The Open Source Project Management Community

Ethics in Project Management

Let’s be honest… when you start a new project, which are the main areas you’re focusing on?

Validation of the Project Charter: yes, correct! Collect Requirements: absolutely, I agree! Proper Risk Management: I can’t say no!

We can list all different aspects that experienced Project Managers suggest to focus on, but very rarely would Ethics come to this list.

Yes, Ethics in Project Management!


PMI (Project Management Institute) started to focus on Ethics several years ago publishing the PMI® Code of Ethics (Honesty, Fairness, Respect and Responsibility), nowadays the PMP exam tests Ethics not as a separate knowledge area, but integrated in the whole framework, and I know other exciting tools will be shortly published.

Project managers, as professionals, have to apply ethics behavior at all levels:

Company:  when you’re assigned to a project, do you honestly make an assessment of your skills? Do you evaluate if you have the right knowledge to support your company’s strategic goals? You should make sure that you are Competent for the job you’ve been assigned to. Defining if you’re competent for a job is not an easy task, as –for instance- is not equal to credentials or education. According to Woods & Power, you should be able to manage and integrate various virtues, abilities and attitude. Remember, that starting a project without the proper competence may lead  the company to change the Project Manager (with all the unforeseeable costs) or, in the worst scenario, to a project failure.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that you should avoid challenging projects that will allow you to grow, it’s about evaluating honestly how big is the gap between your knowledge and what it’s required, and then act consequentially.


Team: in these times, all the companies I’ve worked with are suffering a lack or insufficient pool of resources. So, team-members are the most valuable assets and you should treat them in a rewarding way. If you create an Ethical Environment, where you encourage collaborative and respectful behavior, you can attract and retain the most valuable people, and you can ask them to run the extra mile when (and only when) needed. This is the biggest lesson I learned when I was a business consultant; I joined one of the most important projects of my company, but then the lack of transparency was so massive I then understood why my colleagues left that project!

Another core aspect is to help them understand clearly what they can expect by joining your team, so you can support their expectations or better clarify them before it’s too late.


Stakeholders: I feel that as Project Managers we are accountable for all the aspects of the project: when it’s successful and when it’s failing. Especially in troubled projects, it’d be easier to blame someone else who managed the project before or just the history of the project, but being accountable for it (with your clients or your company) will give you credibility; and credibility is another core asset for a professional, and a strong basis for a trustful relationship.

This is directly linked with accuracy on all the aspects: from a clear communication to setting the write expectation or to provide the correct report.  One of the biggest temptations we always have is to make-up reports to make them looking better than they actually are.  I can guarantee you that you could not easily make-up a broken trustful relationship.


Personal: be true to yourself: always be sure you do not have hidden agendas when you’re doing something within a project.

Avoid any kind of conflict of interest (or your reputation will be damaged) and especially be sure to maintain care of yourself. You should be honestly evaluating your level of stress and your health to always provide a professional level of commitment. Acting in an ethical way asks us to always evaluate if we’re able to support properly the team, the project, and the company.

Be always fair and you’ll be able to address all the kinds of communication, even the toughest ones, because you give and have gained respect to all the level.


I would like to conclude this very short excerpt, which purpose is to trigger some thoughts and start you noticing and amending small unethical acts your project might suffer, highlighting that the Cost of Integrity should always be counted in your decision.

In the short term changing some information in order to meet an important milestone would you bring benefit or relief some pressure; blaming someone else for a poor quality job might make look you as a strong leader; but be sure that in the long term, only Integrity can assure you and your project to be successful.

Do not misunderstand me: I know that Integrity costs and it’s hard to achieve and maintain, but the cost of lack of Integrity is way too high.


After Classical Studies, Fabio Rigamonti graduated in Management and Production Engineering.

He started as a business consultant for IT Industries and then moved to project management, enjoying the opportunity to manage both hard and soft skills.

He’s currently working for an International Company, on ERP implementations.

He is PMP since 2011 and holds Prince2 Foundation.

He’s volunteering as Knowledge Content Leader for “PMI – Ethics in Project management – Community of Practice” http://ethics.vc.pmi.org (an exclusively PMI member benefit!) and he encourages all to subscribe in order to join the discussion, participate to eLearning or just assist to webinars.

He can be reached on the Community of Practice or via Linkedin.

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