The Essential Role of Commitment and Accountability in Project Management

As project managers, it’s not just our responsibility to ensure things run smoothly and finish on time. It’s also our responsibility to ensure that our projects are conducted in a way that recognizes the essential rights of all to healthy, clean, and safe environments, equal opportunity, fair remuneration, ethical procurement, and adherence to the rule of law. This is where commitment and accountability become crucial.

In 2016 we launched the PM4Prosperity Movement, advancing six principles for the project profession. Here is a photo of  a younger me with much more hair than I have now at the BalticPMdays where we first announced them.

The Six Principles are:

  1. Commitment & Accountability Recognize the essential rights of all to healthy, clean and safe environments, equal opportunity, fair remuneration, ethical procurement, and adherence to rule of law
  2. Ethics & Decision Making – Support organizational ethics, decision making with respect for universal principles through identification, mitigation, and the prevention of adverse short and long-term impacts on society and the environment
  3. Integrated & Transparent  Foster the interdependence of economic development, social integrity, and environmental protection in all aspects of governance, practice and reporting
  4. Principles & Values Based – Conserve and enhancing our natural resource base by improving the ways in which we develop and use technologies and resources
  5. Social & Ecological Equity – Assess human vulnerability in ecologically sensitive areas and centres of population through demographic dynamics
  6. Economic Prosperity – Adhere to fiscal strategies, objectives, and targets that balance the needs of stakeholders, including immediate needs and those of future generations

Today, I want to focus on the first one, Commitment and Accountability and what we mean by that.

First, this isn’t a discussion on responsible vs. accountable. That one has been beaten to death. Responsible refers to being in charge of a task or duty, while accountable refers to being answerable for the outcome of that task or duty.  Moving on… We focus on committing to value creation.  I will break it down into three parts.

1. Recognizing Essential Rights

At the heart of any good project management practice is the recognition that our work is not done in a vacuum. We are part of a broader community, and our actions impact the people and the environment around us. This is why recognizing the essential rights of all is so important.

Healthy, clean, and safe environments are essential for the well-being of people and ecosystems. As project managers, we need to ensure that our projects do not harm the environment or put people at risk. This means taking steps to minimize pollution, protect biodiversity, and prioritize the health and safety of workers and nearby communities.

Equal opportunity is another essential right that we must always keep in mind. We need to make sure that our projects give everyone a fair chance, regardless of their gender, race, or socio-economic background. This means creating inclusive workplaces, providing training and education opportunities, and striving to eliminate any biases and prejudices that may exist.

Fair remuneration, including salaries and benefits, is also crucial. We need to make sure that everyone involved in our projects, from workers to suppliers to subcontractors, is paid fairly for their work. This means adhering to minimum wage laws, avoiding exploitative or unfair practices, and striving to create fair and equitable supply chains.

Ethical procurement is another essential component of project management. We need to make sure that the products and services we procure, from raw materials to finished goods, are ethically sourced and produced. This means avoiding suppliers with a history of unethical practices, such as child labor or environmental degradation, and promoting responsible sourcing throughout our supply chains.

Finally, adherence to the rule of law is essential for ensuring that our projects are conducted in an ethical and responsible way. This means complying with all applicable laws and regulations, from labor laws to environmental regulations to tax laws. It also means promoting transparency and accountability throughout our projects, and being prepared to take responsibility for any mistakes or wrongdoing that may occur.

2. Commitment (the importance of)

Recognizing essential rights is just the first step. To truly create a culture of ethical and responsible project management, we need to be committed to these principles.

Commitment starts from the top. Project managers and executives need to make it clear that ethical and responsible project management is a top priority, and that they are committed to making it happen. This means setting clear expectations and goals, and creating policies and procedures that support these principles.

But commitment also needs to come from everyone involved in the project. This means engaging and educating all stakeholders, from workers to suppliers to customers. It means creating a shared vision of what ethical and responsible project management looks like, and encouraging everyone to take ownership of this vision.

Commitment also means being willing to take action. When ethical or responsible issues arise, we can’t just turn a blind eye. We need to be prepared to take decisive action to address these issues, whether that means changing our processes, engaging in dialogue with stakeholders, or even cancelling a project that can’t be conducted in a responsible way.

3. The Importance of Accountability

Commitment is essential, but it’s not enough on its own. We also need accountability to ensure that our projects are conducted in an ethical and responsible way.

Accountability starts with transparency. We need to be open and honest about our actions and our impact, both positive and negative. This means reporting on our progress towards our ethical and responsible project management goals, and being prepared to answer questions and address concerns from stakeholders.

But accountability also means taking responsibility for our mistakes and shortcomings. When things go wrong, we need to acknowledge our role and work to make it right. This means conducting robust investigations when issues arise, and taking steps to prevent similar issues from happening in the future.

In some cases, accountability may even mean accepting outside oversight. This could take the form of external audits or reviews, or partnering with NGOs or other organizations that promote ethical and responsible project management. By opening ourselves up to outside scrutiny, we can demonstrate our commitment to these principles and show that we are serious about making a positive impact.

Ultimately, it’s not just the success of our projects that matters!

Project management is about more than just timelines and budgets. It’s about recognizing the essential rights of all to healthy, clean, and safe environments, equal opportunity, fair remuneration, ethical procurement, and adherence to the rule of law. It’s about showing commitment to these principles and being accountable for our actions. By doing so, we can create a culture of ethical and responsible project management that benefits everyone involved, from workers to customers to the broader community. Ultimately, it’s not just the success of our projects that matters, but how we achieve that success. With commitment and accountability as our guiding principles, we can ensure that our projects are conducted in a way that leaves a positive impact on the world around us.

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Dr. Joel Carboni

Dr. Joel Carboni is a highly respected expert in sustainable project management. He is a graduate of Ball State University and holds a Ph.D. in Sustainable Development and Environment. He has over 25 years of experience in project management, including government, finance, consulting, manufacturing, and education. He is a frequent speaker at conferences and events related to project management and sustainability and has worked in more than 50 countries. In addition to serving as President Emeritus of the International Project Management Association (IPMA) in the United States and being a member of the Global advisory board, Dr. Carboni is also the founder of GPM (Green Project Management) and a visiting professor at Skema Business School. He is also the GPM representative to the United Nations Global Compact, where he was a founding signatory of the Business for Peace Initiative and the Anti-Corruption call to action and a contributor to the development of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (SDGs). Dr. Carboni is the creator of the PRiSM™ project delivery methodology and the P5 Standard for Sustainability in Project Management and has written training programs on Green and Sustainable Project Management that are offered in more than 145 countries through professional training providers, business associations, and universities. He is the lead author of the book "Sustainable Project Management."

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