An Introduction to Ethics and Project Management

Michael R. Wood is a Business Process Improvement & IT Strategist Independent Consultant. He is creator of the business process-improvement methodology called HELIX and founder of The Natural Intelligence Group, a strategy, process improvement and technology consulting company. He is also a CPA, has served as an Adjunct Professor in Pepperdine's Management MBA program, an Associate Professor at California Lutheran University, and on the boards of numerous professional organizations. Mr. Wood is a sought after presenter of HELIX workshops and seminars in both the U.S. and Europe.

Every major profession--accounting, law, medicine and yes, project management--subscribes to a set of ethics and supporting code of conduct. Ethics is a broad and extensive concept. Universities like Warton and Harvard even offer masters and doctoral programs in ethics. There is much similarity in each profession’s definition of ethics and professional conduct, and yet they are not identical. This raises the question as to whether ethics is an absolute concept or is relative to the culture, organization, profession, environment, times and more.

In addition, there are different philosophies related to ethics ranging from the pragmatic to the situational interpretations. Clearly, within a profession, compliance to each’s code of conduct is critical to maintaining your professional standing in that space. This applies to those credentialed in project management; short of a formal complaint or review by the credentialing organization happening, there is much grey area that needs to be explored as to what constitutes ethical behavior within the day-to-day oversight and management of a project.

For me, ethical professionals--beyond being honest, responsible, respectful and fair--share some common traits when it comes to acting on and resolving ethical issues (definitions adapted from Merriam Webster’s dictionary):

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