover from adverse situations.
Thus, it is better to be safe than be sorry in the longer run.
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