Integrity in Project Management

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 post is not a ‘how-to’ (creating a WBS) or a emotional take on some leadership technique (conflict management), it is one post 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 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 it…Integrity 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 blog posts 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 people.  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 to 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.

Check out this video of the week from Peter Eigen.  He was a director at World Bank in Nairobi and is the founder of Transparency International.

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