Thoughts on ethics in project management.
I was recently asked to talk on any professionally relevant topic of my choice before a large PMP credentialed audience in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
Heralding from the Marine Corps my first answer was leadership. Sadly, that option had been taken by some other lucky fella. Were I back in the Marines their next choice would undoubtedly be on the topic of ethics and character within the workspace. How do the concepts of ethics and morality play against each other in the work environment where we are asked so frequently to compromise ourselves so we can keep our jobs or just “go with the flow”.
Well my friends, I’m no diviner of final objective truths but what I can offer are a variety of good reasons why it’s best practice and policy to approach your projects with humility, an attitude for learning and a bit of self-worth and dignity that we may never feel we much compromise ourselves.
A person’s integrity and their character will inform others of your brand. Are you reliable? Dependable? We’re talking about making the right choices for their own sake but are there not practical benefits for simply doing right by your staff, your clients, vendors or indeed the recipients of your goods and services? Your brand and reputation will precede you. If you have a storied history of cutting corners, looking the other way or indeed not taking positive action when you see something wrong and thus become part of that problem in your complicity you are not doing yourself or the work culture around you any favors.
Staying in business is of course just one part of why you are in business for whatever it is you do. There are all kinds of climates out there on the range from toxic to ideal. We have a lot to say about best practices and lessons learned if we really want to actualize a business environment conducive to honesty, transparency and a name for doing right by others. Others here are defined as your stakeholders as well as your vendors and indeed… your very staff. None of these relationships can exist silo’d off and away from each other. Understanding what your business code of ethics is helps you blend those elements with the quality of work you do and in turn promotes your brand and encourages business growth.
You don’t want to just have one good business deal, you want repeat business. How does choking a customer or client on a one-time high fee only to lose their business afterward. What about that proposal you submitted? How much quality is behind that? Will you stand on it? Put your signature to it? You might win that proposal but how much of that was luck? You want to be competitive and you want to win more proposals (ideally) and you get better each time. You want to capitalize on that success with future endeavors and you do that by incorporating and blending best practices in terms of having a consistent reputation of being transparent, cost effective, reliable on time and budget, bankable. Holding yourself and your organization to a higher standard becomes mutually profitable.
The upshot of all this is of course we want to do the right thing but it becomes a little harder to do in a lot of gray areas in life and the workplace. Allow yourselves to be human. Understanding time and place, flexibility, creative options means you are aware of the decisions that are in front of you and you are being an active participant in the choices that follow. Working for an INGO like Helen Keller International means I have to hold myself as well as my colleagues to a higher standard. I’m often kept on my toes and I thank my team for that. Remember my friends, the light at the end of the tunnel might be you.