Voices on Project Management guest blogger Michael O’Brochta, PMI-ACP, PMP, has worked in project management for more than 30 years. He has led programs to mature project management at the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency and at consultancy Zozer Inc., through which he helped develop and implement a new government-wide Federal Acquisition Certification for Program and Project Managers. He writes and speaks extensively about ethics and project management. Since climbing another of the world’s Seven Summits, Mr. O’Brochta has been exploring the relationship between project management and mountain climbing.
Professions are characterized not only by the products and services they provide, but also by the behavior of their membership. Organizations that stand the test of time tend toward ethical conduct. While there are multiple ways to learn ethical conduct, consider the method recommended in this passage from a book’s foreword:
“The thing that can be done is to introduce into every public school a simple textbook of ethics, and drill it into every child from the youngest to the oldest. The little book should present the principles of the moral conduct in the clearest and simplest manner; that is, the fundamental ideas of right and wrong, the proper relations in the family, or parent and child, of the young to the old, of inferior to superior, of the employer to the employed, the citizen and the state — the duties in all their relations, as well as the rights. We may then get back a little reverence in place of the growing bumptiousness and smartness.”
Note that the foreword was written by Charles Dudley Warner for Benjamin B. Comegys’ Primer of Ethics, published in 1890. In other words, old is new in ethics. Ethics are timeless, and our need for them is as well.
Organizations at the forefront of ethical best practices create a climate of awareness with clear expectations. This climate can be created through persistent and consistent communications about the preferred behavior and the consequences of the undesirable behavior. It can be bolstered by providing guides and aids for employees to use — something to establish, model and reinforce the norms of ethical behavior. And it’s important that ethical behavior in an organization be established in a clear and straightforward manner at the earliest outset of an employee’s tenure there.
Organizations that do ethics well also provide support for employees and stakeholders when dilemmas arise. They do so by making available their ethics code of conduct, ethical decision-making aid and a forum for the advancement of ethics-related topics.
With help from the Ethics Member Advisory Group, PMI actively seeks to learn about ethical best practices and adopt ones that are most suitable for the Institute — and for the profession.
If you haven’t reviewed them recently, revisit PMI’s Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct and Ethical Decision-Making Framework, and visit theEthics in Project Management Community of Practice.