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News & Press: Thought Leadership

Article: Ethics, Conduct, and the Professional

Thursday, 26 July 2018  
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Every organisation, institution, body and company is encouraged to have a Code of Conduct. This means that through a lifetime of working, or being affiliated to a profession or organised recreational interest, an individual is likely to be exposed to numerous codes of conduct. It is highly unlikely that those codes we are expected to adopt would be in conflict with one another, due to the fact that most consider ethical behaviour to be guided by ‘the golden rule’ that is: do unto others as you would have done to you. If ethics are so universal then, and are constantly reinforced during one’s life, why do we find so many grey areas in interpreting and engaging in ethical behaviour?  

When SAQA compiled the qualifying criteria for professional designations across industries, which it requires each professional body to enforce; ethics and conduct featured very strongly. Designation-holders and ordinary members are expected to subscribe to a code that protects the profession, the professional body, the public, and the professionals themselves. It is linked to a disciplinary process and penalties for breaching the code, following judgement from one’s peers, can be moderate or severe.

So many aspects of business rules today could be subject to interpretation. Just last week PMSA circulated a survey on behalf of the University of Johannesburg, which poses questions around Ubuntu vs Western Ethics. The outcome of the survey is of huge interest to PMSA as it adds to the body of local / continental knowledge on a topic that can benefit from scrutiny, and can guide PMSA in how it continues to develop its code of ethics and professional conduct to remain relevant in a diverse environment.

Having said that, the PMSA Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct was updated in 2016, following consultation with PMSA members. The main principles of the code are around Competence; Integrity; Responsibilities; and Contribution. The diagram below provides an overview of what is inferred by each.

As a Professional Body, PMSA sees ethics as not simply a set of rules that reflect the values of people practicing in the profession. We understand that as an individual progresses through their career, working in increasingly complex environments and across borders and cultures, there is merit in including a focus on ethics in continuous professional development (CPD).

Here are five ways project managers can make ethics a part of their CPD, thereby setting an example and visibly demonstrating their attitude to ethics in their projects:

1.       Implement ethics programmes as part of team development, and task team members with being ethics officers on your projects;

2.       Develop a working knowledge of what is meant by different concepts related to ethics, such as conflict of interest, amoral versus immoral vs illegal behaviour, relevant governance and legislation, whistle-blowing etc.

3.       Pursue training programmes for business ethics. Amongst other benefits, these will equip you with tools with which to approach ethical dilemmas.

4.       Follow ethical decision-making processes that are transparent and clearly communicated to your stakeholders. The more transparent you are the more difficult it becomes for people to support unethical behaviour.

5.       Invite ethics audits and risk assessments into your project processes, and keep ethics as staple item on agendas. 

Interested in learning more?

Have a look at the following CPD-on-Demand video tutorial on the subject: CLICK HERE


Written by Taryn van Olden (CEO: Project Management South Africa).

Taryn is the Chief Executive Officer of Project Management South Africa, the autonomous, SAQA-recognised professional body for project management across industries. She holds qualifications in Communication and a Master’s in Business Leadership, and has spearheaded PMSA since 2008.

PMSA recognises competencies of individual project practitioners and confers professional designations on four levels: Project Management Administrator; Project Manager; Senior Project Manager and Professional Project Manager. PMSA’s membership categories include individual membership, corporate membership and recognised education and training provider members. PMSA actively enhances the generation and sharing of knowledge, particularly local knowledge, in project management and its related fields, through research, published content and events such as its regional and national conferences and branch learning sessions. 

For more information on joining PMSA please click here


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