The Best Code of Ethics From a Masterpiece of Italian Literature
By Walter Ginevri, PMI Fellow
Over a period of almost 20 years, thanks to PMI and PMIEF, I have had the opportunity to live an exciting and unique experiential journey. And the most surprising thing is that this enthusiasm grows more and more each day.
Why? In my opinion, for one simple reason: Every day our professional community makes it possible to transfer our enthusiasm to other people and, in some cases, to change their professional life and even beyond.
What follows is a short story I am sharing with you as a project manager, seasoned volunteer, and passionate lover of the literature of my country, Italy. I am not speaking on behalf of the PMIEF Board, of which I am a member.
Having said that, my only objective is to increase your enthusiasm and your will to share this story with your friends and colleagues. Basically, in response to a worrying phenomenon that Pope Francis has named “the globalization of indifference”, I am inviting you to “globalize enthusiasm”.
A few months ago, while I was holding a project management workshop, a young participant asked me to suggest a good book about the project management profession and its main duties. I provided a twofold response.
First, I suggested that she read the PMI Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct.
Second, assuming that she would contact me again after reading that document, I promised I would suggest a second text that I consider my first source of inspiration about ethical aspects related to my profession.
After few weeks, I was contacted by that young project manager again and was pleasantly surprised to discover that her reading hadn’t been superficial. In fact, when I asked her to point out the most convincing section or statement, she mentioned the section dedicated to responsibility in which it’s specified that “responsibility is our duty to take ownership, not only for the decisions we make, but also for the decisions we fail to make”.
Thanks to her answer, it was really easy to keep my promise and suggest that she read and reflect upon some verses of the greatest masterpiece of Italian literature: The Divine Comedy written by Dante Alighieri more than seven centuries ago.
Would you like to know why I consider this poem a peerless source of inspiration about ethics?
Because, in my opinion, it’s the best way for integrating the four core values of the PMI Code of Ethics: responsibility, respect, fairness and honesty.
As far as responsibility is concerned, we can refer to Dante’s opinion concerning slothful people, the persons who avoid taking any responsibility and prefer to follow the ideas of someone else. In fact, it’s interesting to know that Dante places these damned people in the so-called “anti-Inferno”, the area outside the famous door of the Inferno.
Why? Because, in the opinion of Dante, they are so miserable, they don’t deserve even the damnation of the real Inferno, where there are people who at least took responsibility of shameful acts. In fact, when Dante meets these people, his companion Virgilio expresses his disgust with the following sentence.
It’s a sentence full of disdain, but it underlines the concept of responsibility expressed in the PMI Code of Ethics and appreciated by the young project manager. In fact, I’m convinced that the most frequent violations of the principle of responsibility are related to the decisions we fail to make because of guilty silence.
Let’s go now to another inspiring example of fairness and honesty.
You should know that the criteria for putting damned people in the Dante’s Inferno is very simple: the more serious the sin or guilt, the deeper the position and the lower the distance from Satan, the Devil. In fact, below the seventh circle, reserved for violent people such as murderers or suicide victims, we reach the eighth circle that is reserved for fraudulent and dishonest people, such as hypocrites or flatterers.
Now, the question is: why does Dante consider hypocrites worse than murderers? The answer, again, is very simple: because hypocrites killed the truth and without any doubt, Dante thought that more serious than murder.
As was the case for responsibility, the truth cannot be measured in percentages. There’s no difference between lying and telling a partial truth, as rightly specified in the PMI Code of Ethics.
With regard to the remaining core value (respect), I very much like the point where the PMI Code of Ethics stresses the importance of creating “an environment where diverse perspectives and views are encouraged and valued”. In my opinion, this is one the distinctive skills of a knowledge leader, a person who is able to lead people with generosity and selflessness.
Now, do you know where to find the best definition of a knowledge leader?
Of course, in the Divine Comedy! If you doubt me, look at the following verses.
Last but not least, I have another beautiful story to share with you.
In 2012, during the PMI NA Congress in Vancouver, I had the opportunity to have dinner with Jim Snyder, one of the five PMI founders.
It was a great feeling when I discovered not only that Jim knew the Divine Comedy very well, but that he was also fully aware of its value as an inspiring code of ethics.
After that lucky dinner, I have had many opportunities to meet Jim, to be inspired by his servant leadership, and to appoint him as my first mentor within the PMI’s community. As ambassador of the PMIEF mission, he also provided the foreword of the book I recently wrote with Bernie Trilling (https://pmief.org/library/project-management-for-education).
Again, do you know where I have found the best words to express my gratitude to Jim, my beloved mentor?
At this point, I’m sure you know the answer and so I’m happy to close my post with the following verses.
I was privileged to attend PMI Seminars World 2018 in Orlando this week. I was very pleased with Jack Duggal's Next Generation PMO course, which covered much in 3 days. I look forward to attending his Next Generation Leadership course tomorrow.
But what I was most pleased with is that the Next Generation PMO course attracted ... well... people from generations other than the one to which I belong. In fact, not only were there a few of these delightful individuals attending, but there was also an actual presentation that prompted me to write this blog. It was "Mixing and Matching Generations" by Carlene Szostak of C Squared Inc.
I found out that I am still in the Baby Boomer generation (no surprise there, even though a survey I filled in recently said I was a millenniel, probably because I "cut the cable" years ago and do a lot of texting, Whatsapping, and social media).
I also found that there is now a Generation Z (pronounced Zed if you are from Canada or the UK, Zee if you are from the U.S.) Generation Z is apparently the newest generation. Suddenly those who try to put people into boxes had discovered that the world will continue, and we will have many future generations. I expect the next one will be called Generation AA, or Z1, or Z+, or some other arbitrary name.
I found myself wondering why we have this urge to place people into categories, boxes, named generations. Does this help? Ostensibly, we will be able to understand one another better once we find out which box we are in, compared to the box into which one of our fellow human beings has been thrust,
Okay, call me old school. You would have every right to do so, given the generation that bears the name of my group of trusty old people. But really, does it actually serve a useful purpose? I have to say I was very happy to see that our course had a mix of generations. And do you know what? We all communicated with one another perfectly well. There was no texting between group members at the same table, and there was no domination by stodgy old Baby Boomers who were overpowering the tender Millenniels, Gen Xers or Gen Yers (Gen Zers are too young). We all got along perfectly well. No one got up and left at exactly the start of lunch hour, or exactly at the end of the day as some other generations are alleged to do.
"So what is the purpose of this rant?", you might ask, if you have suffered through this blog post so far.
I have to confess it has something to do with the fact that people are people. Some are experienced by putting in many years of work. Others are experienced by putting in many varied hours of intelligent work, but far fewer years. We must recognize that what is important are the outputs and outcomes of what a person does, not how long they have been working. That some with 40 years of experience have 40 years of experience, while others who have 40 years of experience doing the same thing their entire career have maybe 10 years worth of experience. That there are those with 5 years of experience who have the equivalent of those 40 years, because they "get it". I expect Malcolm Gladwell would have something to say about the diminishing value of work experience after the fabled 10,000 hours of experience has been attained.
So let us recognize what people contribute to an organization, not how long their posterior has been forming a shallow hollow in a comfortable seat.
All the more reason for Gen X, Y, Millenniels (and Zs) to get with the program. Invest in learning about Project Management, seek the mentorship and coaching of a person from a previous generation and get those 40 years of experience in 5 years, which happens to just about line up with 10,000 hours.
If you are a member of one of these generations, get yourself to PMIEF.org and look for university, college and professional development scholarships. Maybe you will be fortunate enough to attend a fabulous Jack Duggal course at a PMI Seminars World, courtesy of PMIEF.
Succeed, grow and prosper, my young friends. You can do anything and be anyone. The world is yours for the taking because, well, who else is there?
Dear Project Management for Future Leaders blog readers,
We are honoured to have Walter Ginevri write about his experiences with PMI and the passion he has for bringing the world of project management to young people. Walter is a PMI Fellow, Past-President of the Northern Italy Chapter, current member of the PMIEF Board and father of a fantastic toolkit for primary school students.
I am certain you will thoroughly enjoy Walter’s article and the items to which he has provided links. Many thanks to Walter for taking the time and effort to submit it for our reading pleasure.
Grazie Mille, Walter!
My professional story before and after volunteering for PMI & PMIEF
by Walter Ginevri, PMI Fellow
If I think about history books, the most recurrent time boundary is related to the birth of Jesus, in relation to which events are divided through the suffix B.C. (Before Christ) and A.D. (Anno Domini).
However, if I think about my professional history, the time boundary I can use to go from “before” to “after” is 2006, the year I started volunteering for PMI and PMIEF.
Because, thanks to that decision, I’ve been able to understand the deep essence of project management, to change progressively many of my convictions, to make my profession more exciting and motivating, to become a better professional and an open-minded citizen of the global world.
With regard to my PMI volunteering, in January 2006 I joined the Board of the PMI Northern Italy Chapter, a professional community of almost 400 members. After ten years of exciting experiences, including a research project about complexity theory applied to projects, I left a chapter with almost 2000 members and a retention rate amongst the highest worldwide.
With regard to my PMIEF volunteering, from 2006 onward, I’ve devoted myself to the dissemination of the project language within primary schools. Here again, it has been an inspiring experience that allowed me not only to spread a toolkit currently available in 14 languages (https://pmief.org/library/resources/projects-from-the-future-kit-for-primary-school), but also to share my storytelling with Bernie Trilling in a book focused on the link between project management and education (https://pmief.org/library/project-management-for-education).
Now, what I’d like to share with you is the following list of statements in which I’ve tried summarize the progressive evolution of my way of being a project management professional before volunteering (B.V.) and after volunteering (A.V.) for PMI and PMIEF. In particular, the following reflections are the outcomes of my collaboration with dozens of primary school teachers, passionate people who taught me how to live my profession, wonderful people who have the delicate mission of preparing new generations for a bright future.
B.V. #1: Project management is a technical discipline constituted by a wide set of best practices to be adapted by a professional and applied to a specific business context.
A.V. #1: Project management is a universal language that can be practiced by everybody because it makes available a wide set of intuitive tools for “thinking & doing”. The fact that “Project-Based Learning” is the most popular trend within school systems represents a further evidence of this statement.
B.V. #2: A project manager is constantly looking for the “optimum”, even if the context is characterized by a high level of complexity and uncertainty.
A.V. #2: A project manager is constantly moving through different domains that can be: simple, complicated, complex and chaotic (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cynefin_framework). So, a project manager must be able to combine different strategies (e.g. “design & implementation” versus “exploration & exploitation”) and, sometimes, to search and accept “sub-optimal” solutions (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/330323.A_Treatise_on_Efficacy).
B.V. #3: The most important part of a project journey is the destination, that is, the set of deliverables agreed with the customer.
A.V. #3: Since a project is a collective experience, the delivery is just as important as the experiential journey through which each team member has the opportunity to grow both professionally and personally.
B.V. #4: The ability to manage chronological time is essential in order to meet project deadlines and set the pace of the project team.
A.V. #4: Besides “quantitative time”, a project practitioner must be able to manage “qualitative time”, the time not measurable in minutes, hours or days because it’s the time spent to engage a critical stakeholder, to catch emerging issues and weak signals, to practice active listening and provide feedback, to empower the project team and, in general, to stimulate the most powerful intrinsic motivators of people: autonomy, mastery and purpose (https://www.ted.com/talks/dan_pink_on_motivation).
B.V. #5: Project management books are the best way to enrich the knowledge of a professional who works in complex environments.
A.V. #5: In addition to specialists’ books, it’s essential to continue to explore the multi-disciplinary and multi-cultural dimension of project management. For example, a book about ethnography contains many ideas and best practices that can be used to manage project stakeholders. As further examples, some masterworks of literature such as Don Quixote or Pinocchio can help us to comprehend the essence of leadership much better than many books that promise to transform everybody into a leader. In general, every effort to enrich both scientific and humanistic knowledge is the best investment for a practitioner who wants to “make project management indispensable for business results”.
B.V. #6: Project management should be taught in secondary schools and universities so that students can be more prepared to enter the labour market.
A.V. #6: Primary school is the ideal place to start the dissemination of project language because of its extraordinary effects on students’ learning processes and life skills, such as: creative and critical thinking, communication and collaboration (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Four_Cs_of_21st_century_learning).
B.V. #7: The PMI Talent Triangle is a very effective framework to represent the ideal skill mix of a project management practitioner and the way to strengthen it.
A.V. #7: In addition to strategic business management, technical project management, and leadership, there is a fourth dimension corresponding to the transformative aspect of volunteering, an experience that, not only transforms you as an individual, but it even changes the talent triangle to a 3-dimensional pyramid.
This is my personal view of project management before and after PMI & PMIEF volunteering. So, I'm not speaking on behalf of the PMIEF Board, but more as a seasoned volunteer and project manager.
I hope it will be helpful for all those who agree with this quote of Alvin Toffler, an American futurist:
“'The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”
I have a friend in Brazil, Lélio Varella, whose email signature includes, together with Project Manager: "The tool of prosperity".
Seeing this for the first time, I reflected on the subject, and I had to agree with my dear friend.
As project managers we have the unique opportunity to be protagonists of change that can impact positively (or negatively) on the lives of a few or millions of people.
More and more people, especially young people, are increasingly worried about the purpose of what they do.
Have you already stopped to think beyond the delivery of the products of the projects in which you participated? Have you identified their underlying purposes?
No?! So - let's look at some examples to clarify the link between your projects and their broader purposes.
Imagine an expansion project of a manufacturing line in an industry. The final product can be a new assembly line. But this project will also create new opportunities for employment.
In a project for a new highway, besides the delivery of the highway itself, you may be participating in the necessary foundations leading to the development of an entire region.
In the case of an environmental project you will be contributing to the quality of life for future generations.
This way of looking at the broader purposes of our projects gives us a better understanding of our roles as effective project managers and our responsibilities as agents of change that impact people, companies, nations, and many other important societal matters.
Nothing can be more motivating than actively participating in projects that have broader purposes with which we agree.
Some key questions are: What are your purposes in this life? Is one of them teaching young people about project management? What do you think will bring them to the realization that many things they do are projects, including things in their own lives, motivating them to learn more about project management, showing them that the purposes and impacts of a project go beyond its direct products and that, as project managers, they can collaborate to make their purposes a reality?
Let's make the difference we want so much by helping young people who will be the leaders in the future!
(translation to portuguese)
Eu tenho um amigo no Brasil, Lélio Varella, cuja assinatura de e-mail inclui, juntamente com o título Gerente de Projeto: "A ferramenta da prosperidade".
Ao ver isso pela primeira vez, refleti sobre o assunto, e eu tive que concordar com meu querido amigo.
Como gerentes de projetos, temos a oportunidade única de ser protagonistas de mudanças que podem impactar positivamente (ou negativamente) nas vidas de algumas poucas ou milhões de pessoas.
Mais e mais pessoas, especialmente os jovens, estão cada vez mais preocupadas com o propósito do que eles fazem.
Você já parou para pensar para além da entrega dos produtos dos projetos nos quais você participou? Você identificou seus propósitos subjacentes?
Não?! Então - vamos ver alguns exemplos para esclarecer o link entre seus projetos e seus propósitos mais amplos.
Imagine um projeto de expansão de uma linha de fabricação em uma indústria. O produto final pode ser uma nova linha de montagem. Mas este projeto também criará novas oportunidades de emprego.
Em um projeto para uma nova rodovia, além da entrega da rodovia em si, você pode estar participando das bases necessárias para o desenvolvimento de toda uma região.
No caso de um projeto ambiental, você estará contribuindo para a qualidade de vida das gerações futuras.
Essa maneira de analisar os objetivos mais amplos de nossos projetos nos dá uma melhor compreensão de nossos papéis como efetivos gerentes de projetos e nossas responsabilidades como agentes de mudanças que afetam pessoas, empresas, nações e muitos outros aspectos importantes da sociedade.
Nada pode ser mais motivador do que participar ativamente de projetos com propósitos mais amplos com os quais você concorda.
Algumas questões-chave são: Quais são seus propósitos nesta vida? Um deles é ensinar gerenciamento de projetos aos jovens? O que você pensa de fazê-los perceber que muitas coisas que eles fazem são projetos, incluindo coisas em suas próprias vidas, motivando-os a aprender mais sobre gerenciamento de projetos mostrando que os propósitos e impactos de um projeto vão além de seus produtos diretos e que, como gerentes de projetos, eles podem colaborar para tornar seus propósitos em realidade?
Vamos fazer a diferença que tanto queremos ajudando os jovens que serão os líderes no futuro!
I have had a lot of rewarding experiences with PMI. I’ve been volunteering since 1989 when I started the first student chapter of PMI at Western Carolina University. I’ve really enjoyed being a Chapter President of the NC chapter and a Regional Mentor for Region 5. For the past 6 years I’ve had the wonderful privilege of being a director of the PMI Educational Foundation (PMIEF). An experience that has been one of the most rewarding and satisfying experiences of my life.
I started on the PMIEF Board at a very exciting time. Prior to 2011 PMIEF was mostly self-funded and focused their resources on providing scholarships and awards. However, in 2011 PMI realized the strategic importance of PMIEF in meeting their strategic objectives related to Project Management for Social Good. So, they funded a Vision-Driven Project to enable Project Management for 13 to 19 year olds. This project had been approved just before I joined the board. I was very lucky to see the project flourish and provide the foundation for the future impact by PMIEF.
One key strategy that has enabled the success of PMIEF is to enable others to be successful. So, PMIEF staff worked with experts in Project Based Education to build an infrastructure of experts and asked them what they would focus on to enable Project Management Education for 13 to 19 year olds. This group of experts is called the Project Learning Network (PLN). PMIEF convened PLN in a series of meetings to brainstorm the best approach to bringing the most value through project management to our youth. During the first of these meetings it was exciting to see the participants realize the potential of working together to create new programs that enable teachers and students in the classroom.
Through a series of strategic grants to many of these expert organization, PMIEF has enabled teachers and students throughout the world to enhance their learning through project management. These grants have shown proven results and have reached several thousand students around the world. PMIEF board members worked with PMIEF staff to capture metrics to show the outputs, outcomes, and the direct impact of the grants. PMIEF is working toward showing that direct impact on students as they gain more confidence in their ability to achieve more in the classroom through project management.
In the past six years, PMIEF staff and the board have matured the approach to enabling Project Based Learning for 13 to 19 year olds and have developed a roadmap of strategic initiatives to bring the benefits of project management to other younger age groups in school.
PMIEF also focused on enabling non-profit organizations on the front lines of helping society. Using the same philosophy of enabling experts to be successful, PMIEF has provided several grants to non-profit organizations to deliver more for social good.
As part of the Project Management for Future Leaders collaborative blog, my series on this subject will go deeper into:
The experience being on the PMIEF board has changed my life: I saw first hand the impact project management can have on the lives of young people and the direct impact on their future success.