Trust is a fundamental part of every relationship and we build it on the premise that whomever we entrust in a position for a specific mandate would do so using integrity and a strong ethical code so that we, as an organisation or a country, will not be ashamed. But what if we no longer can trust those appointed, if those acting as gatekeepers can no longer be trusted to fulfill in their oversight and protective role, and the gatekeeper of gatekeepers become as soiled as those they are to regulate? What if the moral and ethical standards have so invaded the jobs that calls for high moral standards and integrity, jobs like chartered accounting, police services, bankers, engineering and project management?
This is not a grim picture of life somewhere in the future, but a reality today. Moral decay is evident all around us, and if we do not choose to live by higher moral standards we will form part of the everyday news, shattered careers of those left in the wake of damaged companies that had to face the brunt of poor judgement calls made by individuals in decision making positions. Unfortunately corruption pays and in some cases pays big time and fatten all who we consider to be downstream of such an act. The lack of courage and the potential risks involved in exposing these acts leave many paralysed. When enough courage do exists and those gross infringements get exposed the legal journey to conviction is long and taxing on the minds and remembrance of the victims (in most cases the tax payer) while some regulatory bodies proverbially wash their hands in innocence until convicted.
So who is to blame and maybe we need to keep to the profession of project management and not venture too far into the realm of other professions? The role of the project manager and the code of conduct required from international bodies like PMI calls for high ethical behavior specifically related to areas like procurement, contract management, scope management, financial control, stakeholder management and deliverable sign off. All areas vulnerable to corruption and representational risks. Here is our dilemma: when we run projects, any project for that matter, the responsibility to ensure high ethical behavior lies with the project manager, not the accounting officer or CA who process the invoice, but the project manager that signs it off, the project manager that does not accept a bribe to channel money or turn a blind eye to low quality deliverable, the project manager that ensure that the clauses in the contracts are honored and that transparency is evident and accessible to whoever so ask, so that we can be found above reproach.
It is a personal choice to live a life of integrity and to stand up when we are pressurized to cross the bridge to poor ethical behavior. So do not judge other professions too quickly my fellow project managers as a lot of the corruption happening in organisations today can be squarely laid at the feet of our profession. We are the gate keepers of good project ethics, and if we can no longer be trusted, what then?