Integrity in Project Management

April 14, 2011 | Author: PM Hut | Filed under: Project Management Ethics

Integrity in Project Management
By Robert Kelly

As Project Managers, we encounter opportunities around every corner to be men and women of integrity. Depending on your organization and/or the project you are working on, you may have a tremendous amount of authority and latitude to make decisions…which idea to use, which vendor to leverage, how to present the data and so on. While this article is not a ‘how-to’ (creating a WBS) or a emotional take on some leadership technique (conflict management), it is one article that I feel every project manager, leader….well everyone, should read and reflect on whether or not they are leading with integrity.

In recent years, one of two things have happened within organizations. Either the competition has become so fierce in the face of pending resource actions or the resource action has already occurred and the workload being pushed on you is insane. Even more so in the PM space is that many of you are being thrown into Project Management without any training, mentoring, etc. So you are taking on a role without the skills/training.

Whether you are a seasoned PM in a thriving company with carte blanche or an overworked Office Manager taking on your first project, you will be faced with choices. Do you award business to your old supervisor who is at Vendor X? Do you adjust the dates in hopes that the team will pull it together and no one will have to know you are two weeks behind? Or do you present an idea as your own in that Executive Meeting, when you know John in Accounting came up with it.

At the end of the day, you just need to make sure you are full of itIntegrity that is.

Here are 3 guidelines for Success:

  1. Get ahead of it - If a job is offered to you and you have no idea what it is they do, how they do it, or what a single acronym means then you have got to let the hiring manager/current manager/partner know. You may be surprised at their response. “John, thank you so much for letting me. The last 2 folks said they could and wasted weeks of my time. What do you say I have you go to that local boot camp for 2 weeks and train you. I can’t teach integrity, but I can train you on our business”. I had an old company participate in an RFQ to become one of our national providers and told the team right up front “Everyone, I want you to know that I worked at Company X for 3 years”. No one seemed to care because I was up front. The Director of Procurement said “had you not told me, it would have been a mess even if you were fair. Thank you!”
  2. Be Organized – Many of my articles refer to the importance of planning and being organized. When you drop the ball, you create an atmosphere where you need to get ‘creative’ on the schedule or the budget. However, if you have planned it out and remained organized, then you won’t feel so much pressure when things go wrong. There won’t be a need to cover up sloppy work. Things happen: requirements change, new stakeholders rotate through the organization, etc… If you are organized and can show the work, then there is no reason to be sneaky or to cover anyone’s tracks.

  3. Be a man! (or Woman) – Don’t try and put lipstick on a pig. If the schedule blew up or your budget just tripled, then get in front of your executive team or sponsor and explain 1) What was expected 2) What happened 3) What is the action plan to correct. You may not even need the answer at that point.

You may get away with the occasional “get ‘er done’ attitude or sweep it under the rug approach, but your career is a long one and this is a small world. If you aren’t a person with integrity, then I can’t tell you that you will meet your maker or sleep better at night because it just doesn’t register with you. However, here are a few things that can, do, and probably will happen at one point or another. That team member who helped you cover that overspend 5 years ago, may become the next CFO and will remember the ‘Slick PM’. The idea you stole from John…someone may reach out to him one day “Hey John. You worked with Slick PM a few years back. I am thinking about bringing him into my department for Larry’s old job. What do you think?” How about that interview you go a few years down the road and the same hiring manager you told that you could do the last job is now at this company?

I worked in NYC for about 7 years, across a number of global powerhouses and was amazed to see how small the town really was. Working again with people I had worked with a few years prior or hearing stories about how Weldon used to be Rick’s boss at company X and fired him…now Rick is the boss at the new company.

Being a man or woman of integrity must be at the forefront of every decision you make. It will develop trust with your current team (speeding up efforts/decisions) and help your long term career goals for success.

Robert Kelly, PMP, is a program/project manager that does not simply track projects & populate templates, but adds-value by taking ownership and driving results. During his 10 year career, he has managed complex, multinational projects with teams of four through thirty team members at all levels of the organization (Intern through Vice President). You can read more from Robert on his blog, Kelly’s Contemplations

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4 people have left comments

Hi Robert,

what you have written is the real life!!! A PM without integrity is condemned to suffer its own medicine sooner or later…

Salvador Arauzo wrote on April 14, 2011 - 7:34 am | Visit Link

Hi Robert

Super article. Integrity is absolutely key to the success of both an individual project manager on a specific project as well as to their broader career. I have come across both the PM of integrity who hid nothing, credited the right people and dealt with issues in an open/upfront manner - and the (as we’d say in Ireland) “Chancers” - who deflected anything bad, absorbed all praise for themselves and never admitted to putting a foot wrong. And I know who are more successful in the longer term (hint - it’s not the Chancers!).

Thanks for sharing

Barney Austen wrote on April 14, 2011 - 9:10 am | Visit Link

Here’s a little story about integrity or lack thereof.

A project manager I know was working in a medium sized company in Africa, he was supposed to procure a lot of equipment on every project he worked on. He used to create a fake tendering process, and he used to always choose a company which he created in another country that was registered under his brother in a relative’s name (we learned later that the company was actually for him, and the relative was only a cover).

Management in the company was unattentive of why he was choosing the same company every time, they simply trusted him. Years went by, and eventually the scam was uncovered, since because he was very stupid, he tried to hire someone with the same family name as his relative. He was fired almost immediately.

I still talk to him, does he regret it? Apparently not, the guy made millions from this scheme, millions he wouln’t have made even if he worked for 100 years in the same position.

Moral of the story, integrity is always for sale, it just depends on how much you are going to win for selling it, and how much risk are you willing to take.

Thanks for this great article!

Dave (Madrid) wrote on April 14, 2011 - 9:45 am | Visit Link

Thank you all for taking the time to stop by and read the article…especially sharing some of your thoughts. I hate talking at people, prefer talking with folks.

Salvador, you are right and sometimes it is later, but always comes back to folks.

Barney, love the new term ‘chancers’…not the reality of it. But you are right and it ties into Salvadors thought…sooner or later it cacthes up to you.

Dave, Your example shows the later both Salvador and Barney are speaking, as well as the risk mentioned by Barney. It usually catches up to folks. In the end for me, it is about lying my head down at night and having a good conscience about what I did that day. I don’t always get it right, but I know I gave a good, honest effort.

Thank you all!

Robert Kelly wrote on March 15, 2013 - 12:33 pm | Visit Link

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