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George is a newly hired project manager. It was his dream to join the company, a start-up on artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning in education. Working with digital disrupted technology was something he has waiting for a long time.
As a project manager, he is aware of the rise of these technologies and has decided to “get his feet wet” and develop his knowledge base with these concepts. In a recent read George become aware that according to Gartner 1, by 2020, AI will generate 2.3 million jobs, and $2.9 trillion in business value by 2021. “AI is one of the most important things humanity is working on. It is more profound than […] electricity or fire”, indicates Google’s CEO2.
George is so ready to lead this project! Using the existing data base of client information, via a customer-centric approach, using AI and machine learning the client information will be analyzed, identifying patterns, and predictive capabilities to enrich and develop customized education products. With a global user-based audience the company is seeking to create long-lasting products that support, meet and exceed customers’ expectations.
The day of the kickoff meeting come, George met his team of data engineer, data scientist, infrastructure engineering, training specialists. The discussions were heated, as the project was very interesting, the deliverables were heavy, some of them a novelty in the field, but with strict and short deadlines as the company wanted to “break the ice” on the market with their products. The team was so excited, eager to apply knowledge and start the work. Right away they shared concerns towards the processes, the products to be created /delivered, and the impact on the users.
During the meeting the team posed a variety of ethical questions related to how AI and machine learning impact the current and future of the project and the deliverables.
Tom, the data engineer asked about the ethical considerations on this strategic project, and the role of the company’s leadership?
George recalled a recent issue on this topic of Brightline™ 3 and he immediately shared the insights:
The data scientist, the two software developers asked George if accessing the existing database of client information using AI and machine learning there are digital ethics and privacy concern, and how the users trust will be built, and maintained.
Personal information is sensitive and valuable, said George, and users may want access control over them. Fairness, trust, consent, protection of the individual privacy, the choice of users on how their information is to be used are just a few of the ethical aspects to be investigated.
The team engaged in the broader topic of digital ethics, how privacy and security are key elements in building trust. The team will share best practices and be early adopters of the ones that support the needs of their project.
The ethical quest continued on the ethical principles of the organization. George indicated that the journey of developing a digital ethical framework on the use of the disrupted technology is just in its early stages, as the company was moving from “are we compliant” toward “are we doing the right thing”, a bold move from compliance-driven organizations to ethics-driven organizations.
For defining the ethical principles of AI, on how AI is used in a fair and trust-building way, George suggested to the team a series of approaches, among which a European approach.The team agreed to continue the conversation for finding a model that support their organizational and project context. (Source: AI Finland: https://www.tekoalyaika.fi/en/background/ethics/ )5
The entire team was eager to learn about the ethics resources in place. George shared the company’s Code of Ethics, and reminded the team that responsibility, respect, fairness, and honesty 6 are the core values in their work; he has shared the compendium of PMI ethics resources 7 , including the practical tools of the Ethics in Project Management Toolkit 8. It is George’s commitment to discuss ethics in each of the weekly meetings of the team and ensure that concerns are addressed, leadership is involved, and stakeholders are properly informed.
The kick-off meeting was indeed one of a kind, as it was the project that everybody was so looking forward to advance. The team agreed to continue to engage in these conversations and support the organization throughout the development of the necessary policies, guidelines and tools that will bring run business ethically while addressing user needs and stakeholders’ expectations.
George realized that for this project ethics will be the status quo item on the agenda of the project team throughout the lifecycle of the project. As a project manager, he was ready to start his learning journey and take the team with him in developing their digital competencies, and project management skills and knowledge.
Digital disrupted technology, digital transformation will result in more projects like this one or may be embedded as components of any other type of project, bringing ethics at the forefront of the discussion.
As a project manager, from your experience, what else could George do for his team to better support them to be “ethically equipped” during this interesting but challenging project?
What is the role of the team in all this time and what actions should they take?
How should the internal and external stakeholders be made aware and be involved?
As project managers what is our stance towards the four core values and how can we make sure that we do the right thing?
Thanks for sharing your insights and your experience.
DISCLAIMER: The names, roles in this story are fictional. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
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Ethics and project managers in an era of digitalization
Digitalization of organizations in private and public sector is perceived as a natural move that organically was created by the technological advancement of the last 10-20 years. This shift at strategic and operational level bring changes to the organization and their people, from the work environment, and work style, to culture, technological adaptation, tools, communication, learning, with direct impact on the current employee, and their leaders.
As leaders, project managers and their teams are engaged in this wave of changes, and transformations that impact them.
With access to technology, with projects co-located, with virtual work environment becoming a norm, practically project managers and their project team manipulate and use information using in-house systems, communication platforms, and very often social media.
In this blog, I encourage you to join me in a generic case, hypothetical, that describes a social media situation, and does not refer to an instance.
As project managers, we comply and obey the PMI Code of Ethics, the Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct , the code of the organization that employs us, and sometimes the code for
Emily is a senior project manager at a federal government department and currently manages a large team engaged in the delivery of an IT project. Emily is very proud of her team and very keen to usually complete timely and successfully the projects she manages. Emily is a top-notch specialist, well respected in her field, with PMI certifications, well known for her ethical values and her ability to “speak truth to power”.
Most recently Emily worked on a status report of the project she currently manages; here, she explicitly demonstrated the difficulties and challenges of the project, that is over the budget, behind schedule, has unexpected changes in the business requirements; Emily also detailed the authority challenges she is faced with, as a project manager, in dealing with the executive group of decision-makers.
Emily is very involved in social media, and she is present on almost all the current platforms. She is engaged in numerous professional networks, where she actively interacts, on a weekly and sometimes daily basis with peers and her network, work colleagues, and the professional community.
In a recent blog, Emily wrote about the challenges project managers in federal government face on each project they manage. Emily described very vividly in her blog the challenges she and her team are facing and presented a real picture of the recent difficulties she and her team is dealing with. Emily expressed her personal beliefs on the work environment, the organization and the success of projects, and complained about the short-sighted decision of senior management. Emily asked her network to comment and as days went by Emily saw an increased volume of responses from users of various social media platforms who started to comment, critique, offered ideas and views and making direct and indirect connections with Emily’s current job and project. Emily found herself in an overwhelming situation!
Do you think that Emily’s’ recent blog, her social media interest and her active presence on social media have something to do with ethics and the values of respect, responsibility, fairness, and honesty?
How should project managers behave on social media and what responsibility do they have to their team, and their employers?
What do we want project managers to know about the Code of Ethics and use of social media?
Is Emily in breach of the Values and Ethics Code?
As project managers, we have a conduit aligned to the PMI Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct (https://www.pmi.org/-/media/pmi/documents/public/pdf/ethics/pmi-code-of-ethics.pdf),
“As practitioners of project management, we are committed to doing what is right and honorable. We set high standards for ourselves and we aspire to meet these standards in all aspects of our lives—at work, at home, and in service to our profession.”.
For more ethical resources please visit: https://www.pmi.org/about/ethics.
Lily Murariu M. Eng. DBA in Project Management(c)
Ethics and Governance in Project Management: Small Sins Allowed and the Line of Impunity (Eduardo Victor Lopez and Alicia Medina) (Book Review: Reviewer - Lily Murariu, Canada, 2017)
Ethics and Governance in Project Management: Small Sins Allowed and the Line of Impunity (Eduardo Victor Lopez and Alicia Medina)
” Ethics must be cardinal to the overall management of any project, instead of merely a peripheral subject”.
In an era of tremendous growth of project management as an occupation, professional project managers, ready, well-equipped, and capable to deliver successful projects become more and more in demand and a highly-valued commodity.
For the past few decades there were intense and continue need of continue development of this class of blue collars, for cultivating technical skills along with soft skills, and strong ethics knowledge. This journey supports one’s trip within the complex realm of ethical aspects, with consideration of ramifications that ethics creates for project success.
Eduardo Victor Lopez and Alicia Medina brings their valuable work on ethics to the forefront and attention of project management. The book is an eulogy to the ethics culture in an organization, and to the relationship between ethics, ethical behaviours and governance.
In the ““Ethics and Governance in Project Management” Small Sins Allowed and the Line of Impunity”, the authors engage the reader in a journey on new perspectives on ethics, using a breadth of resources, in a well-documented, and well-researched material.
Lopez and Medina introduce the facets and complexities of ethics by building a parallel exercise with the Rubik Cube. Since its apparition, back in 1974, the Rubik Cube, identified as an eponymous cube, impacted art, design, science, engineering, math; it challenges humankind to explore the intricacies of this unique structure, the different perspectives and views it creates, while seeking innovative way for solving it. This context presents similarities to the project environment and the need for solving ethics problems. “We are of different opinion at different hours, but we always may be said to be at heart on the side of truth.” This parallel perspective invites the reader to consider out-of-the box, fresh perspectives for ethic situation, and the authors discuss the mindset needed for evaluation of business ethics and its influence, exploring three main key concepts: ethics, context, and governance.
How important is ethics and governance in project management? “When an ethical component is included in the vision of a project … it can move stakeholders at large to support this visions for reasons beyond those arising only from a financial nexus. The ability to fulfil the project’s social purpose influences its success”. The research conducted by the authors fill the noticed gap, the connection and the dependency between strategy and ethics, as “Most of the publications related to strategic planning throughout 1980s, and early 1990, omitted any mention of ethical and moral trues…” strategy and ethics are considered separate and unrelated matters”.
The novelty of the book is the unique ethical model and the two new ethical behaviours, interdependent to governance and its quality, and the context: Small Sins Allowed defined as “the mechanism that allow individuals to cheat on our own values “just by a bit”, concept defined as the updated socially accepted ethical standards, in the context of double standards, legality, and project culture, and, The Line of Impunity that impact at the individual level, creating a “detachment between business and ethics as many believe themselves as above the moral law”.
The book’s style, content and format supports scholars and practitioners in nourishing their appetite for ethics knowledge, understanding of origins, linkages, and implications with other research areas. Readers will find the book immediately useful as the examples used are grounded in the reality, with immediate applicability to their day-to-day line of business. The case studies presented and the quizzes create smooth linkages between the topic and their relatedness to the reality. These tools give the book the taste of a well-defined ethics guide that can support equally a practitioner, a novice or a senior project manager.
An excellent lecture, the book calls project managers to become aware of Small Sins Allowed and The Line of Impunity, build their own Rubik Cube, identify ethical attributes of their cube, and support the creation of an ethical culture embedded in the governance “that rewards ethical behaviour”.
The end of the year is a generous time when we all expect to give and receive, to go over the year’s achievements and to prepare for the New Year.
For project managers, and for all professionals involved in management of projects, programs and portfolios, the month of December 2016 brought a historical and ground breaking development. The U.S. President Barack Obama signed bill S.1550, the Program Management Improvement and Accountability Act of 2015 (PMIAA).
With this law in place, the CxO class (CEOs, CIOs and CFOs) in the agencies of the U.S. federal government are now directed to use and apply project and program standards in their work. This is a major shift in management practices, with direct social and economic impact, not only in the United States but also around the world.
The Project Management Institute (PMI) has been a strong advocate for the professionalization and recognition of project and program management as an occupation. This cause has been pursued since the late 1960s, and the support now offered by the U.S. federal government is the crowning achievement of over five decades of professional advocacy. The message is clear not only for the professionals in private and public sector in the United States: Project management brings professionalism, accountability, efficiency and ultimately success to any management agenda. Our hope is that the impact and implications will serve as the basis for similar government initiatives around the world.
Let’s examine this monumental achievement, which supports the process of professionalization of project and program management, and see how ethics comes into play.
PMI and others have exerted intense and prolonged efforts to move toward the professionalization of project and program management. These efforts have combined creation of standards, education in project and program management, defining the right skill sets and suggesting, via thought leadership, ways to improve business practices. But these practices must go hand in hand with ethics and high integrity, as they are the nexus of business and strategy for any value-based professional activity.
Sharing the responsibility for benefits in the field of professional project, program and portfolio management requires ethics, as well as “values” in the form of general ethical principles on how professionals should treat the people they work with and what sorts of actions are regarded as right or wrong.
With the PMIAA, the CxO class is called upon to engage their businesses in ethical practices in a desire to do the right thing, and convince stakeholders of their capability of doing the right thing, thus achieving the right thing!
The ability to “do the right thing” should be enabled internationally with the appropriate regulatory support and legislation being enacted by additional governments world-wide.
We applaud the efforts and support of the United States federal government, and hope more jurisdictions will follow their lead.