Ethical Decision Making Workshop

Introduction

This guide describes an approach for presenting an interactive, ethics‐based decisionmaking workshop to PMI members and certification holders who want to enhance their leadership skills. Ethics is part of the leadership leg of the PMI Talent Triangle™. The workshop provides participants the opportunity to leverage their ethical knowledge to strengthen their leadership skills, raising the odds of project success. In addition, the workshop:

  • Exposes participants to the importance of ethical behavior through optional prereading
  • Provides the opportunity to work in groups
  • Develops an ability to apply the Ethical Decision‐Making Framework (EDMF) to address a realistic, fictional ethical dilemma
  • Extends the experience through optional participant homework on ethics‐related dilemmas that confront PMI volunteer leaders

Background and Context

This workshop has been successfully delivered at Leadership Institute Master Classes and is now more broadly available. It is intended as a two‐ to three‐hour session. If an additional hour is available, the optional pre‐reading and homework can be included as separate activities before and after the workshop.

Primary User and Audience

The primary user of this workshop guide is the instructor. The instructor can be a member of the PMI Ethics Member Advisory Group (EMAG), a region mentor, or an individual sufficiently experienced with teaching ethics and ethical dilemmas.

The primary audiences for this workshop are the attendees at PMI events, where sufficient interest and time exists in connecting the topics of leadership and ethics, including, but not limited to: Leadership Institute Master Class, PMI® Global Congresses, leadership meetings, regional leadership conferences, regional and chapter professional development events and conferences, and chapter classes and workshops. The intended workshop size is between 10 and 30 participants.

Approach

This highly interactive workshop is conducted by the instructor through brief lecture, facilitated class discussion, group exercises, and group discussions. The process helps to:

  • Identify an event with a suitable venue, sufficient time, and target participant audience
  • Identify a suitable primary user (instructor)
  • The instructor then:
  • Arranges the workshop date, time, and facilities with the venue host
  • Makes decisions, in consultation with venue host, about including optional pre‐reading and optional homework
  • Performs the preparation necessary to conduct the workshop
  • Distributes and assigns the optional participant pre‐reading if desired
  • Forms participants into groups to engage together during the workshop
  • Distributes workshop reading materials and conducts the workshop
  • Distributes and assigns the optional participant homework, if desired
  • Inspires the participants to make a positive connection between ethical behavior, leadership, and project success

Materials

This workshop uses a mix of materials as follows:

Optional participant pre‐reading: Prior to the workshop, you can direct participants to the following articles and optionally provide time to read them.

Provided documents: Hardcopies for each of the participants will be provided during the workshop.

  • PMI Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct (8 pages)
  • PMI Ethical Decision‐Making Framework (EDMF) (2 pages)
  • PMI EDMF Professional Dave/Amy Dilemma Case Study (1 page)
  • PMI EDMF Volunteer Andy/Sarah Dilemma Case Study (1 page)

Optional participant homework: Participants may be assigned ethics‐based leadership homework to prepare a written response, applying the following paper to the practice of project management:

Case studies provided below

Agenda and Instructor Notes

The instructor of the workshop should follow the agenda provided below and use the instructor notes to engage participants in critical thinking and facilitated discussion about the intersection of leadership and ethical decision making.

As noted above, the workshop is two to three hours and if an additional hour is available, reading can be done before the workshop and homework can be done afterward.

Facilities

The following facilities are needed:

  • A room sized to fit the total number of participants; nominally 20ft2 (2m2) per participant
  • A room arranged with tables and chairs sized for participant groups of 4‐8 participants each, with an instructor table at the room front
  • An easel with flip chart and markers for instructor
  • An easel with flip chart and markers for each participant group

Expected Impact

Participants in the workshop are expected to increase their awareness and appreciation of the value of ethical behavior, advance their understanding of the connection between ethics and leadership and project success, improve their ability to address ethical dilemmas, and identify opportunities to apply what they have learned.

Time Content Activities Instructor Notes
[30 min.]

Optional Pre‐Reading:

1. Participants optionally read assigned material prior to workshop.

  • The Data's In: Honesty Really Does Start at the Top (3 pages)
  • Staying Ethical in a Competitive
Pre‐Reading
  1. Make decision, in consultation with venue host, about including optional pre‐reading. Bases decision on available time, level of interest, and level of ethics aptitude of participants.
  2. Optionally distribute one (hard or soft) copy of each prereading item to each participant.
  3. Instruct participants to complete pre‐reading and bring a hardcopy of each item with them to the workshop.
  4. Instruct participants to come to the workshop prepared to discuss the impact that top managers have on ethical behavior.

 

15 min.

Introduction/Opening:

1. Instructor and participant introductions

2. Discussion of participant pre‐reading

3. Workshop purpose

Lecture Facilitated class discussion
  1. Arrange participants into groups of 4‐8 people; explains that they will work within their groups for the entire workshop.
  2. Instructor introduction, including ethics‐ and leadership‐related credentials.
  3. Participant introductions, including reason for interest in leadership and ethics.
  4. Optionally engage participants in discussion of the pre‐reading with emphasis to the impact top managers have on ethical behavior; otherwise, tell participants about the impact top managers have on ethical behavior.
  5. Help participants make the connection between the top managers and themselves; participants have an impact on the ethical behavior within their chapters, within their projects, and within their workplace.
  6. Review workshop purpose. Participants in the workshop are expected to increase their awareness and appreciation of the value of ethical behavior, advance their understanding of the connection between ethics and leadership and project success, improve their ability to address ethical dilemmas, and identify opportunities within their volunteer PMI roles to apply what they have learned.
  7. Review workshop agenda.

 

60 min.

Ethical Decision‐Making Framework Exercise:

1. Participants receive copies of documentation.

  • PMI Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct (8 pages)
  • PMI Ethical Decision‐ Making Framework (EDMF) (2 pages)
  • Professional Dave/Amy Dilemma Case Study (1 page)
  • Volunteer Andy/Sarah Dilemma Case Study (1 page)

2. Groups choose one case.

3. Groups apply EDMF and Code to case study.

4. Groups prepare to present case study highlights.

 

Exercise Group discussions
  1. Distribute one copy of each document to each participant.
  2. Inform participants that each group is to select one of the provided case studies (one case study is about a PMI volunteer dilemma and the other case study is about a dilemma at work).
  3. Direct participants to work with their group to read and analyze the selected case study and draft responses to the case dilemma questions and the case task descriptions.
  4. Inform participants that they should refer to the Code of Ethics and EDMF in their analysis of the case. Note that a full reading of these documents is not required.
  5. Ask group to choose one spokesperson to share the highlights of their discussion about the selected case with the class; use flip charts.
45 min.

Group Presentations and Discussion:

1. Groups deliver case study presentations.

2. Class discusses process to address an ethical dilemma.

Group presentations Facilitated class discussion
  1. Instruct each group spokesperson to deliver highlights presentation of up to 10 minutes per group; use flip chart. Note that after the first group or two has presented, it may be more efficient for subsequent groups to present only information that is substantially different from what has already been presented. Note that time constraints may not allow all groups to present.
  2. Instruct groups to participate in the presentation by making helpful comments and asking helpful questions.
  3. Help participants make the connection between an ethical dilemma, the Code, and EDMF; reinforce that the process of addressing an ethical dilemma is more important than the particular outcome.
  4. Help the participants understand that although PMI does not provide ethics advice, there is a considerable amount of ethics information and tools available.
  5. Help participants understand that effectively addressing an ethical dilemma requires critical thinking.
15 min.

Closing Discussion:

1. Discuss what actions PMI leaders can take to establish and reinforce ethical behavior in themselves and in the organization.

2. Inform participants about sources of available ethicsrelated information.

3. Provide participant homework assignment:

  • The Leader’s Choice – Five Steps to Ethical Decision‐Making (8 pages)
Facilitated class discussion
  1. Facilitate class discussion about the responsibility of PMI leaders to establish and reinforce ethical behavior in themselves and in the organization.
  2. Help participants understand that the Code requires them to act when they have first‐hand knowledge of an ethical dilemma.
  3. Inform participants about sources of available ethics‐related information including the ethics section of the PMI website where additional toolkit items may be found.
  4. Optionally distribute one (hard or soft) copy of homework to each participant.
  5. Instruct each participant to read assigned homework and write a 200‐500 word response to the question: “What are the significant ethics‐related challenges you see for volunteer leaders in PMI?"
  6. Instruct participants in answering the question, “Describe each challenge you identify with, why you feel each challenge is significant, and your thoughts about what can be done within PMI to help address the challenges.”
[30 min.]

Optional Participant Homework:

1. Optionally discuss participant homework assignment.

Group or Individual reading and discussion
  1. Make decision, in consultation with venue host, about including optional homework. Base decision on available time, level of interest, and level of ethics aptitude of participants.
  2. Optionally process assigned homework by having participants exchange and discuss their written responses with others in their group.
  3. Reinforce that ethical decision‐making is key to building the levels of trust necessary for project leaders with limited authority to motivate followers to achieve project success. The PMI EDMF contains five steps with multiple sub‐questions that can be used as a guide for critical thinking throughout the entire ethical decision‐making process.

Time Content Activities
[30 min.]

Optional Pre‐Reading:

1. Participants optionally read assigned pre‐reading prior to workshop:

  • The Data's In: Honesty Really Does Start at the Top (3 pages)
  • Staying Ethical in a Competitive World (3 pages)
Pre‐Reading
15 min.

Introduction/Opening:

1. Instructor and participant introductions
2. Discussion of participant pre‐reading
3. 
Workshop purpose
4. 
Workshop agenda

Lecture

Facilitated class discussion

60 min.

Ethical Decision‐Making Framework Exercise:

1. Participants receive copies of documentation

  • PMI Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct (8 pages)
  • PMI Ethical Decision‐Making Framework (EDMF) (2 pages)
  • Professional Dave/Amy Dilemma Case Study (1 page)
  • Volunteer Andy/Sarah Dilemma Case Study (1 page) 

2. Groups choose one case study.
3. Groups apply EDMF and Code to case study.
4. Groups prepare to present case study highlights.

Exercise

Group discussions

45 min.

Group Presentations and Discussion:

1. Groups deliver case study presentations.
2. Class discusses process to address an ethical dilemma.

Group presentations

Facilitated class discussion

15 min.

Closing Discussion:

1. Discuss what actions PMI leaders can take to establish and reinforce ethical behavior in themselves and in the organization.

2. Inform participants about sources of available ethics‐related information.

3. Provide participant homework assignment:

  • The Leader’s Choice – Five Steps to Ethical Decision‐Making (8 pages)
Facilitated class discussion
[30 min.]

Optional Participant Homework:

1. Optionally discuss participant homework assignment.

Group or Individual reading and discussion

Professional Dave/Amy Dilemma Case Study

Context

Dave is a young, aggressive Project Management Professional (PMP)® certification holder working for a major software development company and this is his second job since becoming certified. He was hired into a group of elite project managers, each with varying degrees of experience. His peers had been divided on whether or not he should join the team. Amy, in particular, was uncomfortable with what he listed as accomplishments on his résumé and had questioned his level of experience.

After a few months, it became evident that Dave was significantly more immature than his peers. He talked over people and shouted them down, turning every meeting into a battleground. He soon alienated part of the team and Amy, coming from a different cultural background, found his behavior highly disturbing. On the other hand, Dave appeared to doing his job adequately, if not very well, and he seemed to have the full support of the director.

After a particularly difficult meeting, Amy overheard Dave disparaging another project manager who had challenged him. Soon, rumors about that project manager were flying around and Amy had the impression they all began with Dave. The atmosphere in the office was also changing and Amy perceived a higher lever of competition and conflict among peers, but Dave had his supporters.

Although she was not directly involved in his projects, Amy started taking a closer look at Dave’s job. She noticed that when he met with executives in the company, he regularly took credit for his team’s work. He did work late and put in some hours on weekends, but Amy was convinced that he was grossly exaggerating his effort and, moreover, there was no evidence that his projects benefited from all the extra hours.

Dilemma

What is Amy’s position as Dave’s peer? And, as a more senior manager in the company? Should Amy look more closely into Dave’s projects? What could happen if she approaches the director about the problem? What will happen if she does not say anything?

Task description:

  • List which facts you consider relevant to clarify the situation.
  • List which alternative options for taking action that you consider significant and prioritize one.
  • Describe the impacts your choice might have.
  • List the questions that you find relevant to recognize and assess the ethical dilemma, even if the question is not listed in the PMI EDMF.

Volunteer Andy/Sarah Dilemma Case Study

Context

Andy is a contractor in Sarah’s training and consulting company. He likes his job and he has developed a good relationship with Sarah; he trusts her and he values her competences and leadership skills. He was hired six months ago and his contract will expire in six months, but Sarah’s business is growing fast, and more and more frequently, she gives him names of potential clients to develop. Andy feels that he might soon get a permanent job in the company.

Sarah and Andy are both Project Management Professional (PMP)® certification holders and are volunteers at the local PMI chapter. Sarah is vice president of membership and her sales and communications skills have helped to significantly increase the membership numbers. Andy is a director‐at‐large and serves on the event management team.

Sarah stepped down as vice president of chapter membership after only ten months in the office, citing a growing business workload. At the same time, she recommends Andy for the position and the board accepts. In his new volunteer role, Andy soon discovers that the chapter’s membership list is very similar to the lists of potential clients that Sarah had given him at work. Andy suspects that the two lists might be related or might actually be the same.

Dilemma

What is Andy’s position as a volunteer? And what is his position as an employee in Sarah’s company? What will be Andy’s professional perspective if he blows the whistle? What will happen if he doesn’t say anything?

Task description:

  • What is the ethical dilemma presented, if any? List which facts you consider relevant to clarify the situation.
  • List the options you consider significant for taking action and prioritize one.
  • Describe the impacts your choice might have.
  • List questions that you find relevant, even if not listed in the EDMF.