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Ethics and Project Management by Ralph L. Kliem, PMP

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47
3
Project Management Code of Ethics
Just about all professions have a code of ethics, and project management is
no exception. anks to organizations like the Project Management
Institute© (PMI), a code of ethics exists.
In their book Professional Liability and Risk Management, Bruce
Bennett et al. identied the structure of an ethical framework embod-
ied in a code of ethics. ey noted that there is an overall system of
principles that provides structure for a code of ethics. is structure,
in turn, is built on a set of principles that comprise the system of ethics.
e principles allow the development of standards found acceptable to
authorities and general practices in the eld. ese standards are fol-
lowed by guidelines, which are really procedures to apply as standards
in the eld.
*
3.1   BENEFITS
A code of ethics oers many benets:
One, it provides a structure that all people in the profession can use to
make decisions. Today, typical professions exist around the globe. Laws
and customs as well as how they respond to ethical situations vary. An
ethical framework works, as long as it is accepted by all or most members
of a profession, as a means of getting people to operate according to some
common principles regardless of where they are on the planet.
*
Bruce Bennett, Brenda Bryant, Gary VandenBos, and Addison Greenwood, Professional Liability
and Risk Management (Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 1990), pp. 17–18.
48  •  Ethics and Project Management
Two, because it provides a common structure for a profession, it oers
the potential for a common language from a disciplinary standpoint.
Whether one speaks Chinese, Swahili, English, or Yiddish, the terms used
in the code of ethics have a similar meaning, albeit with dierences in
interpretation. All nationalities at least have vocabulary that is considered
acceptable at a certain level of abstraction.
ree, it provides a way to deal with ethical situations that are grayer
rather than black and white. Situations arise that are not always clear and
that require judgment. A code of ethics provides help in making decisions
and taking the right action under such circumstances. While logic and
intuition are helpful, a professional sometimes faces situations that require
the use of a code of ethics to help provide direction.
Four, it provides a sense of community among people in a discipline.
Regardless of location or ethnicity, a code of ethics serves as a way to bridge
the gap among them. ey adhere to the same principles, to the same tools
and techniques, and to a common vocabulary. It may seem to create a
camaraderie or esprit de corps among the members of the profession.
Five, it provides guidelines for disciplining members of the profession
who fail to adhere to the contents of the code. e principles, standards,
and guidelines oer a way to determine what is acceptable and not accept-
able according to the code. Transgressions of the code lay the groundwork
for removing people who fail to live up to its creed.
Six, it keeps the profession alive, meaning that it furthers and encour-
ages dialogue over issues and circumstances that would ordinarily lose
visibility among the members of the community. Conferences and pub-
lications help to provide that visibility through the discussions of issues
and circumstances, especially those dealing with ethics, in the forefront
of people’s minds. is benet encourages greater dialogue and sharing of
insights, which contributes to the knowledge base of the entire discipline.
Finally, it enables the transfer of principles and knowledge from one
generation of members of a discipline to the next. It provides continu-
ity in dealing with issues and circumstances in a way that capitalizes on
acceptable standards and guidelines. In other words, each generation of
a discipline does not have to reinvent everything, leading to meaningless
trial and error and sometimes needless frustration and misery. Instead,
each succeeding generation can benet from the principles of the previous
one when dealing with ethical issues and circumstances.

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