The importance of being ethical in project management

In the world of project management, ethics plays a significant role in day-to-day interactions and behaviors. Ethics enables stakeholders, employees, vendors, and taxpayers to sleep at night knowing project management professionals (PMPs) are held to strict and high standards when they make decisions or act on their behalf to execute on projects.

Ethics plays a critical role in PM in these primary ways:

  • It elevates the profession and raises future standards.
  • It increases the faith and trust others bestow.
  • It imprints on individual moral mindsets and behaviors.
  • It improves business relationships at all levels.
  • It promotes fair decision making.
  • It reduces project risks.
  • It provides a greater chance of success.
  • It reduces anxiety and stress and ultimately turnover in projects.

The PMI’s Code of Ethics

“Honesty, responsibility, respect and fairness are the values that drive ethical conduct for the project management profession,” according to the Project Management Institute (PMI). PMPs are held to a code of ethics (PDF) to ensure decisions and actions are always honorable and in the best interest of stakeholders.

This code of ethics applies to all PMI members, as well as project managers who are not PMI members but meet one or more of the following criteria:

  • Non-members who hold a PMI certification
  • Non-members who apply to commence a PMI certification process
  • Non-members who serve PMI in a volunteer capacity

Here’s what the PMI Code of Ethics means for PMPs:

  • It means PMPs have a responsibility to hold themselves accountable for their own successful or failed decisions and actions, as well as any repercussions.
  • It means being respectful and demonstrating a high regard for oneself, others, and any resources entrusted with.
  • It means fostering excellence through mutual respect, trust, confidence, cooperation, and diversity.
  • It means the views of others are encouraged and valued.
  • It means practicing fairness at all times, making decisions, and remaining impartial and objective. Behavior must be free from self-interest and self-gain, prejudice, or favoritism.
  • It means demonstrating honesty through words and conduct at all times.

The Program Management Improvement and Accountability Act

Ethics is critical not only to private businesses but also to the public. Accountability and ethical behavior is necessary to reducing waste, increasing transparency, creating success, and ultimately providing more value for taxpayers.

To establish and improve ethical standards at the US federal level, President Barack Obama formally signed into law the Program Management Improvement and Accountability Act (PMIAA) on December 14, 2016. PMIAA is aimed at pushing project professionals in government programs to make the best possible decisions for taxpayers and increasing transparency, trust, and success. This law reinforces ethics and improvements through stringent new program management rules that necessitate establishing these roles.

  • A Program Management Improvement Officer to develop and implement a five-year plan intended to improve the roles of program managers in the federal government.
  • A Program Management Policy Council (as the principal interagency forum within the Office of Management and Budget) aimed at improving program and project management practices.
  • A Personnel Management Office responsible for personnel, program, and project manager competencies/skills, for developing a new series for program and project manager job series or updates, and identification of any new career paths.

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