Ethics are the moral principles that govern someone’s behaviour or the way they perform an activity. Ethical behaviour could be said to be the cornerstone of competence in a professional environment. For that reason, most professional bodies have a code of conduct to which all members must commit to adhere.
In the context of Praxis, the goals of ethics are to:
- encourage ethical behaviour in the practitioners of the P3M discipline;
raise the standards of professionalism by which P3 managers are judged and thereby raise the status of the profession.
One of the inherent problems with ethical behaviour is that it is subjective. What is considered moral and ethical in one culture is not the same as that which is considered moral and ethical in another. As well as professional codes of conduct, there are some statutory requirements in different jurisdictions, for example the Bribery Act in the UK.
A P3 manager needs to understand the moral values of different stakeholders, as well as the relevant national and international laws. Sometimes, different sets of guidelines may conflict. While legislation clearly takes precedent, a P3 manager must also be aware of where professional codes and company codes may differ. If a professional believes there are conflicts or differences in the various codes, then advice or direction should be sought from a relevant authority.
Behaving ethically is not just about following guidelines and keeping within the law. It permeates all the competencies of P3 management. Obvious connections can be made to areas such as influencing and negotiation where someone will very quickly lose trust and respect if they are seen to act unethically.
The need for ethical behaviour is not limited to the manager and a project, programme or portfolio’s values, or code of conduct, must be clearly articulated, understood and maintained by all. This can be achieved through training, specific guidance and assurance.
It is not just the management processes that need to be considered. The P3 manager should also be aware of the impact of the outputs, outcomes and benefits of the work. One important example of this is the focus on environmental sustainability in all aspects of project, programme and portfolio delivery.
With society in general demanding increasing transparency and expecting professionals to behave in an ethical manner, the P3 manager needs to be able to take and explain ethical decisions in a way that maintains the commitment of all stakeholders.