Making Ethics a Reality
A common theme throughout this book is that project managers face
many challenges when attempting to make ethics a major subject over
their projects. Ethics just seems to take a backseat to topics like sched-
uling, estimating, building charters, applying earned value management,
applying integrated change control, and many other concepts, tools, and
techniques of project management. ey can no longer accept this status
quo if they have the desire to successfully resolve ethical dilemmas.
ere are many reasons ethics is not made a priority. It is frequently
viewed as something people have to do because the higher-ups got the
company in trouble and need to demonstrate to the shareholders and the
government that they are doing something to make everyone ethical. e
topic of ethics is considered by some to be touchy-feely and to enhance
people’s intellectual knowledge and nothing more. Someone with greater
authority may think it is a good subject to talk about it but do not provide
a work environment conducive to ethical behavior. It could also be viewed
as a “avor of the month” topic so common in corporate environments.
Ethics, particularly related to projects, is very serious. When ethics is used
on projects, people can focus on performing their responsibilities rather than
on deciding and acting in ways that can damage the reputation of the people
on the project, the project itself, and the parent organization. In other words,
people can concentrate on doing what is right and necessary to complete a
project successfully. e negative aspects, of course, are that the people exces-
sively take their time making decisions and actions, covering their tracks,
204  •  Ethics and Project Management
and exploiting circumstances rather than focusing on performing their
responsibilities in a way that leads to the successful execution of a project.
e best way to realize the importance of ethics is to compare projects
with and without ethics. If project managers and other stakeholders think
and act ethically, interim deliverables (e.g., a charter, plans, reports) will
serve as reliable outputs that can be trusted to help produce the nal deliv-
erable to the customer. Everyone knows that the interim deliverables are
the result of honest, trustworthy people and therefore can be used with a
high degree of condence. Now take a dierent perspective. If the project
manager and other stakeholders are known to be unethical in thought and
deed, to what extent will people have condence in the interim deliver-
ables and, ultimately, the nal deliverable being produced? You guessed it:
ey will have very little faith in others and the output.
e lessons to bring from this scenario are twofold: Ethics has value on
a project; and ethics has consequences. Ethics on a project is like blood.
If unethical behavior is tolerated, then it will spread like tainted blood,
damaging the organs. If ethical behavior is the norm, then it will allow the
organs to do their jobs.
Having good ethics on a project is not simple. Project managers must take
action to allow good ethical decisions and behaviors to become the norm
rather than the exception. Five actions will accomplish this:
One. embrace a code of ethics, regardless of professional organization.
Most of them cover the same topics to varying degrees of breadth and
depth. ey provide standards and guidelines not only for routine situ-
ations but also for anomalous circumstances. Sometimes, people need a
guidepost to help them navigate through dicult circumstances. e
Project Management Institute (PMI) provides an excellent code of ethics
that is applicable for all stakeholders to consider following on a project. It
covers a wide range of topics, including responsibility, respect, fairness,
conict of interest, and honesty. Regardless of whether project manag-
ers are members of the PMI, they should all read its code of ethics. It is
especially useful because it emphasizes taking a global perspective, serv-
ing as an excellent guide for dealing with ethical issues in an interna-
tional environment.

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