Project Management

Ethics Bistro

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We all tackle ethical dilemmas. Wrong decisions can break careers. Which are the key challenges faced? What are some likely solutions? Where can we find effective tools? Who can apply these and why? Dry, theoretical discussions don't help. Join us for lively, light conversations to learn, share and grow!

About this Blog


View Posts By:

Kimberly Whitby
Simona Bonghez
Karthik Ramamurthy
Alankar Karpe
Fabio Rigamonti
Mohamed Hassan
Valerie Denney
John Watson
Deepa Bhide
Amany Nuseibeh
Enrique Cappella
Gretta Kelzi
Albert Agbemenu

Past Contributors:

Lily Murariu

Recent Posts

The A, B, C’s of Ethics

The Traps of a Conflict of Interest

Is there something called an ethical protest?

Avoiding the Alligators While Navigating Uncharted Territory

Ethics as a competence of the Portfolio Program Project Manager: a personal journey.

Viewing Posts by Enrique Cappella

Ethics as a competence of the Portfolio Program Project Manager: a personal journey.

Hello, welcome to our blog. I would like to share a personal story and some lessons learned about ethics as a new competence for Project Managers. I will appreciate your comments and feedback.

Some 20 years ago, I was recruited by a Global Corporation and was tasked to implement their Resource Management Systems for the Service Delivery Practice. I was engaged to the implementation of the Resource Management policies and systems within the Project Management Practice to achieve project success. The Resource Management program was designed to assign the right people, with the right skills and the right cost to the billable projects. At that time, the purpose was to “deliver the project and collect the revenue”. A new ethics policy was issued shortly after I began.  I was not sure why we needed ethics in an IT management delivery division. We were required to review the ethics principles and declare that we understood those principles and sign that we agree with the company code. There was a lot of resistance from my direct reports and contributors. “Why ethics?” was the common comment, and of course “it is just another unnecessary and not useful requirement on our already overcharged workload”.

Soon after we learned about the consequences in the industry and in the overall market of the Enron fraudulent case and the enacting of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX)[1].  Then we understood the need for a framework to prevent incorrect behaviors (Ethics!). The ethics initiative started to make sense and we understood the need for ethics in several contexts. Since then, ethics has been a must have and my new challenge was how to change behaviors and habits in myself and my team members to do the right things and to do the things right. This was especially challenging in some countries in the Latin America (LA) region where corruption is endemic.

Today, PPPMs (Portfolio, Program and Project Managers) are challenged with new technologies, approaches and resources. They are also challenged to develop new competences that are considered critical to increase their employability. Some of the new competences are described in several papers and leading books, such as agile, communication, leadership, influencing, negotiation and others. In parallel one can observe the need for a set of new habits and behaviors that creates credibility and trust and therefore a greater leadership capacity.

Such sets of behaviors and habits are part of ethics and professional conduct. Organizations are demanding that their contributors and contractors make visible the “doing the right thing and doing this the right way”. Ethics is a competence that allows the organization to increase its sales, make sustainable deals and become an employer of choice.

In my experience as a keynote speaker in several chapter events in Latin America during the last few years, every time I talk about Ethics, I perceive that the audience are not convinced of the importance of the subject, especially young participants.  When I ask for feedback to my presentation, they tell me: “Yes, it was an interesting subject” or “Yes, I liked your presentation”, but not as enthusiastic as when I present about tools and techniques. Why is it so difficult for average participants to become attracted by ethics? Probably they don´t see the immediate use and benefits.  Maybe they perceive that ethics is for someone else and not for me. Other comments I receive are related to what´s in it for me? At other times, the comment is “Ok, ethics is important, but how can I become more ethical?”

I am convinced that it is not possible to be successful if the tools and techniques are not properly matched with a set of behaviors that convince key stakeholders that personal ethical values are not negotiable.

I leaned that it is easier to promote ethics if it is perceived as set of competences that can be developed (as many other skills and competences). This can be accomplished by creating an awareness, the desire for ethics behaviors and a plan to develop the new behaviors. The motivation and desire to develop the competencies differ according to the person´s filters. However, there is not a simple recipe for everyone. In some instances, the orientation to tasks and quick achievements will motivate individuals. In other cases, the motivation is the process, the welfare of others, or the flexibility.

Once you create the awareness and the individual is willing to develop the new habits and behaviors, they need to be able to find the tools and techniques that help them transform the ethics principles into a new set of behaviors and habits. The PMI Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct (the “Code”) and the Ethics Tool Kit are great resources for practitioners to start and sustain their journey. For further Information on the code and the Ethics Tool Kit, please visit


[1] In 2002, Sarbanes-Oxley was named after bill sponsors U.S. Senator Paul Sarbanes (D-MD) and U.S. Representative Michael G. Oxley (R-OH). As a result of SOX, top management must individually certify the accuracy of financial information. In addition, penalties for fraudulent financial activity are much more severe. Also, SOX increased the oversight role of boards of directors and the independence of the outside auditors who review the accuracy of corporate financial statements.[1]

Posted by Enrique Cappella on: May 12, 2020 09:53 AM | Permalink | Comments (6)

Effective communication in COVID-19 crisis needs responsibility, respect, fairness, and honesty.

Effective communication in COVID-19 crisis needs responsibility, respect, fairness, and honesty.

Enrique Cappella, PMP.


Organizations and people are struggling to adapt to the new “normal” work environment and obtain high performance and quality. Working from home in a remote fashion using technology is becoming a powerful tool for business continuity. New concepts of teamwork and social interaction are emerging and the role of the Project manager as a Team Leader is changing. The challenge is to reduce the impact on the new policies (remote meetings, home working, etc.) to handle the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on performance and operations, however it is also an opportunity for preparing the teams to work on hybrid contexts (remote and face to face). The Hybrid Teams bring isolation of the members in remote environments at home or at a work location away from their social support and means a change for people and not all accepts such change. I assist organizations on Strategic Management and one of the Key Success Factors is building and maintain high performance teams that help the organization to achieve their expected results and contribute to the business strategy. Strategic management is already a challenge itself and it is now increased due to the need to protect people and obtain productivity from hybrid teams. It is a change for which not all leaders in the organization are ready for and this gap might impact negatively on team performance and achievement of targets and goals.

I experienced recently the breaking down of a team in a global company. The team was built during the last 3 years, because its leader did not have the skills to communicate effectively the new way of working and to satisfy the team members expectations and needs. A global team of 5 people, running a critical role for the company, lost 3 members and the remaining 2 members are demotivated and their targets are not being achieved.

Leaders need to be aware about their role in this new challenge brought by the global Corona Virus COVD 19. They need to prepare their teams to use new technologies, to adapt to the new reality, and to run meetings and control performance in a virtual fashion. The leader will not have the visual clues of motivation or conflict and need to be available to answer new questions from the team. The new leader needs to learn how to provide for constructive feedback and motivate people using a set of new tools provided by technology different from traditional face to face work schemes. Workers will feel that they are losing connections with the persons that help them during work hours and many will need to adjust their habits and discipline along with keeping self - motivated and work at home where distractions are permanent.

The leader in my example above is not trained or skilled on interpersonal relationships and was not prepared to help the team members to become self-aware of their motivations and strengths needed to understand the change and how to prevent and manage their interpersonal conflict. And nothing was said in preparation to understand other member´s motivations and to learn a communication style for virtual high team performance. The result was that 3 members preferred to leave the company.

Leaders need to develop a new set of values and behaviors and also they need to be honest to recognize that a new set of skills and competences are needed to help teams to overcome uncertainty and build trust and motivation to perform on the hybrid context. I had the opportunity to talk to the team members that left the company and the three of them decided to leave mainly because their manager (supposedly their leader) was not able to keep them connected to the organization. I remember the book “It’s the manager” I recently read by Clifton and Harter[i] which I recommend because it stresses the importance of the role that the manager plays to connect people.

PMI Ethical Values  helps leaders to remember that our team members are people that perceive threatens that will drive them into conflict if they don´t understand their leaders and the new challenges; and once they are in conflict, they will forget about the organization and might get to the point to think only about surviving. Leaders must keep in mind that people need to be Respected and treated Fairly to keep their well-being and also they need to become aware of the Responsibility to develop a new set of behaviors that will motivate and connect their team members. Leaders should be Honest with themselves and their teams about his/her strengths and weaknesses and develop team agreements that help them to build high performance teams.



[1] Clifton, Jim and Harter Jim, It´s the manager, Gallup Press, 2019.

Posted by Enrique Cappella on: April 02, 2020 01:26 PM | Permalink | Comments (20)

"Drawing on my fine command of language, I said nothing."

- Mark Twain