Driving project leadership through stakeholder values


Managing Partner, Arboretum Technology, LLC


On projects with evolving requirements and constrained resources, the ethical treatment of stakeholders is often undermined by results-driven behaviour. To treat stakeholders ethically—and meet project goals—values and the treatment of stakeholders must be defined and used throughout the project to drive all leadership decisions. A leadership team intentionally defines ethically effective results through the alignment of stated values and values in action and base stakeholder management practices on these values. The values of a global ethic define this leadership teams’ stakeholder treatment strategy: Be Honest, Be Fair, Strive for Justice, Respect Dignity of Person, and Honour the Environment.

This paper identifies the foundation for ethical treatment of stakeholders during the management of a research project and is easily adapted to any project. The paper discusses the project under study, relevant research on the benefits of an ethical stakeholder view, the foundation for values-centred treatment, and a tool (the GRID) to drive ethical leadership practices.

The study's conclusion supports what every project manager knows: not all stakeholders are equal, nor do all values carry equal weight. Yet, despite constantly changing requirements, limited available resources, and encroaching project end date, all stakeholders can feel respected and valued as a result of ethically effective leadership practices.


A project plan is defined by milestones, deliverables, and tasks, but is the execution of such a plan conducted in the most ethical manner without conscious intent? How are the stakeholders treated? Are all stakeholders respected, valued, and treated fairly? The premise of the study theorized that results-driven behaviour, typically used in aggressive projects with evolving requirements and constrained resources, often neglects the ethical treatment of stakeholders. Recognizing leadership drives projects to success: the study's goal was to demonstrate how conscious application of ethical standards elevated the leadership teams’ ethical effectiveness on this successful drive to completion. Ethically effective leadership teams resolve conflict fairly, drive decisions with respect for the stakeholder's views, and build cohesive and trusting teams through open and honest communications.

The challenge is measuring the ethical effectiveness of a leadership team. To support this measurement and to meet the objectives of the study, stakeholder feedback was gathered to affirm that the leadership team's stated values were aligned with values in action. Could the stakeholders see the leaders living their stated values? The intention of the leadership team was to elevate the leadership practices to a higher ethical standard. The leadership team defined their espoused values and sought to understand their consistency in aligning these values to their management actions. The tool, the Guiding Rules Inspiring Direction (GRID), was used to define leadership team values and act as a compass for guiding an approach to stakeholder treatment.

Ethical principles are explored to validate the values-centred foundation of stakeholder treatment. The team's findings are documented and the conclusion supports what every project leader knows: not all stakeholders are equal, nor do all values carry equal weight. Yet, despite constantly changing requirements, limited available resources, and an encroaching project end date, all stakeholders felt respected and valued as a result of ethically effective leadership team practices. Conclusions proved that good intentions may be overridden by realistic project goals (constrained resources, scope modifications, and the ever-ticking clock) while still demonstrating high respect for all stakeholders. A business model is presented that integrates the dynamics of value-centred leadership with stakeholder interest.

The Research Project

The study, a qualitative action research study (Stringer, 1999, Leedy & Ormord, 2005, Schon, 1983, Riel, 2013), was conducted to examine leadership team behaviour while managing a research project (McCullough & Niedzwecki, 2005, p. 3–24). Two senior researchers, candidates of the Master of Science Organizational Leadership and Ethics degree programme (St. Edwards, 2014), were required to complete an action research study capstone project. They and two faculty members were assigned to a project leadership team to manage the research project behind the Ethics in Business (EIB) awards programme offered by the Samaritan Center, a NGO (Visionary Leaders, 2005). The leadership team's main deliverable was subjective and quantifiable research of candidates nominated for the most ethical business in Austin, Texas, USA. The project methodology was clearly defined by preceding teams and was intended to be applied consistently throughout the years. The senior researchers conducted an action research study of their own ethically effective leadership practices while managing the project.

The project team members included other graduate students formed into nine sub-teams each focused on one candidate. Critical to any assessment of effectiveness is the underlying requisite that there is a strong interdependence among team members. This interdependence requires coordination and synchronization among members and integration of their contributions to achieve team goals (Zaccaro & Klimoski, 2002). The leadership team conducted a kick-off meeting to assist with team formation. The teams were organized, trained, and introduced to their candidate. The leadership team was trained in ethical practices, leadership theory, and project management.

Recognizing the primary goal of successful project completion, the leadership team suspected extra effort would be needed. A model of leadership and team dynamics assessed by Zaccaro (Zaccaro, et al., 2001, p. 451–483) relied on ‘functional leadership.’ This approach essentially asserts that the leader's main job is to do, or get done, whatever functions are not being handled adequately in terms of group needs (Ibid.). This application was found useful as timelines narrowed and scope increased, requiring the leadership team to roll up their sleeves to support the team and accomplish the work. The project presented a perfect forum to study the ethical effectiveness of the leadership team's practices while driving to a successful completion.

Stakeholder View

The leadership team based its premise to achieve ethically effective leadership on the treatment of their stakeholders. The leadership team is to be deemed ethically effective as perceived by this group. There is much supporting evidence that stakeholder management offers a foundation for viewing ethical practices of business (Carroll & Buchholtz, 2007, p. vi). Carroll & Buchhholtz support the definition of stakeholder as an individual having an interest, claim, or share in an undertaking. These primary stakes take the form of financial ownership, while secondary stakeholders include those others with rights or an interest in the outcomes (Ibid., p. 83). The Project Management Institute (PMI) agrees and defines stakeholders as an “individual, group, or organization who may affect, be affected by, or perceived itself to be affected by a decision, activity, or outcome of a project” (2013, p. 30). In the project context, these stakeholders influence and at times directly impact the project outcomes, decisions, and objectives to meet their needs. The leadership team strived to understand and consider these stakeholder needs in each project decision.

Furthermore, John Dalla Costa outlines a relational equity model that ties the value of the stakeholder relationship to increased effectiveness of the organization through quality interactions over time (Dalla Costa, 1998, p. 178-179). The leadership team accepted this premise, integrating accountability with partnership and ensuring that ethically enhanced stakeholder treatment benefits every stakeholder and the organization. As relational equity grows in the stakeholder community, so grows the effectiveness of the organization.

At the initiation of the study, the leadership team identified the project stakeholders and their needs. This resulted in identifying what unique behaviours of the leadership team were expected by the specific stakeholder group to support ethically effective practices. This process also yielded a strategy for managing stakeholder expectations throughout the project. This effort supports the first and second step in the stakeholder management knowledge area of the Project Management Institute's A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide): identify stakeholders and plan stakeholder management, stating, “process of developing appropriate strategy to engage stakeholders throughout the project life cycle, based on analysis of their needs, interests, and impact to project success” (2013, p. 391).

Value Centred Leadership – Ethical Principles

Virtue Ethics

With the stakeholders identified, the leadership team prepared for the next step, articulating the team values. In order to drive each project decision from their values, the leadership team needed to define the common values. The leadership team subscribed to the theory that leadership is governed by the leaders’ values (Ciulla, 1998, p. 13). How to agree upon which values are worthy of consideration? The leadership team unanimously adopted global principles that define, “moral leadership as good business” (Dalla Costa, 1998)—and often referred to as virtue ethics (Reynolds & Bowie, 2004 p. 275–292)—that the individual being instilled with virtues such as honesty, fairness, truthfulness, and benevolence would indeed practice ethical leadership. Virtue ethics focuses on the character development of the leader (Carroll & Buchholtz, 2007, p. 301; Durant, 1961, p. 60–62), also recognizing that leaders can become of good character by surrounding themselves with diligent practice and intentional choice to become more virtuous as rooted in the philosophy of Aristotle (Durant, 1961, p 58).

A Global Ethic

Once the leadership team decided to align to virtue ethics—to develop values for action—they sought out the tenets of a global ethic: Respect Dignity of the Person, Be Fair, Be Honest, Strive for What is Just, and Honour the Environment, referred to as the global ethic (Global Ethic Foundation, 2009, p. 4–11, Dalla Costa, 1998, p. 178–179). The global ethic is a movement to build common values, norms, and rules that all societies and people can depend upon for peaceful coexistence. Such values can be found in all the great religious and philosophical traditions of humankind. These values are not new, but people need to be made aware of them again: they must be lived out and handed down through the generations (Hans, 2014, p. 2). The leadership team interpreted the global ethic to mean: respect all stakeholders, communicate honestly, treat stakeholders fairly, recognize and act with justice, as well as incorporating the three ‘R's for environmental treatment—recycle, reuse, and reduce— for handling stakeholder communication and documentation. Another common ethical view is the golden rule: Do unto others as you would have them do to you; however, in our stakeholder view we considered the rule as ‘do unto others as they wish you to do to them,’ taking the stakeholder's frame of reference.

Utilitarian vs. Kant Ethics

Other ethical theories were reviewed by the leadership team including a utilitarian approach which demands selecting the solution with the greatest good to the greatest number when choosing between two options (Carroll & Buchholtz, 2007, p. 294). In project alternatives, cost benefit analysis is often used to support the chosen option. Cost benefit analysis nets the positive effects and negative effects in dollar values to determine the preferred approach. However, a strict cost benefit analysis does not consider stakeholder treatment and therefore may miss on an ethical treatment.

The leadership team also considered the duty-driven ethical approach declared by Immanuel Kant (Velasquez, 2002, p.100). Kant believed human beings possess certain moral rights and duties regardless of utilitarian benefits. The leadership team supported Kant's categorical imperatives: the first imperative is a treatment of the stakeholder must be treatment all project leaders would employ in a similar situation (Ibid.); the second imperative is respect each person's freedom by treating them as they have consented to be treated and allowing them to choose their pursuits (Ibid.). Kant's main ethical treatment of stakeholders states that people should never be used as a means to an end. They are, in and of themselves, an end (Durant, 1961, p. 210). In a Kantian project approach, all stakeholders are included in the choices of project issues and their needs are satisfied above and beyond their expectations. Key stakeholders are often used as a means to an end, including team members responsible for project deliverables.

Guiding Rules Inspiring Direction (GRID)

The leadership team needed to identify how each stakeholder desired to be treated. The leadership team then took each stakeholder group and, as if in their shoes, defined what treatment was expected to satisfy the specific value. The Guiding Rules Inspiring Direction (GRID), Appendix A, is designed as a physical grid with each column as a specific value and one row for each stakeholder group. The cells of the grid represent the evidence that the value is living for this stakeholder. The leadership team needed to articulate the values from each stakeholder view to identify the evidence of value-centred treatment. Deep conversation, questioning, and struggle were required to reach a shared understanding of the leadership team's stated values and ethical stakeholder treatment. The leadership team defined the desired behaviours regarding project execution, decision making, and conflict resolution all through each stakeholder's lens.

The goal of the study was to acknowledge stakeholders—their primary interests—and to lead according to the stated values. Those stakeholders (and those interests) included: volunteers and students on each research team (fair treatment and expectations of learning); candidates selected as semi-finalists (thorough and fair research process); and the selection committee (high quality reports, confidentiality). The leadership team is often a neglected stakeholder. To fairly consider the needs of this stakeholder group, the leadership team was added to the list, with primary interest including an equal voice for all leadership team members along with mutual respect.

The GRID was intended to evaluate each issue, project change, and leadership decision to ensure ethically effective stakeholder treatment. The leadership team committed to intentionally modify their behaviour, to conform management practices more closely to the stated values, and vowed faithful execution of the GRID. The leadership team intended to demonstrate these values to the stakeholders as values in action and asked to be held accountable through stakeholder feedback.

Values Centred Decision Making

Values centred decision making requires a process to maintain consistency and fairness, without which decision making becomes complex. How does a manager determine which stakeholder claim takes priority when actions have important implication for others? A process was needed to effectively guide a team in making the right choices when ethical dilemmas arose. An ethical dilemma is a choice between two opposing, however right choices. An ethical choice is required when treatment of two stakeholder groups are in conflict. The leadership team decided to evaluate ethical choices according to a practical process with one modification, to apply a stakeholder lens: 1) define the problem; 2) identify potential causes of problem; 3) determine and verify root cause; 4) develop a list of potential solutions; 5) determine what activities must be enlisted (Rooney & Hopen, 2004, p. 21—24). The leadership team used the GRID when an issue was identified. Stakeholder values were often in conflict. The impacted stakeholders were identified, and each potential solution was evaluated according to the values at play and degree of impact to each stakeholder.

The leadership team recognized the need for a consistent decision making practice; however, consistency in application of this process was a skill honed by continual scrutiny and practice. Conscious action kept the leadership team familiar with the prescribed tenets, but time constraints undermined the development of this skill and compromised consistent leadership team use of the process. The GRID offered a quick method to highlight values and stakeholders affected by a change and allowed the leadership team to arrive at the best solutions and to quickly move to implementation.

The core values were now defined along with a process to discern ethically effective practices. The leadership team committed to apply a Kantian approach to stakeholder treatment respecting each stakeholder group as individuals and not merely means to an end—a successful project completion.

The Action Research Methodology

The Qualitative Study

The action research study required action loops and was structured to logically relate to the project phases in order to meet the needs of the qualitative study. The intention of each action research loop was to: 1) define the goals for this loop; 2) define a plan for action to meet the goals; 3) observe and consolidate data points; 4) reflect; and 5) modify the subsequent action loops to incorporate the learning from this loop. The study was structured to respond quickly to stakeholder feedback.

Data Collection

Qualitative action research called for data collection to measure the findings of the research premise. In order to measure the leadership team's success in acting out their values, stakeholder feedback was essential. Multiple data points were used to seek stakeholder feedback and specific data collection included:

  1. Multiple parallel surveys were deployed for the various stakeholder groups including the leadership team. The survey targeted specific behaviour of the leadership team and probed for examples of the leadership team's actions to support or negate the specific value with ratings of Strongly Agree, Agree, Disagree, Strongly Disagree. Sample questions included:

    a. The leadership team practices its published core value,

    b. I am heard when I present issues,

    c. In my opinion all researchers (team members) were treated fairly,

    d. The leadership team demonstrated respect for my time and my balance between family, career, and student responsibilities.

  2. Critical incidents involving the project teams required immediate response and prompted opportunities for verbal feedback, noting immediate misalignment of values. At the project kick off meeting, the leadership team shared their values and asked to be held accountable to these values.
  3. Interviews with the project candidate stakeholders were conducted and included open ended questions. The responses supported the principled intentions to treat them fairly, with respect, and conducted a thorough and honest research process. Sample questions included:

    a. Is your experience of the research process (interviewing, documentation gathering, and survey deployment) consistent with your previous understanding of the process?

    b. Do you believe your organization will receive an objective review and assessment based on the research that is being done?

    c. The ethics in business research that your organization experienced was designed to embrace high ethical standards such as honesty and fairness in our evaluations, respecting you as a candidate and your confidentiality, committing to making sure all voices are heard, and honouring our environment. Please comment on our success of meeting this standard.

  4. The leadership team practiced reflection and group dialogue as an agenda item on each team meeting to allow insight into leadership team practices. On occasion, reflection was neglected due to higher priority project issues. To augment this lack of data, the senior researchers self-reflected and wrote journal observations.
  5. Faculty members of the leadership team were individually interviewed and asked to reflect on the activities of the team and to comment on the goal of ethically effective leadership.


To reveal the value and deeper meaning of reflection, the leadership team intended to practice the Ladder of Inference (Roberts, 1998, p. 21–29). The Ladder of Inference provides a tool to refer to a team member's level of conveyed meaning to the group, allowing the group to progress to mutual understanding. As senior researchers, our reflection required examining our own uncertainties and raising these to the leadership team for open and honest discussion (Schön, 1983, p. 236–266). The data was reviewed in the context of the Ladder of Inference to uncover deeper meaning, assumptions, and uncover each one's personal frame of reference.

At the first rung of the ladder, teams imbed assumptions within their logic and are tightly integrated into their conclusion. The next rung of the ladder is ‘walked down’ to uncover the basis for the assumptions and the deeply rooted beliefs grounding the assumptions. The bottom rung of the ladder is the evidence supporting the opinions. At this rung shared meaning is obtained, an important process for sharing values of newly formed project teams (Roberts, 1998, p. 21–29). A best practice of high advocacy teams is to state assumptions in order to make reasoning explicit. The intent of the team members was to honestly express their point of view, refrain from defensiveness when questioned, and when probing, gently walk other team members down the ladder. This exercise was vital to reach shared understanding of common values and each member's foundation for their values.

The leadership team was educated in critical thinking, and prepared to follow Argyris’ Model II to assure our values in action were consistently aligned with our stated values (Argyris, 1995, 1997, 1998). Governing values of Model II theory-in-use are valid information, informed choice, and consistent review of actions to correct variations from governing values (Argyris, 1995, p. 20–27). Reflection in action required the leadership team to draw upon past experience, adapt to existing situations, to learn and extend present inquiry to new understanding (Schön, 1983, p. 236–266). The leadership team believed the action, inquiry, and reflection are required in order to change behaviour and leadership practices.

As the action research continued, the leadership team expected the reflections to be more natural and without hesitation (Senge, et. al, 1999, p. 564); however, ‘in the moment’ reflection had faded early in the project. As the clock pressed on, the leadership team slipped into what Argyris refers to as Model I (Argyris, 1995, p. 20–27) theory-in-use, and at times, presented a defensive position of an idea, or shut down an inquiry. The leadership team found reflection useful in determining our stated values. While espousing a commitment to this practice; however, the project demands often took priority. The highly valued reflection process was new to the team, and intentional reflection was required to adhere to the goals of modifying leadership team management practices and behaviour. The leadership team professed behavioural change is difficult.

Leading According to Values

Values in Action – Study Results

Conscious ethically effective behaviour proved consistent toward all stakeholders. Refer to Exhibit 1. The Project team was surveyed, on a scale of 1 to 4, all questions summed together by value yielded the study results as follows: Respect Dignity – 3.24, Be Fair – 3.14, Be Honest – 3.28, Strive for Justice – 3.25, and Honour the Environment – 2.91.

The study results

Exhibit 1–The study results.

The leadership team discovered, through introspection, that intrinsic behaviour operated with shared understanding among leadership team members regarding values attributable to each stakeholder. In applying our unconscious utilitarian view, the leadership team prioritized stakeholders and identified the greatest value that would meet their primary need. This unique finding truly transcended decision making to values-centred thinking. The utilitarian process of decision making by cost benefit analysis now included the values-centred considerations equally evaluating stakeholder impacts as well as financial costs.

The leadership teams’ intention was noble—to apply the Kantian approach of treating each person as an end and not merely a means to an end—and assigned equal consideration to each stakeholder. This approach advanced equal respect for all stakeholders. The ever-ticking clock usurped the intended application of the Kantian perspective, and favoured the utilitarian view where limited resources (time, effort, or energy) are applied to the greatest need (most critical candidate issue, most sensitive team crisis, or next unplanned task requirement). This unintended consequence illuminated those values critical to the situational needs of the specific stakeholder, proving not all stakeholders are equal, nor are all values equal. However, the predominate value of respecting each stakeholder was consistently demonstrated by the leadership team as evident in the survey results.

For example, the leadership team knew that the governing requirements for the project mandated Honesty as the predominate value in generating the final research reports for the selection committee. There was no debate that confidentiality and fairness was required in the evaluation of the project candidate stakeholders. The senior researchers suspected that the fair treatment of project volunteers stakeholders was less than desired (Survey respondents cited 20% unfair practices). The initiating of mentoring was driven by an unspoken understanding to compensate for an unfair structure that was playing out in the project teams. This mentoring effort was positively viewed by stakeholders (100% of the respondents indicated that coaching sessions did in fact provide support mechanism) supporting the leadership team's responsiveness and respect for the project team members.

The needs of Be Honest and Be Fair applied to selection committee stakeholder and took conscious priority over the needs of the project team members. The needs of Be Fair and Respect Dignity when applied to the volunteer stakeholders trumped those of the leadership team. This prioritization may explain the very positive survey responses by the volunteers while still recognizing sentiments of unfairness and lack of respect for life balance (20% of responses). The leadership team appeared successful in sustaining flexibility and responsiveness to meet these primary needs of respect (100% agreed); however, from the perspective of the research team members, we failed in our objective to ensure fair and equal treatment for all (80% agreed). The trade-off of higher priority stakeholder needs consistently encroached upon the stated values assigned to the project team and leadership team. Support for the whole person came easily and was fostered by the focus of Respect Dignity for each other. Even when these stakeholder groups were asked to contribute more, the leadership team consistently met the need of respecting each other and the project team members.

Scope Management

The intention of holding the scope was challenged. The leadership team initially was resistant to changing the methodology and expected the project candidate stakeholder to meet the methodology requirements. After reflection of the stated values, changes to the project were accepted to accommodate stakeholder needs, thus addressing core values. Three examples highlight how scope changes were handled. The methodology included interview protocols with standardized questions for research candidates’ employees and clients. These interview protocols were in English, targeted to professional staff, and were deployed via the internet. These protocols inherently disenfranchised employees and clientele of the candidates directly opposing the value of Strive for Justice. The leadership team was faced with the choice to increase the scope, or violate core values. When reviewing the GRID, the leadership team discovered:

  1. It is unjust and shows a lack of respect to neglect a key clientele due to inaccessibility to the survey questions. The value of Strive for Justice manifests itself through the voices of all employees. Consequently, a confidential process was devised to distribute and collect surveys requiring personally recording the responses on paper respecting the clients’ confidentiality and dignity.
  2. It was unfair to the candidate with hourly employees, which would result in invalid and incomplete results for this candidate. In recognizing this deficiency, new protocols for hourly employees were developed, holding hourly employees in equal regard for professional staff.
  3. Unjust treatment and lack of respect was evident for a group of Spanish speaking employees. Spanish language interviewers and volunteers were identified who translated surveys, giving a voice to that stakeholder group. Feedback from the project candidate interviews sited this effort as exemplary behaviour of the leadership team living the espoused values.

When the modification was presented in terms of the value in violation, all team members quickly adjusted to accommodate the changes with complete support and high morale to meet the higher ethical standard.

Throughout the course of the study, the leadership team practiced the tenants of the global ethic: Be Honest, Be Fair, Strive for Justice, Respect Dignity, and Honour the Environment. Experiential learning was gained by the leadership team who shall forever understand that Be Honest relates to openly dealing with difficult issues. Be Fair means to consistently view all stakeholders in equal regard. Respect Dignity will represent the human issues at the core of every decision. Strive for Justice manifests itself through the voices of all stakeholders, and Honour the Environment is more than a recycling program but a full life cycle view and respect for the life cycle of natural resources. Conscious and ongoing awareness along with reflection and critical thinking is necessary to ensure consistent ethical treatment of all stakeholders.



The senior researchers postulate that there may be a synthesis of the Kant and utilitarian theories that combines the benefits of both to meet the organization and stakeholders needs. The prioritization of values was a matter of contextual judgment, and values-centred factors actually complement a utilitarian decision process. The illumination on the utilitarian judgment still casts light on the leadership team's individual values, including their self-interests, the desire to complete the project objectives with whatever it takes.

Francis Daley suggests the stages of ethical development of an organization parallel that of an individual. A project is a microcosm of an organization. Daley's research suggests three stages of ethical development: behavioural, developmental, and strategic (Daley, 1999, p. 137). The behavioural stage meets the legal, regulatory and mandatory requirements. The project, the EIB research process, met the test of rigor and objectivity for the first stage, behavioural. For most projects the behaviour stage is met with project governance and rules of conduct.

The developmental stage, stage two, seeks to give leaders the tools to recognize and resolve ethical dilemmas. Some projects use tools to choose between two right choices. The strategic stage incorporates feedback mechanisms, values-stated codes of conduct, and ethical review processes to manage the evolvement of the organizational structure and culture. The project leadership team that defines their intended ethical practices, seeks feedback for adherence, reflects on feedback, and modifies behaviour is indicative of a level three strategic ethical stage of project leadership.

The intended result of this action research study was to enhance the ethically effective behaviour of the leadership team. Thus, that is the true measure of ethical practice. The leadership team incorporated deliberate values into the framework of the project, ensuring a venue for the ongoing evolution of ethically effective leadership.

Values Centred Leadership Model

Conceptual model for ethically effective team leadership.

Exhibit 2 – Conceptual model for ethically effective team leadership.

A conceptual model of the research study (Exhibit 2) demonstrates how project team leadership may be driven by ethically effective practices. This orbital formation shows team leadership as a self-propelling engine centred on a core values gear. As the values hub gear begins to turn, the orbits of the action gears (Stakeholder Feedback, Team & Individual Reflection, and Leadership Team Behaviour) turn in kind. The rotating motion of the action gears are sustained by the reflection in action (action loops) which propels the ethically effective team leadership constructs. A forward motion is sustained by all three action gears driving the project to completion through core values.

Driving Project Stakeholder Management with the Values Centred Leadership Model

A team committed to leading by stated values starts by defining core values with the project leaders, those with primary responsibility for project deliverables. Including key stakeholders to develop the treatment plan creates a trusting relationship from the beginning of project initiation. A plan for stakeholder management (PMI, 2013, p. 400) suggests raising the level of stakeholder communications to create and nurture the relationship by considering the key needs of the stakeholder. One method of creating the new relationship and bonding quickly is by sharing the project values in a creation exercise at the initiation of the project. This exchange of ideas, along with a commitment from project leadership to adhere to values centred treatment, grounds the relationship of project team to stakeholders on an ethical basis. The more time for discussion and sharing of ideas, the deeper the team accomplishes shared understanding. Incorporating a values centred approach to stakeholder management yields an additional document for the stakeholder management plan, the team GRID for stakeholder treatment.

The next process in stakeholder management is engagement (PMI, 2013, p. 404), where the true implementation of the project values come to life. Each decision, issue, and communication is decided according to the stakeholder treatment plan based on the team values. When values are used to drive project decisions, all stakeholders understand the inherent trade-offs when necessary. Those stakeholders impacted understand the urgency and sacrifice necessary to meet project deliverables, and ultimately achieve project success while respecting all stakeholders. The recommended PMI activities of this process group/knowledge area map, 13.3, include: engaging stakeholders’ commitment at appropriate project stages; managing expectations; addressing concerns; and resolving issues are all enhanced when practiced through a stakeholder lens based on values (Ibid.).

The key use of the GRID and project values come to life in the Monitoring and Controlling Process Group, specifically 13.4, Control Stakeholder Engagement (Ibid., p. 413), and referencing 4.5 Perform Integrated Change Control. When projects have used up contingency budget and/or time without additional resource, how do the hard choices get made? Take a values centred approach and apply the following techniques:

  1. Define all possible outcomes of the change including action and inaction,
  2. Review the impact of each outcome on each stakeholder,
  3. As each stakeholder is reviewed, examine the values in play and especially those values out of alignment with desired treatment of this stakeholder,
  4. Continue the review for each stakeholder,
  5. When all outcomes are examined, choose the predominate value,
  6. Communicate change to project team with the transparent process to reach the decision.

When the team is committed to common team values, and operates with a shared understanding of those values, the hard choices can be made quickly with the entire support of the stakeholder community.

A project leader on any project effort must be open to feedback and place personal feelings aside. They must reflect on their stakeholder feedback to modify their behaviour. Finally, the project leader needs a firm resolve to live their stated values. Project leaders who drive project decisions from a values-centred approach, respect and value their stakeholders, are the first leaders sought out for key initiatives. The project leadership team and this senior researcher concluded that intentionally deciding to lead a project team according to a stakeholder view, and values-centred leadership, is an easy choice—albeit a difficult journey.

Appendix A

Project Stakeholder Be Honest Be Fair Strive for Justice Respect Dignity Honour Environment
Stakeholder Interests, Needs, Desires
Selection Committee – 6 Directors & Faculty of University Department Deep level of research & rigor; Intellectual honesty; Transparency; Objectivity in reporting; Process integrity Objectivity; Consistent rating & reporting; Consistent researcher process Out of scope for the study Meet deliverable dates; Honour their time commitment Provide double sided-printed reports
Project Researchers / Document Analyst 20+
Researcher/ Interviewer 25 + Graduate Students MSOLE, MBA, and Alumni
Honest regarding time commitment; Clarity of role, participation & deliverables Treating all researchers equitably; Allow for differences workload; Access to schedule & contact information & escalation procedures; Clear contracts for course credit Creating balance in team selection to acknowledge skill differences; All should be open to the ideas of others avoiding any/all personal biases All should be open to the ideas of others avoiding any/all personal biases Respect time commitment they made; Respect the experiential learning; Recognition & celebration of work; Respect skill levels of researchers. Encourage minimal printing; double-sided printing

Candidates -
5 Businesses
5 Non-profits

5 Individuals Business in Austin, Texas, USA Community

Honest regarding time commitment; Full disclosure of process Provide good benefits; Protection of confidentiality of company info; Clear about their commitment All should be open to the ideas of others avoiding any/all personal biases Honour inherent vulnerability of candidate; Respect time commitment; Respect confidentiality; Meet on time Offer e-processes of document submission
Leadership Team 2 Capstone Researchers 2 Faculty Graduate Students of MSOLE & Faculty Be honest; “I can't/don't know;” Speak openly Create shared understanding; Keep commitments, but acknowledge life constraints All voices equal; Encourage & support; Strive for an equal table; Hold each other accountable for norms Listen respectfully; Respect for whole person; Respect for other life commitments Bring own printing; Provide e-copy of docs for meetings

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© 2014, Helen T. McCullough, MBA, MS, PMP
Originally published as a part of the 2014 PMI Global Congress Proceedings – Dubai, UAE



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