In projects, especially big information systems projects risks are high. There is a lot of pressure on the team members and the project managers to get the job done on time, within budget and conforming to the scope. Not surprisingly, there are many situations during the lifetime of the project that ethical dilemmas arise. These ethical dilemmas are situations which require people to make a choice between options. In situations like these project managers should take corrective actions and their actions can set the tone of ethics in the project. In this article we will see two ethical dilemmas that arise in IT projects, their implications and suggestive actions for project managers.
One of the examples of ethical dilemmas that arise in projects is the failure in reporting the exact picture to all the stakeholders. A project has many stakeholders, like clients, project managers, team members, customers etc. These stakeholders have the right to know the exact picture of the project at all the required times. It is the duty of everyone involved in a project to make sure everyone else is aware of the correct status because their actions can hamper others work. For example, sometime in situations like a project falling behind the deadline or a project exceeding budget, it becomes an ethical dilemma for the project managers whether or not to tell the clients or customers about this delay or over budgeting. He/She faces dilemmas like how much of the truth should be revealed.
There are many implications if there is a failure in reporting the exact picture to all the stakeholders. If the delay caused in a project is not conveyed to lets say Client, they will be under the impression that project is moving in accordance to the desired timeline and will keep on expecting the delivery on time and many times due to this pressure of delivering on time the quality of the product is compromised to a large extent. This compromises the reputation of the company, of the project manager as a professional leading to low market value.
It is the duty of the PM to make sure exact picture is reported to all the stakeholders. This can be done in many ways, for example by establishing a reporting standard and the team know in advance. PM can conduct regular meetings every week to closely monitor the progress of the project. They should maintain a backlog for issues and modules that are not completed in time. PMs should try to be as accurate as possible in their reporting. If they are using any approximations, they should be conveyed beforehand. PMs are the liaison between the team and all other stakeholders; obviously they are under a lot of pressure and may sometimes end up falsifying the reports. They should try to not succumb to such pressure and should try to maintain transparency.
Another example of ethical dilemma project managers face is when to call a project quits. There are many situations when a project needs to be shut down. Situations like when there are changes in the business requirements in middle of the project and the new requirements dont align with the goals of the company, project managers then decide whether to go on with a project or not. PMs being a connection between the company and stakeholders, they clearly know whether the business requirements map clearly with the goals of the project. It becomes an ethical dilemma for the project managers whether or not to call it quits. Over budgeting is also a major reason why projects get called off. In case of over budgeting, PM should take a call whether or not to continue with the project. There are many implications if a project doesnt get called off at the right time. A project that is dragged unnecessarily results in wastage of company resources like people working on a project, budget allotted and time involved. If a project manager decides to call a project off at the right time because of issues mentioned above, all the resources working on the project can work for something else instead of a non-yielding project. When a project is large and involves a lot of people, this wastage can scale up to millions of dollars. Decision of calling off a project at the right time thus becomes very crucial in order to save time and money.
As mentioned before, the Project managers should decide when to continue with a project and when to call it off. PMs can address these situations via variety of ways. Combination of budget and strategic conditions are main criteria project managers should consider while deciding whether to use resources on a project or not. They can conduct initial meetings with all the involved stakeholders and can come up with criteria to be considered while evaluating the future of the project. The established criteria should be clearly stated in the Project charter by the PM at the start of the project and the project should be regularly evaluated against the charter in order to have a clear understanding of the health of the project.
Thus, we can say that a project can never be devoid of ethical dilemmas. As seen in the article, project managers should try and resolve these ethical dilemmas in a way that everyone is benefitted at the end and the focus of the project is not compromised.
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