Month: February 2019

Integrity in projects: standards of conduct with the media

Your personal behaviour  can affect the entire organization/company to which you provide your project management services. This can be even more critical if you deal with the media.

Check and follow your industry / Organisation’s Standards of Professional Conduct whenever in doubt and consult your colleagues in charge of the media.

The media may play a critical role in the field you implement the project in. If you are authorized to communicate with the media, be careful not to convey an inappropriate message, as it may put you/your colleagues in a difficult situation:

  • Speak only within your own area of competence and responsibility. Make it clear that you are project manager, not a decision-maker.
  • Provide facts, not opinions or comments.
  • Leave sensitive issues to officials who are specifically authorized to speak on them.
  • Decline politely by referring media to the authorised person, if you are not authorised to talk to the media.
  • Monitor the coverage to prompt necessary reaction to the way the facts of a project are depicted in the media.

Also, in multi-cultural environments or when traveling for work, stay attuned to the cultural factors in the environment the project is implemented. For example:

  • Can my religious beliefs – or lack of them – cause hostility? Can I talk openly about religion? Can I wear symbols of my religious faith? I remember these questions before my first trip to Kyrgyzstan.
  • Could there be friction because of the way the country sees the different roles of men and women?
  • Am I dressed appropriately for the location and social setting?
  • Beware of jokes that may seem inappropriate.
  • In some cultures, it is OK to disagree openly. In others, disagreements are discussed privately.
  • Beware of taking pictures inappropriately and without consent.

These considerations extend to social media, and even to your private life.

  • Do not include any organisation/company logos, emblems or other symbols in your profile, as some people might be misled into thinking you are speaking on behalf of the Organization/Company.
  • Avoid discussions involving sensitive political, religious and social issues.
  • Have your press-release first published on the company/organisation’s website on any official project events, then repost. You can post a selfie post-event, if you absolutely  must.


Lion’s cage: the things we do in projects

It was breakfast time. I was wondering whether our trainer – Alex – will show up. My brain was analysing options, in case he will not. I would have understood. The day before was tough.
When Alex got into the breakfast room, he had a poker face so I was prepared for anything.
– It feels as if going into a lion’s cage, said Alex.
– We are the lions, I said, meekly.

He smiled back, took a sip of coffee and went to prepare the room for the day.

How we got there: A client wanted a two day training on a matter they said it was important for the future of the organisation and they wanted to do it only with us. They did not have to pay for it. We had a sponsor. We agreed, found the right trainers and organised the logistics. We expected an audience of 100 people representing over 30,000 of the organisation’s members.

When day 1 unfolded, a strong sense of opposition to the concepts to be tackled became obvious. The matter was more sensitive to the members of the organisation than we anticipated from the preparatory work with their management. Their internal divisions became also obvious. Not an ideal environment for learning and advancing the interests of the organisation.

But this is the nature of projects – they are not needed in ideal environments. We had to put together our conflict resolution skills, networking skills, positive feedback and the ability to help people find common ground. It also required a ‘is there anything I can do?” question whispered to the chairperson of the organisation, who seemed to enjoy the fight her fellows were putting on with the trainers. She got my point and helped change the tone of the event.

Finally, we managed to put the training on the right track and by the end of Day 2 we could smile and be proud that people were engaging in group work, making presentations and interacting in a civilised way with each other and trainers. They took away a great deal of new and important perspectives for their organisation’s future. Those who stayed to the end were fully satisfied. Their management sent us a Thank You letter afterwards.

We could have stopped after day 1. A note to file would have done the job. Payments would be partial, according to the work and services actually delivered… . Still there was something to it, for us to learn.

My take away:
– be prepared to recover projects at any time;
– trust your members of the team;
– act on prevention with the information you have at hand;
– build alliances and rely on then.

Integrity in projects: offering gifts

– I would buy that painting for the minister. She seemed to have liked it when she visited our office.
– Would you buy it if she was NOT a minister?, asked our Ethics Officer.
That conversation in the conference room of an international organisation stayed with me for years.

We are often tempted to offer something to projects’ partners – a small gift, a token of appreciation, an invitation to an event… .

Then comes the WHY. Why would we offer gifts and things, in addition to the services/products delivered? The reasons might be multiple. “Why not?”, “What harm would it do?”, “It’s just a gesture”, we can hear in response. Still, would you offer the gift to X if he/she was not a decision-maker or a gate-keeper? Most probably not.

Offering gifts carries an intention of some sort, even in the most selfless among us. From a gesture of attention on a birthday or an anniversary of some sort to the implicit or explicit intention of getting advantages and influencing the decision-making for a project’s or personal gain.

Paying bribes is outright illegal and unethical and that is cut in stone for any project manager committed to integrity and accountability, respective of the sector he/she operates in. Projects are often unpredictable beasts and even more so in environments where bribery is a fact of life for making things happen. Taming the beast requires a thorough knowledge and understanding of the local laws and practices, as well as legal preparatory work in forms of incentives, which could be provided in a safe legal arrangement. U.S.A. government contracts sometimes include incentive payments for early project completion, for example.

Project performance depends on people behaviour. And human behaviour can be incentivised provided people health/safety, environment protection and/or laws and regulations are not being infringed.

Many years ago, to ensure presence at meetings, which could only take place outside business hours due to the client’s work programme, I provided tea and snacks to all who came. The offering was for all and all could benefit from it. This way we managed to decide on project’s milestones and move forward. In today’s remote projects environments, decisions can be taken on-line and at each individual’s pace, within an agreed timeframe.

Finding and applying the right and ethical incentives is both an art and technique in a project. What worked in your project environment?

To sum up/Do:
– abide by laws and your Code of Ethics and professional conduct;
– use incentives for performance motivation within legal and social norms;
– check your ‘why’ behind the impulse / desire to offer a gift.

Drawing by Sofia.

From the series “Integrity in project management”. To be continued.