The Ethics of Project Management

April 22, 2016
Robert Flynn_113X113By Robert Flynn, Senior Vice President of Operations at Aronson Security Group and PSA Project Management Committee Vice ChairmanHonest, collaborative, accountable, responsible, respectful, and applying them all with a sense of urgency – these are the values that drive ethical conduct for project management, where the best outcome is the most ethical one.

As project managers, we are the front-line, client-facing, rubber-meets-the road leaders of a project, and we have a commitment to hold ourselves, peers, and subordinates accountable to ethical project management conduct at all times.

The role of a project manager requires a multitude of decisions, actions, and communications with varying degrees of conflicting interests and risks. So how can project managers uphold their values and maintain high ethical standards at all times?

  • Honesty
    • Always seek and speak the truth.
    • Make commitments and keep them.
    • Do not engage in or condone dishonesty.
  • Collaborative
    • Keep your clients and all of your project stakeholders informed at all times.
    • Listen to all stakeholders internal, external and including our sales staff.
  • Accountable
    • Accountable to monthly revenue and billing targets established by your employer.
    • Accountable to the on-time project schedule and contractual deadlines.
    • Accountable to the project plan and functionality of the systems that you are installing.
    • Accountable to the client in keeping them informed about all aspects of their project.
    • Accountable to your employer in getting what they are paying for in you as their employee.
    • Accountable to the project costs and keeping them within 5% of the estimated costs.
  • Responsibility
    • Take the best action for a specific situation.
    • Take action supported by knowledge.
    • Fulfill project and professional requirements of your position at all times.
    • Protect sensitive information of our company and our clients (we are a security company).
    • Stay compliant with all applicable laws, regulations and building codes based on the region of the project.
  • Respect
    • Address conflict as soon as it happens.
    • Behave professionally at all times.
    • Negotiate in good faith with clients, subcontractors, suppliers and your internal team.
    • Never act abusively.
    • Respect others’ property rights.
    • Demonstrate fairness at all times.
    • Provide equal access to information.
    • Provide equal opportunity when acquiring resources.
    • Act fairly when hiring, do not base decisions on personal considerations.
    • Do not discriminate.
    • Be impartial.
  • Cultural Respect
    • Be aware of cultural differences.
    • Learn and understand culture when in a new region.
    • Respect other cultures' ways of behavior and moral interpretations.
    • Maintain professional sensitivity when dealing with other cultures.
    • Practice cultural awareness in all situations.
    • Many professional responsibility questions can be answered simply by using common sense. The best choice is to choose to do the ethical thing.

Project Management Cynicism

And Dilbert, projects need coffee

And Dilbert, projects need coffee

Below is how projects are really run, but even so, we still need to apply the same ethics discussed above.  This list is originally from Tony Collins
  1. Projects with realistic budgets and timetables don't get approved.
  2. The more desperate the situation the more optimistic the progress report.
  3. A user is somebody who rejects the system because it's what he asked for.
  4. The difference between project success and failure is a good PR company.
  5. Nothing is impossible for the person who doesn't have to do it.
  6. Every failing, overly ambitious project, has at its heart a series of successful small ones trying to escape.
  7. A freeze on change melts whenever heat is applied.
  8. You understood what I said, not what I meant.
  9. If you don't know where you're going, just talk about specifics.
  10. If at first you don't succeed, rename the project.
  11. Everyone wants a strong project manager - until they get him.
  12. Only idiots own up to what they really know (thank you to President Nixon).
  13. The worst project managers sleep at night.
  14. A failing project has benefits which are always spoken of in the future tense.
  15. Projects don't fail in the end; they fail at conception.
  16. Visions are usually treatable.
  17. Overly ambitious projects can never fail if they have a beginning, middle and no end.
  18. In government we never punish error, only its disclosure.
  19. The most difficult way is, in the long run, the easiest.
  20. A realist is one who's presciently disappointed in the future.