Project Management Ethics and Rules of Conduct

I have had an interesting couple of weeks of watching people in business with poor or no ethics and values.  It is always interesting that people like that tell you that you are the one with problems and you aren’t looking at the situation like they are.  Ethics can become complicated when you look at classical ethics dilemmas such as “Sophie’s Choice” or consider classroom discussions of extreme and artificial conditions requiring an ethics-based decision. Ethical questions with less at stake than deciding which child should die in a concentration camp arise with some frequency in the life of a project manager. In a previous post, “The Ethical Project Manager,” I offered some thoughts on areas of a project manager’s job that involved the applications of ethics.

Is there a problem?
In 2002, TechRepublic conducted a Home Quick Poll of 825 readers about ethical challenges in their work life. Based on self-reports, 57% said they had been asked to do something unethical by a supervisor. Earlier the same year, their IT Consultant Quick Poll found that 19 percent of consultants had been asked “many times” to do something illegal or unethical.

Like what? Examples of ethical issues mentioned included using unlicensed software – actually against the law and not really a matter of ethics – and installing software to monitor employee activity such as email without their knowledge. Another example involved alternating a presentation to a naïve senior manager that limited the presentation of project risks in order to gain funding.

Janet Williams presented an interesting, and believable, scenario that required a senior IT manager to think about ethics and business practices. Here’s the story in a nutshell:

A Canadian company vice-president of operations is asked to send a team to complete a software and electrical installation for a long-term client in the United States. Because the U.S. company has recently setup a mandatory drug-testing program, they demand that the Canadian workers submit a urine sample before beginning work. In Canada, drug testing is optional for employees and these Canadian workers refused citing ethical concerns about what data was collected, the embarrassment and possible other uses of the testing results. No work was done and the team returned home. Now the vice-president must decide if the project manager should be fired for failure to do his job.

Ms. Williams concludes the story by reporting that the Canadian company instituted a series of policy changes and training to help project managers in responding to these types of situation.  They also composed a different team that was willing to comply with the U.S. company’s drug testing requirements. She suggests that companies complete due diligence before contracting with companies in other countries to prepare their employees better. The fate of the project manager was unstated.

Another option, and one we practice at Cognitive Technologies, prepares employees to deal with ethical challenges by applying the organization’s Code of Conduct. We teach, we share and we model behaviors that comply with these general guidelines:

  1. Reliability—We demonstrate reliability by honoring our contracts and commitments.
  2. Transparency—We demonstrate transparency through communications that evidence truthfulness, disclosure, and candor, from what we say about ourselves on the web and print materials, to what we tell clients and potential clients.  We apply the same communications transparency when engaged with the client on a contract.
  3. Fiduciary—We build our client’s confidence in our ability to manage costs and property through our active control of accounting and time keeping, our use and protection of client’s property, and other record keeping and reviews to identify and eliminate any questionable activities.
  4. Continuous Improvement—We listen and are open to new ideas and better ways to do things, consistently examining our methodologies and processes, and eliciting feedback to “find a better way.” We know that people are not perfect – so we seek processes to give us feedback and help us improve.
  5. Dignity and Fairness: We treat others, regardless of position or title, with professional respect and courtesy, and employ fair compensation and treatment policies.  Every person has value and can contribute; we acknowledge those values and contributions.

Guidance from the Project Management Institute
The PMI Board of Directors approved this Code of Ethics and Professional Development  in October 2006 which said:

  • Be responsible — take ownership of decisions including their consequences. This includes knowing and meeting all legal requirements, reporting unethical or illegal conduct to appropriate management, fulfilling commitments and protecting proprietary and confidential information.
  • Be respectful of yourself, listen to others and protect resources entrusted to us.
  • Be fair and transparent in decisions including disclosing conflicts of interest to appropriate stakeholders.
  • Be honest in communications and conduct.

Have you wondered “why” the PMI felt the need to add a Code of Ethics as part of Professional Project Manager the requirements? You only have to look around you to see that not everyone behaves in an ethical manner nor have the same values and principles that you and your organization may hold. Being from Texas, I like the way that they say it here, “My word is my bond.”

If you have had recent experiences with ethical issues or seen model conduct from peers or supervisors, please share.


Virtual Team Collaboration with Web Conferencing

A few months ago, a colleague of mine attended an on-line class on using Photoshop to edit portraits. The presentation was informal and had some technical problems, but the content was good and she signed up for a series of on-line classes by this vendor. So, why am I telling you this? The small start-up company that hosted the training made a big impact, improved their credibility and perhaps signed-up customers for their fee-based services, too.

There are many – hundreds – of software products that support Web conferencing. David Woolley provides an almost overwhelming list, annotated with brief comments on many of these in Web Conferencing – Online Meetings & Presentations . In the interest of full disclosure, Silver Bear Group, (the company I collaborate with and sponsors this blog), has successfully used and really loves GoToMeeting and GoToTraining from Citrix Systems.

We have talked several times on this blog about the importance of collaboration for project teams – especially virtual teams. (See:  Collaboration Tools for Virtual Project Teams and Project Management Collaboration and Communication Tools.) Web conferencing can be part of this facilitated collaboration. Web conferencing offers support for team meetings, training, customer meetings, program reviews and informal team discussions.

When organizations need to decide on which Web conferencing software best supports their organization, technically trained project managers may be asked to participate in making that cost/benefit decision. Here are some questions to ask about your company’s specific Web conferencing needs in order to select the best service now and support for the future.

Some questions to ask:

  1. Do you need a hosted or on-premise solution – this decision affects performance, cost and security? (The line is blurring between these now with the “cloud” concept)
  2. Do you need the ability to send and receive video (video conferencing) from all sites or only from a central sending site (web casting)?
  3. Do you want to be able to record meetings and training presentations?
  4. What are the maximum number of people routinely attending meetings?
  5. Do you need mainly 1-to-many ability or do you want more collaborative, many to many sessions?
  6. How much can you spend?
  7. Do you need audio as a phone call-in and/or VoIP?
  8. How easy is setup and using the software? Will you have technicians available as needed or will managers and attendees need to handle setup and troubleshooting?
  9. Do you need to support multiple operating systems – Windows, Mac, and Linux?
  10. Do you need to integrate with existing tools and documents such as Outlook, Office, databases?
  11. Do you need the ability to hold ad hoc meetings?
  12. Do you need registration for the sessions with email notices?

In a June 2010 report by Ted Schadler of Forrester Research called “The Forrester Wave™:  Web Conferencing, Q2 2010”, he compared the industry leaders in supported conferencing including Adobe Connect, IBM Sametime, Microsoft OCS, Cisco WebEx, Citrix GoToMeeting, IBM’s Lotus Live and Microsoft’s Live Meeting. A link at the end of this post provides excerpts from the report, provided by Adobe.

In addition to core capabilities that most conferencing tools provide, Mr. Schadler recommends you also evaluate tools considering:

  • Quality user experience
  • Predictable costs
  • Support for smart devices including mobile phones (And now tablets – I just used GoToMeeting on an iPad and it was great!)
  • Easy integration with other collaboration tools such as email or a stored document
  • Integration with existing VoIP for audioconferences

Have you had successful or poor experiences with video conferences and conference-supporting software? What happened?

LINK: The Forrester Wave™: Web Conferencing, Q2 2010

Webinar: 5 Strategies for Leading Diverse, Distributed Teams to Success, Citrix and Forrester

The Lazy Project Manager's Blog

The Home of Productive Laziness Thoughts

Thoughts, experience, tips and tricks on issues affecting managers and project management

A Girl's Guide to Project Management

Project Management musings for one and all

LeadingAnswers: Leadership and Agile Project Management Blog

Thoughts, experience, tips and tricks on issues affecting managers and project management

Project Management Hut

Thoughts, experience, tips and tricks on issues affecting managers and project management

Herding Cats

Thoughts, experience, tips and tricks on issues affecting managers and project management


Pushing the Edges Out ...


Just another site