The Hippocratic Oath is one of the oldest binding documents in history, dating back to the 4th century BC. It captures the essence of beliefs held sacred by doctors: treat the sick to the best of one’s ability, preserve patient privacy, teach the secrets of medicine to the next generation and “do no harm.” Nearly 100% of US medical schools administer some form of the oath today, and it is the primary code of conduct by which doctors regulate themselves in their professional lives.
The Project Management Institute (PMI) has authored a similar code of conduct for project managers, called the PMP Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct. Granted, resource planning and producing status reports is not in the realm of life and death as do physicians, but they still must make many judgment calls and decisions on a daily basis. Those decisions, often ethical or moral in nature, are what PMI’s Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct attempts to address.
How is the PMP Code of Conduct Learned?
The purpose of this Code is to instill confidence in the project management profession and to help an individual become a better practitioner. We do this by establishing a profession-wide understanding of appropriate behavior. We believe that the credibility and reputation of the project management profession is shaped by the collective conduct of individual practitioners.
The code addresses four main areas that a project manager must be aligned with in order to maintain PMP certification, and those are detailed below. There are questions on the certification exam related to the professional code of conduct. Additionally, a PMP needs to agree to abide by this code of conduct upon issuance and subsequent renewal of their PMP certification.
What is PMP Code of Professional Conduct?
The PMP code of conduct attempts to capture principles we live by in our personal lives and apply them to the realm of our profession. The four main principles are Responsibility, Respect, Fairness, and Honesty. Let’s talk about each of these in further detail along with examples of how they can apply to professional conduct.
- Responsibility: According to the PMI Code of Ethics, “Responsibility is our duty to take ownership for the decisions we make or fail to make, the actions we take or fail to take and the consequences that result.”For example, you may manage a project that runs into a bit of a snag. Someone from the engineering team shares with you in confidence that they are having trouble getting one piece of functionality to work, but that they will be able to figure it out at the last minute and make it work.To make matters worse, this person is a close friend. He asks you to not tell anyone; he just wanted to let you know.It puts you in a tough spot, but you honor his request based on the fact he’s pulled off last-minute miracles before. Unfortunately, this time is different. He isn’t able to figure it out and his deliverable is late. Other departments and deliverables are impacted and ultimately the project is delayed. This results in substantial financial repercussions for the company.The blame game now ensues. People start asking, “Who knew what and when did they know it?” What is PMP conduct in this situation as it relates to responsibility? It is to step up and take ownership of the decision to not escalate the issue.
- Respect: According to the PMI Code of Ethics, “Respect is our duty to show a high regard for ourselves, others, and the resources entrusted to us. Resources entrusted to us may include people, money, reputation, the safety of others, and natural or environmental resources. An environment of respect engenders trust, confidence, and performance excellence by fostering mutual cooperation — an environment where diverse perspectives and views are encouraged and valued.”In other words, we treat others the way we want to be treated.For example, one constituent group on the project keeps bringing up the same issue time and time again. You feel as if the issue has been resolved, but they continue to beat a dead horse at every meeting. When their department head starts talking you all but roll your eyes and think to yourself, “Here we go again. They just can’t let it go.”What is PMP conduct in this situation? It is to hear them out. A meeting with everyone in attendance may not be the best forum, so why not set up one-on-one time with them to really uncover the root of their concern? Put yourself in their shoes; you may find that they have a very legitimate concern that you weren’t aware of.
- Fairness: According to the PMI Code of Ethics, “Fairness is our duty to make decisions and act impartially and objectively. Our conduct must be free from competing self interest, prejudice, and favoritism.”Let’s focus in on the self-interest or conflict of interest aspect of fairness when it comes to what is PMP professional conduct.Let’s say you do a lot of work on-site for a particular client. You spend more time in their office than yours, lunch with their team and commiserate with them about their trials and tribulations, establishing quite a bond with your counterparts. You become privy to information that this client will hire another company to replace yours in the coming months.They love what you have personally done, and ask you to come on board to transition the project over to the new company. They offer 40% above what you are making now, and better benefits. You just need to keep things quiet from your company as the transition occurs behind the scenes.What is PMP conduct that is appropriate in this situation? Being that you are still employed, it is that you have a duty of loyalty to your current employer. Again, another tough scenario that requires your highest moral and ethical diligence.
- Honesty: According to PMI’s Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct, “Honesty is our duty to understand the truth and act in a truthful manner both in our communications and in our conduct.”We’re all familiar with the concept of honesty, and how one little white lie can result in a tangled web of deceit. Most people try to stay away from telling an outright lie; however, they may reason to themselves that it’s okay to leave certain relevant details out of a conversation.When a decision is made that is different than what would have been made if all of the information had been available, then the error of omission flies in the face of the PMI Code of Ethics.What is PMP conduct that would be appropriate in this situation? It is to ensure that the decision makers and stakeholders have all of the information necessary to make the best decision.
PMI’s Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct is really quite simple to understand. Run your projects, relationships, and professional life with responsibility, respect, fairness, and honesty. Keeping these four principles in the forefront will ensure you “do no harm” to any of your projects!
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