Are you an ethically mature project manager?

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At the APM Conference in April I had the privilege to be able to present on how ethics, and more importantly the management of ethics are becoming a core skill and vital element for today's project and programme managers.  Every day the evidence of where this is not done is presented in news reports.

As our projects become more complicated and complex, and our activities span many countries and cultures through the supply chain or during roll out, the potential for conflict and differences on ethical views increases. The range of stakeholders we deal with is becoming wider; project initiators, investors, policy makers, sponsors, project leaders, members of project teams — all of whom are likely to face a broad range of issues. In many instances the managerial problems we used to face as technical challenges now often have and ethical dimension requiring reflection on individual or communal values. There is also the increasing importance of the long-term reputation of the business to consider which is becoming increasingly important.

In summary the reasons for the increased importance of ethics are:

1.     Increased public interest and need for transparency;

2.     Recent scandals have set the tone and apetite of society;

3.     The law, such as the US Foreign and Corrupt Practices Act and the UK Bribery Act have tightedned up what we can and can not do;

4.     The pace of change and peoples views and expectations are increasing;

5.     Our projects are more and more international and merge different norms of behaviour.

The result of this is that ethical view of a project has to be considered as an asset to be managed, it is not enough to 'do the right thing' and obey the law when the situation arises. Issues have to be anticipated and planned for, project teams have to be equipped, prepared and supported and the image of a project has to be presented and not left to chance. In many cases what we do now is not enough, many of our codes are too simplistic and include bland obvious statand ements such as; obey the law, don’t cheat and respect others.  Many project managers are not yet equipped with the knowledge of ethics and the law with many of the 'softer' skills to think about issues, articulate themselves and understand the consequences.

In the talk I was advocating the development of the renaissance – ethically mature project manager. These are project managers who have:

  1. The knowledge of the law and ethics to be able to think about and communicate issues;
  2. The emotional intellegence to be able to sense and act on the mood of the team, stakeholders and society, and finally;
  3. The ability ethicaly lead the project and set the example.

Have you set the right environment and tone for your project, do the right thing and manage the image of the project?


Are you an ethically mature project manager?

Alistair Godbold

Posted by Alistair Godbold on 31st Jul 2014

About the Author

I am a Senior Consultant with the Nichols Group and a Programme Manager with over 30 years' experience delivering projects and programmes. These have ranged from large multi-disciplinary high integrity safety related systems in regulated environments, building and relocation, through organisation wide business change and IT projects. I have also advised companies on improving their project control and delivery effectiveness, setting up Programme Management Offices, project control systems and processes with the accompanying governance, skills and behaviours.

I have conducted a number of project and organisational reviews, designed and led a group providing assurance for a portfolio of over £14bn. I have led the development of individual Project Management capability, competency and organisational maturity and worked on projects and reviews in the UK, Australia and in Brazil. I have worked in a wide range of industries including; aviation, rail, nuclear and mining. I have a BSc(Hons) in computer science, and MBA in project management, I am a Honorary Fellow and Fellow of the APM, the Institute of Engineering and Technology and the Royal Society of Arts Manufacturing and Commerce. I am also an RPP and a CEng.

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