Possible Ethical Issues in Project Management

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The project management is “the application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to project activities to meet the project requirements” (Project Management Institute [PMI], 2004, p. 23). According to the definition, we can find that the objective of project management is to realize the value of a project, which is to meet the project requirements. The value of project management includes two dimensions. On the one hand, project management turns resources into the project outputs, thereby realizing the value of a project. On the other hand, value of project management also comprises the sum of incremental values for all of the stakeholders, including cost saving, performance improvement, and other interests through the process of value realization of the project.

Ethics can be defined as a way of thinking and making decisions based on what is right for people we relate to in a project while ensuring maintenance of our own organizational mission and vision. This essay will however discuss three ethical issues which are inter-related to the organizational code, professional code and personal values.

The three ethical issues that I can already identify in the K2m cocoa project: accountability; conflicts of interest; health and safety concerns at workplace.

Stakeholder Engagement

The project stakeholders are the National Department of National Planning, Asian Development Bank, 5 villages in Central Bougainville and their various communities which consists of landowners, farmers, local authorities, NGO’s, CEPA, TPA, DAL, Prov. Govt etc. Some of these stakeholders will favor the project while others might cause concern for the project.

Firstly, in order to properly manage all the stakeholder concerns I would ensure professionals are hired to manage stakeholder engagement process. I would expect the experts to conduct Stakeholder Identification to identify all Project Stakeholders and then Stakeholder Mapping to map out different stakeholders according to their support for the project and what their concerns might be and then prepare a Stakeholder Engagement Management Plan to engage with each of the stakeholder groups to present to them information they might require of the project and address any issues of concerns they might have. A grievances management process will also be established to manage any project related grievances. Ethics will be applied in addressing some of these grievances.

Freeman (1984) developed the original concept. He considered the stakeholders as any group or individual who can affect, or is affected by, the achievement of the firm’s objectives and who may be either primary or secondary.

Different types of stakeholders are involved in a project. Leung, Chong, Ng, and Cheung (2004) pointed out that not all project participants would have agreed upon goals in terms of time, cost, and quality, and conflicts between stakeholders may arise in some circumstances. Therefore, the value of a project has multiple dimensions, which are coordinated and integrated among the value demands of multi stakeholders

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At the same time, some potential stakeholders may find that their benefits could be affected, and therefore claim their expectations toward the project. The project manager will then have to balance more value demands as the project progresses.


Accountability can be defined as being responsible for what one does and being able to give justification for actions one takes in managing project related decisions. With the case of this project, I as the project manager have to be accountable to all the concerned project stakeholder parties. From an organization code perspective, the organization needs to have project management plans that consist of instruments for accountability to project stakeholders. The various instruments could include stakeholder engagement plans, communication plans and a grievances management system. The organization will also need to have professional standards in hiring professionals to manage the stakeholder engagement process, in disseminating targeted information to its various stakeholders and it must also have professional grievances management personnel in managing grievances. Personal values can be applied through face-to-face consultations to provide information to stakeholders and to address any issues of concern by stakeholders.

Accountability to project stakeholders should be scheduled throughout the project through various stakeholder engagement briefings to address any issues of concern from the various stakeholder groups.

Conflict of Interest

I, as a project manager understand at the enterprise level, this project will involve a large number of people and sometimes several of them will be outside sourced vendors or suppliers. There will be a situation whereby the stakeholders might want to suggest or give inappropriate preference to certain teams or companies. As the project manager, I will ensure to make awareness to concern parties/stakeholders involved in the project to understand the company’s standards and that any biding and tender evaluation will be screened and go through a stringent selection process and criteria’s for (accountability purposes) that is for exercising organizational codes, to ensure the project has policy and standards write ups in place for bidding and tender selection for accountability purposes. This is to ensure and to have a proactive approach and clear directives to address any potential concerns so the definition of conflict of interest is clear and understood to by everyone (all concern stakeholders).

A clear example as stated by Dr. Randell (2009) in UNIFEM/UNDP Consultants Report on gender equality and democratic governance regarding lack of coordination among stakeholders in PNG: “There is no visible coordinating committee in NCD at national, district or ward level to facilitate coordination among all the key stakeholders. CBOs, NGOs, faith-based organizations (FBOs), politicians and businesses all have different committees and programs related to gender issues. Many of these organizations are not registered with the city, and their proliferation leads to competition, duplication and overlapping in some areas while other areas are neglected” (Randalls, 2009, pg.25).

Similarly, to avoid any conflict of interest, Joint Advisory Committees will be set to include concern stakeholder representatives together to make aware the tender bid processes and criteria for accountability to avoid any upcoming grievances.

Health and Safety Concerns

As project manager, ensure the organizational code of health and safety are highly valued. Ensure there are occupational health and safety policies, standards, procedures and management plans are in place. Ensure professional personnel are engaged to manage health and safety concerns in the project. Stakeholders must also be made aware of the project health and safety standards and management processes.


A good person is someone who contributes to the welfare of the whole group. Good acts are those which benefit the whole group, bad acts are those which degrade the whole group. To understand this traditional value system and ethical laws one must remember that they point to one thing and that one thing stands for ‘life’, the absolute value. The only absolute value is what we call in Tok Pisin term ‘Gutpela Sindaun’. Community in PNG over thousands of years was experienced as the only safe way to '’Gutpela Sindaun’. Community is the key to ‘Gutpela Sindaun’. Community is a powerful entity, when community says or make a decision, it is always final. And community in PNG always strive for ‘Gutpela Sindaun’ for peace and harmony in the community. Hence, every society in PNG has ethical laws that guide them to live a peaceful and harmonious life. These laws are the guiding pillars that guide the existence of the community. These are not introduced laws like the Ten Commandments of God introduced by Christianity. These are original laws that exist and followed by our ancestors from time immemorial. PNG societies have an ordered in placed already even before the introduction of Christianity and western influences.


  1. Baccarini,D.(1999).The logical framework method for defining project success. Project Management Journal, 30(4), 25–32.
  2. Freeman,R.E.(1984). Strategic management—A stakeholder approach. Marshfield, MA: Pitman Pub
  3. Leung,M.Y.,Chong,A.,Ng,S.T.,& Cheung,M.C.K.(2004). Demystifying stakeholders’ commitment and its impacts on construction projects. Construction Management and Economics,22, 701–715. lishing.
  4. Mitchell,R.K.,Bradley,R.A.,& Wood, D.J.(1997). Toward a theory of stakeholder identification and salience: Defining the principle of who and what really counts. Academy of Management Review,22, 853–886.
  5. Olander,S.(2007). Stakeholder impact analysis in construction project management. Construction Management and Economics,25, 277–287.
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