Aim: To understand the term “Fairness” according to PMI Code of Ethics
As a project manager, you are responsible for managing the project and moving toward a successful outcome of the project. Because all projects are initiated to meet some need of the sponsoring organization, it is your responsibility to ensure that goal is fulfilled. The only way to ensure the needs of the sponsoring organization are being met is to manage the project fairly. An unfair decision is one that puts the project manager’s desire above the stated goals of the project. All your decisions should be made impartially and fairly. The tangible and intangible effects of transparent fairness strengthen your project team and increase your ability to meet your project’s goals.
Aspirational Standards for Fairness
The aspirational standards for fairness affect how project managers make decisions. Fair decisions are those made impartially and objectively. It is important that the project manager does not render decisions that involve competing self interests, prejudice, or favoritism. In short, your decisions as a project manager should benefit the project, not yourself. The aspirational standards for fairness include
• Demonstrating transparency in your decision-making process
• Reexamining your impartiality and objectivity on a continual basis
• Providing equal access to information for authorized personnel
• Making opportunities available to all qualified candidates without favoring one over another
Mandatory Standards for Fairness
The mandatory standards for fairness include
• Fully disclosing any real or potential conflicts of interest to the appropriate stakeholders
• Not participating in the decision-making process any time you identify a conflict of interest until the conflict of interest has been addressed by the stakeholders and you are authorized to re-engage
• Not allowing personal considerations to enter into any decisions related to personnel decisions
• Not discriminating against others for any reason
• Not allowing favoritism or prejudice to influence how you apply the rules of your organization
Conflict of Interest
Full disclosure of any conflicts of interest, either real or perceived, to all stakeholders is crucial in complying with the PMI Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct. You are responsible for informing clients, customers, owners, contractors, and/or vendors of even the appearance of impropriety.
Conflicts of interest can arise if you are related to a vendor performing services for your company or have previous unacknowledged relationships with contractors who are bidding on work you are responsible for managing. This applies to your entire project team. In an ideal situation, you would address any potential conflicts of interest prior to project initiation.
Identifying conflicts of interest is a best practice for all business transactions and assures all business associates are acting in good faith. If an actual conflict of interest is determined, all stakeholders can decide the best course of action for resolution of the conflict. By disclosing any perceived conflicts of interest, you avoid the appearance of impropriety.
As a project manager with decision-making responsibility that affects a project, you must take the high moral ground. Your judgments and decisions must be beyond reproach. If a conflict of interest arises that is not disclosed, this potential conflict can impair your ability to successfully lead the project. Your client, your fellow team members, and your professional colleagues might question your choices regarding any conflict of interest as well as all other decisions you are responsible for making.
Your truthfulness, reputation, and integrity are paramount as a project manager. PMI believes this is an obligation to the profession as well as to the stakeholders. The concept of a conflict of interest being tied to your responsibilities as a project management professional is addressed in all of the four core values in the PMI Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct, but is most strongly identified with fairness.
Conflict of interest is a key concept. Understanding this concept and its implications to a project is key to truly understanding fairness. Expect the exam to include one or two questions related to conflict of interest.
You have an obligation to acknowledge a conflict of interest but you must also ensure a conflict of interest does not compromise the legitimate business interests of your customer. You cannot allow a conflict of interest to influence nor interfere with your judgment or the fulfillment of your professional project management responsibilities.
This is particularly important when you are accountable for decision-making as the project manager. You have a responsibility to your client to be forthright. If you engage in behavior that is questionable, yet alone improper, you are compromising your credibility as a project management professional. Your decisions regarding the specific incident can be tainted, as well as your behavior and judgment regarding all facets of the project. Every decision becomes suspect.
Inappropriate payments, gifts, or other forms of compensation for personal gain must be declined. Examples of inappropriate compensation can vary from the seemingly innocuous, such as theatre tickets or lunch paid for by a vendor, to the more extreme, namely cash payments or vacation packages.
Similarly, you should refrain from offering inappropriate payments, gifts, or other forms of compensation to another party for personal gain. You might be familiar with the term kickback, which has been used to describe this activity in various industries. The PMI Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct is explicit in condemning this activity.
An exception is made by PMI in cases where offering or accepting payments, gifts, or other forms of compensation for personal gain conforms with applicable laws or customs of the country where project management services are being performed. In instances where you believe this exception might be valid, consult a legal professional. This practice is not acceptable for companies incorporated within the United States regardless of where they are doing business.
Your obligation to be trustworthy and exemplify a high standard of integrity is implicit within the PMI Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct. Inflating the number of project hours worked by team members to appear ahead of schedule or even on schedule is inappropriate. Overstating your hourly rates to make the project appear to be operating within budget when you are funneling those funds to other project costs, tinkering with progress/status reports, and manipulating project milestones to appear on-time and on-budget are simply wrong. It is an insult to the profession of project management and it’s not ethical.
More often than not, you know if your actions are creating a conflict of interest or if you are engaging in questionable behavior. If you cannot be completely honest with all parties regarding your actions, they are suspect. If you catch yourself thinking, “What the client doesn’t know want hurt them,” or not fully disclosing information to your own project team, your actions are improper. You might have the greater good of the project at heart when you claim Phase I of the project completed on schedule because you plan to use more resources in Phase II to make up the gap, but this is false reporting. You must be honest with your client regarding the true status of the project and then work with the affected parties to develop strategies for mitigating the problem.
You must also be honest with your project team. Your responsibility in this regard is two-fold: You have an obligation to communicate openly with your fellow team workers; furthermore, as the project manager, you are the team lead for the project and must lead by example.
Communicating honestly, openly, and effectively with your client and your project team can be difficult. It is hard to tell a paying client that a project is facing severe setbacks and obstacles, particularly when the client might (rightly or wrongly) hold you accountable for the problems. A client might continue to make change requests late into development or place unrealistic demands on you and your team in terms of the project budget, scope, and timeline.
In summary, avoid conflicts of interest. If this is not a viable option, identify and acknowledge conflicts of interest, both real and potential, as soon as possible. Avoid all situations where your honesty and integrity as a project manager can be questioned or condemned. If you question the ethical consequences of an action or feel a decision should be hidden from your project team, you should not engage in the behavior.
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