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The importance of ethics in professional life

The APM has just become a Chartered body which is something to be celebrated. It is a recognition of a major step-change for our profession. But with this higher profile and status come greater responsibilities for both practitioners and the profession as a whole (and rightly so). This transition offers us the chance to review the component parts of our profession and ensure we modernise and reform where needed.  

Professional standards – usually described as knowledge, competence and behaviours (in APM we refer to the five dimensions of professionalism) are key. Put simply, qualifications equate to the development of knowledge, with CPD providing the keeping up to date and staying competent. But the third leg to this professional tripod is that of ethical conduct and behaviour. 

The management of ethics in projects is increasingly important for a number of reasons. First, an increasing public spotlight. There is an increasing public intolerance of corporate misdeeds, whether perceived or actual. Regulatory and legal mechanisms like the UK Bribery Act or whistleblowing have become more prevalent. What is acceptable or not acceptable as society norms continues to evolve. Increasingly projects are global in nature and attempt to span different norms of behaviour, creating more complex dilemmas. All these trends point to ethical conduct becoming more challenging as an issue.

This provides a major challenge to any project manager who needs think about an ethical approach to a project as an asset to be managed not simply a project to be delivered on time, on budget. It is no longer enough just to do the right thing.

This Chartered paper looks at different aspects of ethical behaviour and hopefully can be part of the process for individuals, and the profession as a whole, to engage and understand better the increasing importance of ethics an integrity. This is the starting point for a debate about how the APM can develop ethical support and frameworks beyond the Code itself.

We are grateful to the Institute of Business Ethics – who have done such pioneering work in this field – who have provided much of the content for this paper. 

Alistair Godbold

For more information on ethics in project management, view our dedicated ethics pages.

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