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Ethics and Project Management by Ralph L. Kliem, PMP

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151
6
Ethics and Project Governance
In the ideal world, everyone is ethical. ere is no need for oversights, sig-
natures of approval, cross-checking, or separating duties because everyone
does the “right thing.” Unfortunately, that ideal does not exist; Shangri-La
remains a dream. at, of course, does not mean that people as a general
rule are unethical; it indicates that once in awhile persons with unethical
intentions can join the team, creating an environment that demands eec-
tive governance disciplines for a project.
6.1 WHATISGOVERNANCE?
e idea of governance on a project is a relatively new concept oen associ-
ated with much larger organizations. Few people think of it as part of proj-
ect management, but it is very important, for without it a project becomes
nothing more than an unfocused group that achieves very little over time
and consumes more resources than are necessary.
Governance is identifying and implementing the policies, processes,
procedures, tools, and techniques for achieving specic goals and objec-
tives. ese policies and procedures are oen associated with eciency
and eectiveness, in terms of achieving goals and objectives with the least
amount of waste or at minimal cost. Some of the more well-known goals
and objectives are maximizing benets and minimizing costs, providing
business value, setting and meeting customer expectations, adding struc-
ture to ensure better predictability of performance, ensuring improved
quality of output, meeting expectations, resolving conict, and balancing
152  •  Ethics and Project Management
short- and long-term perspectives when considering the relationship of
cost, schedule, quality, scope, and risk. Rarely, if ever, is there any emphasis
on ensuring ethical performance of the stakeholders or at least laying the
groundwork for increasing the likelihood of ethical behavior. Every eort
should be made to minimize the probability of unethical activities.
It is safe to say, therefore, that good governance on a project consists
of applying good project management disciplines that enable successful
completion of a project, depending on what the criteria for success is.
Ethics plays an important role in the eective application of these dis-
ciplines. e reason is simple: Unethical decisions and actions aect the
quality of the output of those disciplines, much like bad data generate
unreliable information. erefore, ethics cannot be divorced from proj-
ect management.
Take the following example. A customer wants a new information sys-
tem developed. To win the contract, the vendor commits to an unrealistic
schedule and budget with the anticipation that this will lead to more work
in the future through work orders and enhancements. Both parties sign
a contract and then a charter with the vendor knowing all too well that
the parameters for the project are unrealistic. e plans, all predicated on
an unrealistic contract, charter, and scope of work, will eventually lead to
failure. e customer, out of ignorance, agrees to a series of work orders
that overrun the budget and slips major milestones. Reporting through-
out the project contains unreliable data that generate poor information,
leading to bad decisions. In the end, the customer ends up paying for a
system that does not meet expectations, principally because of the unethi-
cal behavior of the vendor.
Instituting governance on projects is not easy. One reason is that gover-
nance is construed as instituting control, and to some extent that is true.
However, governance also provides structure so that more is done with
a minimal amount of waste. Still, some people fear governance think-
ing it might constrain them. Another reason is that people disagree as
to how much governance is necessary on a project. Oen, the amount of
governance depends on the culture of the overall organization and what
it views as sucient breadth and depth being implemented. Still another
reason, and tied to the last point, is that governance means something
dierent for each stakeholder. Some will view it as following a rigid meth-
odology, whereas others see it as simply providing a guideline on what
to do.

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