My MBA Journey

Record of my personal journey completing an MBA

Project Management Week 7 – Project Governance and Ethics in Project Management

Ethics, Values, Morals


Project management has grown in stature in recent years. This results from the number of new products being developed, the tight timelines that apply and the need of organisations to continually ensure they maintain a competitive advantage in the marketplace.

The methodology around project management is also being examined more closely with substantial improvements in software products to improve the management systems. These systems in turn improve the project management itself.

A video in the notes makes some very interesting points. The suggestion is that any project is usually a hybrid of several methodologies including waterfall, agile, LEAN etc. A good project manager will take the best from all available tools and apply it to a particular project.

Project Management within Organisations

Two methods are discussed in Larson and Gray (2020)[[Larson, EW & Gray, CF 2020, Project management: The managerial process, 8th edn, McGraw-Hill, New York.]]. These are the Project Management Maturity Model (PMMM) and the Balanced Scorecard Model.

The PMMM model continuously builds on the organisation’s experience in project management. From this experience, the organisation gains valuable insights both through management and also the reviews completed at closure. The goal is to move from ad hoc project management through to a fully optimised project management system. The image below demonstrates the steps in the model.

Figure 1: Project Management Maturity Model

Project Management Maturity Model
Source: Larson and Gray (2020)[[Larson, EW & Gray, CF 2020, Project management: The managerial process, 8th edn, McGraw-Hill, New York.]]

The Balanced Scorecard Model is the same as the one used for considering the strategic performance of an organisation. This approach takes a longer term view of where the organisation is heading in terms of its strategic goals. The model applies four main measures:

  • Customer measures
  • Internal or employee based measures
  • Innovation and learning measures
  • Financial measures.

Project Oversight

Larson and Gray (2020, p. 659)[[Larson, EW & Gray, CF 2020, Project management: The managerial process, 8th edn, McGraw-Hill, New York.]] define project oversight as, “a set of principles and processes to guide and improve the management of projects”. The extension of this definition is that oversight includes the use of standards, definitions and continuous improvement as means of managing projects. When considering a project from an overview perspective, it needs to meet the strategic needs of the organisation and also the organisation must support the project manager in delivering the project.

The level of project oversight will be a consequence of where the organisation sits on the maturity level in the Project Management Maturity Model shown above.

The issue of Portfolio Management also comes into play with Project Oversight. An organisation may have many projects underway at the same time. This can impact on the ability of the Project Manager to access resources when needed because they are tied up with other projects. The result can be cost and time overruns on particular projects. As a result, the management of the portfolio of projects can have critical impact on a multitude of projects underway.

The department in an organisation that handles these tasks could be referred to as the Project Office and can be essential to organisations running multiple projects. It is up to them to maintain an overview of all projects and manage them all effectively to meet time and cost constraints.

Phase Gate Methodology

This methodology is taken from product development where there are stages involved and each is done correctly, in sequence and with management approval. This maintains the checks and balances to ensure each stage meets quality standards before proceeding to the next stage. If this is not done, there could be the need to go back and do something again with the obvious impact on time and costs.

Utilisation of the Phase Gate method makes sure an organisation is focused on projects that provide value for time and money invested. Each “gate” is a project phase where decisions are made which might be to proceed, terminate or review the project. The image below provides an example of the flow of Phase Gate Methodology.

Figure 2: Phase Gate Methodology

Phase Gate Methodology image
Source: Larson and Gray (2020)[[Larson, EW & Gray, CF 2020, Project management: The managerial process, 8th edn, McGraw-Hill, New York.]]

Project Management Ethics

Ethics is defined by the Project Management Institute as “making the best possible decisions concerning people, resources and the environment”. A project manager can be confronted with ethical dilemmas consistently throughout a project’s life. Examples of unethical behaviour would include the inflation of estimates, misreporting of incidents, inequitable treatment of stakeholders or even worse, ignoring stakeholder representations, favourable treatment of particular contractors and the list goes on.

The Project Management Institute, like many professional bodies, has a Code of Ethics & Professional Conduct. Like all professional bodies, this document sets out acceptable practices and the aspirations of the organisation and its members. The base values around this document are responsibility, respect, fairness and honesty.

In addition to the Code, the PMI also has a Ethical Decision Making Framework (EDMF). The framework provides guidance on addressing ethical dilemmas and a problem-solving framework. The issue needs to be clearly identified and then a number of alternative paths developed with analysis of the advantages and disadvantages of each. Once completed, the best decision would be chosen, implemented and then monitored for its effectiveness and ethical treatment of the issue.

Several studies have been done around the treatment of ethical issues in project management. Shouche (2008) outlines several methods of addressing ethical issues with projects. These are:

  • “Correct” Project Reports – they should be factual and complete and not omit relevant important facts.
  • Protection of the interests of all stakeholders – It is not about the most influential, it is about equitable treatment
  • Remaining Objective – it’s important that any project reports remain objective in assessing the facts and issues around a project
  • Get Leaders to “Act” for the Project’s Benefit – ensure wherever possible that those to whom you are reporting act with objectivity and ethics in regard to the project also
  • Get the Right Level of Authority – if you have responsibility for a project, then you also need the authority to make decisions within that level of responsibility. The two must be congruent.
  • Accepting and Assigning Responsibility – although the project manager may have overall responsibility for the project, responsibility should also be delegated for particular aspects and those individuals held accountable for these tasks.
  • Use the Right Process – means that shortcuts aren’t taken and the proper processes are applied in managing the project. At times this may isolate the project manager, but in the long run, the correct processes will improve the outcomes.
  • Help other Project Managers – this is mentioned in the PMI code of ethics but helping others is always important. Provide mentorship and coaching to where possible to help others improve their skills.

The text argues that it is also important for project managers to study the theory of ethics because not everyone approaches an ethical dilemma in the same way. The level of gravity of an issue can be quite different between people, depending on their personal value system and ethics. Loo (2002)[[Loo, R 2002, ‘Tackling ethical dilemmas in project management using vignettes‘, International Journal of Project Management, vol. 20, no. 7, pp. 489-495, DOI:10.1016/S0263-7863(01)00056-4.]] refers to five different theories of ethics which include justice, relativity in context, self-interest concepts, utilitarianism and finally deontology, or the concept of duty and obligation.


This module brings this subject to a close. It has been an interesting journey that has generated a number of observations. Project management is an art form given the level of detail that is required to cover everything in a work breakdown schedule. There is a considerable amount of speculation and conjecture with projects because they are planning in detail into the future. I have never seen the future deliver on detail, only on broad concepts. This would create a situation where a project manager is constantly ducking and weaving to patch holes as they appear and at the same time considering the waterfall effect of any applied patches.

This level of detail is not my preferred level of operation. I prefer an overview mode. Still, the subject has given me an excellent appreciation of the role of projects in an organisation and the skills needed by a project manager.

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Ric Raftis

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