The Triple Constraint of Project Ethics

PMI United Kingdom Chapter

Ian Whittingham, PMP is a Program Manager in the Business Transformation group of a leading global news and information company. The views expressed here are his own. You may contact the author directly at

What does it mean to be an ethical person? It’s a question that has engaged the minds of philosophers for over two-and-a-half millennia. But the English language has an unambiguously simple and succinct answer to that question. It means: Do the right thing.

We might then ask, well, what does doing the right thing mean for me, as a project manager? It’s a question that the Project Management Institute (PMI) provides an answer to in its Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct.

Doing the Right Thing
In fact, in its very first sentence, the Code affirms this common sense idea of what it means to be an ethical project manager: “As practitioners of project management, we are committed to doing what is right and honorable.”

To be an ethical project practitioner is therefore to act--to do something--in a way that not only achieves a successful outcome, but is beneficial in the doing of it; that is, is performed in a manner that creates its own beneficial outcome. Again, in its simplest terms, to be an ethical person is to behave in ways that are good--good in ways that create and inspire positive values whose outcome is beneficial.

Section 1.4 of the Code is very clear on what those positive values are. In formulating the Code, PMI drew on the experience and insight of project practitioners and the …

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