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
Karthik Ramamurthy
Mohamed Hassan
Deepa Bhide
Gretta Kelzi
Albert Agbemenu
Lissa Muncer
Bryan Shelby
Deborah OBray

Past Contributors:

Lily Murariu
Alankar Karpe
Amany Nuseibeh
Fabio Rigamonti
Simona Bonghez
John Watson
Valerie Denney
Majeed Hosseiney
Enrique Cappella
Rocio Briceno

Recent Posts

Ethical Impact: The importance of prioritising an Environmental Social Governance (ESG) Strategy

No Good Options – Now What?

Back to office? A challenge or breeze?

Post Pandemic, Navigating through this period…

Governmental Projects: Are there any ethical considerations?

Ethical Impact: The importance of prioritising an Environmental Social Governance (ESG) Strategy

Categories: Ethics Insight Team

We have been called to action. 

Traditionally organisations were challenged to balance corporate social responsibility with increasing revenue and cost optimisation. Currently organisations have been called to action: to effectively and rapidly introduce an ethical Environment, Social and Governance (ESG) strategy.  A clear ESG strategy is executed through ESG goals (a set target that would need to be achieved to address a particular ESG issue) and a regenerative / change mindset and culture. 

Those who have already embarked on this journey are likely to be experiencing several challenges which are explored in detail during this discussion. These include conflicting ESG goals, the need to adapt governance and to ethically report on the progress of these goals to a variety of expectant stakeholders. 

Firstly, ESG goals can include carbon neutral, net-zero carbon, circular economy, biodiversity, ethical raw products, re-used and renewable, diversity, ethics, gender equality, partnership goals, innovation, health and wellbeing. These goals currently compete with profit and each other. 

Cyrus Mewawalla of GlobalData, suggests “The reluctance of many CEOs to fully engage with sustainability can be attributed to the age-old view that it will hurt profits. However, GlobalData’s research suggests the opposite. Companies that embrace all three elements of ESG will outperform their peers. CEOs that are too slow to improve their company’s approach to sustainability will see an exodus of customers and a drop in profits far sooner than they ever imagined.” 

How we address conflicting goals introduces the second challenge of how we adapt our governance to measure and manage our ESG agenda. 

According to the Global Data survey, 2022, two thirds of executives reported that “inadequate governance practices make it more likely that companies will fail to meet their ESG goals.” 

Return of Investment (ROI), prioritisation, risk management and data governance will need to be adjusted to include ESG goals to balance profit with planet. Milestones will need to be clear and escalations will need to acted upon both timeously and effectively.  Governance will need to include the upskilling of practitioners to sharpen their sustainability orchestration, transformation and education across the organisation to introduce and mature a regenerative change mindset. 

An ethical decision-making framework will need to be introduced or adapted to enhance the governance, for complex and competing ethical decision making. Organisations will need to continue to focus on a culture of Responsibility, Respect, Fairness and Honesty to create a systemic environment from the PMI Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct. 

The third challenge is to ethically report on the progress of ESG goals - managing varied stakeholder expectations. These differ according to drivers and intent, both internally and externally. These range from shareholders, empowered employees, board members, influencers / brand ambassadors and product consumers.  What will the accountability of an organisation be to its stakeholders for not meeting their ESG goals? Will this be scrutinised and measured with interest and intent as much as profit? Regardless of how we will assess our ESG goals in the short and long term, it is encouraged that progress against ESG goals are reported honestly and authentically. 

In conclusion, the discussion of the introduction / advancement of an ESG strategy and goals is timeous with the recent launch of PMI’s ESG hub and partnership with Green Project Management (GPM). 



Posted by Lissa Muncer on: September 14, 2022 12:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (8)

No Good Options – Now What?


Petra and Tracy are former university classmates and friends. After graduation, Petra became a philosophy professor and Tracy went into construction project management. In recent years they have taken a long walk each morning before starting their days. Sometimes they talk about life and family, and sometimes about work. Today, Tracy was clearly troubled and needed Petra’s perspective.

“I’ve got a problem and I don’t know what to do,” she said. “You’re the ethicist, maybe you have an idea!”

“Please go on, my child” replied Petra with a smile (she is all of 12 days older). “How can I help?”

“You know I’ve been given the JKL Tower project, right? It’s the biggest project in the city right now, and I’m wondering if I’m up to it. The architectural team has defined certain required tolerances for the building – the specifics aren’t important – but they far exceed what is required by the relevant regulations.”

“Well, that makes sense,” interjected Petra. “Sort of a belt and braces approach, right?”

A person wearing a hard hat and holding a piece of paper    Description automatically generated“Exactly, but the construction manager is insisting on observing the regulatory limits, not the ones in the plans. He says the extra expense is unnecessary, there are supply chain delays in getting the alternative materials that the architects have requested, and the regulatory tolerances are more than enough to ensure safety. If we go with his approach, no one will ever know because the work will legitimately pass inspection and then be covered up and invisible, so it is very tempting. If, instead, I insist on following the plans, then we are sure to be over budget and late, and he will be sure to blame me.. I see no good solution, just two bad choices.”

“Ah, the classic ‘horns of a dilemma’ problem,” observed Petra. “How do you plan to resolve this?”

“Well, the issue is crystal clear, I don’t need to research it further. And, I have considered all the possible alternatives and analyzed the pros and cons of each – really, these are the only two that I see. Anything in between would combine the worst features of both!”

“So if I insist on implementing the architect’s requirements, I will be blamed for the cost and schedule overruns but will have met their requirements. On the other hand, if I follow the recommendation of the construction manager, I will have met the regulatory requirements but ignored those of the architects and may even have compromised safety.”

A picture containing scale, device, arranged    Description automatically generatedPetra considered this carefully. “We’ve talked about this before. The key values of your profession are Responsibility, Respect, Fairness, and Honesty. Which choice more closely aligns with them? Think that through, and consider how you’d justify your answer to the investors, the eventual residents, or for that matter, your great-grandmother? How would you feel if your choice turned out to be trending on Twitter? I can’t recommend an answer, you have to do that yourself – but whichever way you go, you and everyone else will have to live with the result.”

“Thanks,” said Tracy. “You’ve given me a lot to ponder. I’ll let you know what I decide.”

What would you do in this situation? Would the PMI Ethical Decision-Making Framework help Tracy resolve this question? Have you encountered similar tough questions that you’d like to share?

Posted by Bryan Shelby on: June 02, 2022 12:10 PM | Permalink | Comments (9)

Back to office? A challenge or breeze?

Categories: Change management, Ethics

Mary sat sipping coffee in the bistro chatting with her colleagues. One of them was describing her challenges around returning to the office and the others were listening intently.

“I don’t think I can go back to office to work. I am searching for a new job that suits my requirements. I see challenges managing my home and work front. Besides, I am not sure why are we being called to the office? Our team has been excelling in the work even as we work from home”  - a colleague

“Yes, me too. The work-life balance has been redesigned to suit this new reality; I am enjoying my motherhood as well as being a professional at work. I think the culture of the organization matters. It’s important to discover if it’s a command-and-control type or it is de-centralised and manages more by outcomes. It also depends on your rapport with your manager and how flexible he/she is to your requests”  - another colleague quipped

“I think the pandemic accelerated the adoption of an adaptive model of work leveraging the  benefits of using technology. Companies took advantage of it to diversify its workforce, acquire new businesses, learn new technologies, and gain agility for moving their specific business units across the globe. Isn’t that cool?” – the discussion was getting interesting

“Yes, of course! There is a lot that we all have gained. For me, personally, reduction in travel made a lot sense. I am not a travel enthusiast but had always felt a lot of travel was unnecessary and detrimental to the environment in the long run. But, on a flip side, when some units just cannot have a work from home (eg healthcare workforce), I also see issues such as disparity in compensation, career progression, preference of careers etc. This can cause a dissatisfaction. Technology to monitor employee behavior may seem like micromanagement causing employee dissatisfaction. And last but not the least, I think I will miss the team bonding that happened over coffee and in corridors”.

“Oh yes, there are numerous challenges that will hound us. But I think the benefits of a new hybrid model of work will prevail over the disadvantages”

Mary was silently listening to her colleagues as they battled over these contemporary topics.

“I agree with you all. In all this maze of benefits and challenges, what I think is important is being ethical in your work. Ethical values are key to sustainability and success and in the long term, where businesses and organizations will thrive in the new model of work, it’s only the ethical principles that will help drive positive outcomes. Didn’t we experience this the last couple of years? While we saw our near and dear ones grappling with unprecedented situations, organizations across the globe, their own ways, supported them to the best of their abilities. The empathy was evident from their support.

The organizations, no doubt had multiple challenges and I found PMI Ethics resources are a good reference.  When faced with ethical challenges at work, I would refer to PMI’s Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct to support in decision making.

Hey, at the end of the day, it’s happiness that matters; isn’t it?- Mary concluded

The group fell silent as Mary’s comments on ethical values were echoing in their minds.

Do they resonate with you too? Would like to hear from you.


Posted by Deepa Bhide on: March 21, 2022 11:18 AM | Permalink | Comments (13)

Post Pandemic, Navigating through this period…

Categories: volunteers

A couple of years ago in my last blog, right before being invaded by the pandemic, , I asked myself and the community about how to be more sustainable in this disruptive age, and answered myself that we are ready if we stick to our ethical values, as leaders.

After two years, where for some of us,  life and workstyles have changed, I have launched a discussion earlier in February 2022,   asking the community about how to navigate through the period after the pandemic.

I am sharing, in this blog, the interesting insights and ideas that were shared by the community.

Professionals and project management practitioners stated that “binding project work and deliverables with a ring of ethics is crucial to bring the value of those deliverables for the project. Regardless of the leadership styles of the project manager, upholding ethical values should be MANDATORY”.  

With maturity and experience, basic ethical values are the key to a long term success, the power of a project manager comes from respect and trust achieved through honesty, fairness, transparency, and integrity.”

Moreover, there is an emphasis on creating a balance between the values to satisfy employers, the profession, and practitioners.

An interesting opinion to share with the readers is that what the globe is going through is not a transition, this is a long-time reality that was accelerated due to the pandemic. This is a continuation of the process of evolution. People are always transitioning while values are the only CONSTANT.

Before ending my blog, I want to share with you the story of my dear friend Albert Agbemenu:

I worked on a project last year during the peak of the pandemic. The project involved the design of some buildings and infrastructure for a new mine. Being the project manager, I initially thought it was going to be the most difficult assignment, especially so when I never had the opportunity to meet most of the team members with who I was going remotely work with.  The only platform we had to meet was virtually to review work and discuss reports. Part of the team was located in Australia whilst the others were here with me in Africa, but yet still not co-located. I was working from my small space on the dining table reaching out to the rest of the team (multicultural). One thing that was clear to every one of us from the outset was the need for having these ethical values. With that in mind, we were able to work across a time zone of 8 hours of difference. This routine continued for almost one year and the project was completed without any single conflict, due to the values we all carried along positively.

The story ends with a confirmation that living by these values is just as important in normal times as in uncertain periods.

These values should not only be dependent on a particular situation or period. They must be embedded in the sleeves of the diligent project manager. That said, these values should not be difficult to implement in a virtual project. Constantly upholding these ethical values should be a lifestyle of the project manager.

As a recap of what was said, top things to remember:

  • Values and principles are constant through all times
  • Values and principles start with the individual
  • Values and principles are not tied to a specific profession
  • Values and principles are the key to a balanced and successful journey


In light of what was said, one of the received feedback is that it is inevitable to find tools and techniques to make sure that right things are done promptly.

As an answer to this, PMI/EIT have created the PMI Practitioner Ethics Toolkit. The tool includes a rich set of resources to assist PMI practitioners understand, identify, and proactively manage ethical issues.


Finally, Honesty, trust, fairness, transparency, integrity are the values that will help us navigate through all times.

How many of us, as professionals are upholding those values? And how much the ecosystems we are operating inside are fostering the adoption of those values?



Posted by Gretta Kelzi on: March 06, 2022 04:48 AM | Permalink | Comments (6)

Governmental Projects: Are there any ethical considerations?

Categories: Ambassadors, Ethics, volunteers

Some people still think that the most important projects are in the private sector, however, governments are the ones that are responsible for creating and establishing the society we want to live in.

Saying that questions emerge:

  • Why are government projects failing?
  • Why do we still have corruption in the planning and execution of these kinds of projects?
  • Is it a leadership problem?
  • Or is it because there are good and bad leaders, where bad leaders are in the power?

From a human perspective, people are just people, with light and dark sides.

Leaders are exposed to take decisions at all times in their projects, they should decide what should be right or wrong with public funds, having a direct impact on the expectations of the population living in poverty, that’s why ethics in project management are fundamental while making those decisions.

Al Capone, one of the biggest gangsters in history, even at the end of his days in jail, when people asked him if he was a bad person, he honestly answered: “no, I just wanted to do what is good”.  Several sociologists and psychologists went into deep analysis of his answers, find out that he was not lying, he was truly convinced that he was doing what was good in every situation.

Observers might think that this is part of Al Capone's craziness, but most human beings tend to justify their actions to the good intentions laying behind those actions.

That is why, especially in governmental projects, leaders can’t just rely on their own set of criteria; rather they must have clear and well define metrics and transparency during project execution.

Those metrics must be shown to the ones benefiting from the results of the projects as well.

Perhaps it’s not too common having metrics to reinforce ethical behaviors, however, “taking the right decision in a project” is subject to be divided into several parts, measurable in schedules and sprints.

Communities have the right to see how the projects are managed because they are the ones paying taxes, accordingly, metrics are powerful tools to emphasize public ethical behavior in any government.

PMI has a framework to address ethics decisions that apply as well for any project in government, in any approach and country, you can find it in the following link:




Posted by Rocio Briceno on: November 16, 2021 12:38 PM | Permalink | Comments (5)

"The industrial revolution was neither industrial nor a revolution - discuss"

- Linda Richman