How Ethics Permeates the
Entire Project Life Cycle
e boardrooms across corporate America are not the only places for ethi-
cal dilemmas to arise. e context surrounding projects lays the ground-
work for ethical issues to occur. e nature of the projects and their context
can play a big role on how ethics is viewed by stakeholders, whether and
how they incorporate it in their decision making, and whether or how they
exhibit it in their behavior.
Projects have some contextual factors that provide the opportunity for
forcing ethical dilemmas.
5.1 CONTEXTUAL FACTORS
1. Temporary existence: Projects have a short-term life and go away.
Some people see them as opportunities to push ethical limits to the
extreme, especially those who support projects on a contractual basis.
ey do what they’ve been tasked to do and then take o to other
projects or locations, oen without ever seeing the consequences of
their actions. Instead, someone else will deal with the aermath: a
product manager or a customer, perhaps. Contractual workers can
perform poor-quality work in a soware system and someone, such
as a customer, will experience the consequence in sustaining and
maintenance. So why does it matter? Aer all, they will be gone; it’s
someone else’s problem, they reason.
102 • Ethics and Project Management
2. Finites: Projects exist for a specic amount of time and then stop at
some point. is ending has signicance in that the impending clos-
ing date can encourage people to make an expeditious x to some-
thing and, once again, not worry about the long-term consequences.
Aer all, they reason, they will be long gone aer the project has
been completed. For example, they make a quick x to a product in
the hope that nobody will know about it if a problem occurs and, if
it does, the warranty costs can cover the problem.
3. Visibility: Projects have high visibility. At rst, a project manager
would think that a highly visible project would minimize any oppor-
tunity for an ethical dilemma to arise because key stakeholders and
others would notice; however, a highly visible project may foster an
ethical dilemma to arise. For example, the project manager could
manipulate reporting data to give the perception that the project is
progressing as planned when in reality it is the opposite.
4. Time pressure: is weight on team members can be unrelenting
on a project that must deliver a product or service over a very short
period, such as when the project is fast-tracked. For instance, the
completion date cannot be adjusted or the company could face sub-
stantial penalty payments for late delivery. Such a circumstance can
encourage members of the team to go for the quick x or fail to meet
certain specications in the hopes that nothing will happen or if it
does it would be too serious.
5. Temporary relationships: Project relationships among stakeholders
are temporary. People come and go as required, sometimes never
to return. Under such circumstances, some individuals see this as
an opportunity to “stretch the limits,” in the expectation that they
may never get caught. For example, a project team member may
knowingly be rude to another person or perform some indiscrete act
knowing that they will be gone aer a short while.
In all fairness, these ethical situations and transgressions are far from the
norm. Although the context of a project does provide the opportunity for
unethical behavior, most people do not use it as such. Many people oen
witness unethical behavior in the workplace. e project management
environment lays the groundwork for that to happen; it does not mean
ethical dilemmas will happen.