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Principles for a profession serve as foundational guidelines for strategy, decision making, and problem solving. Professional standards and methodologies are often based on principles. In some professions, principles serve as laws or rules, and are therefore prescriptive in nature. The principles of project management are not prescriptive in nature. They are intended to guide the behavior of people involved in projects. They are broadly based so there are many ways individuals and organizations can maintain alignment with the principles.
Principles can, but do not necessarily, reflect morals. A code of ethics is related to morals. A code of ethics for a profession can be adopted by an individual or profession to establish expectations for moral conduct. The PMI Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct  is based on four values that were identified as most important to the project management community:
▶ Fairness, and
The 12 principles of project management are aligned with the values identified in the PMI Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct. They do not follow the same format, and they are not duplicative, rather the principles and the Code of Ethics are complementary.
The principles of project management were identified and developed by engaging a global community of project practitioners. The practitioners represent different industries, cultural backgrounds, and organizations in different roles and with experience in various types of projects. Multiple rounds of feedback resulted in 12 principles that provide guidance for effective project management.
Because the principles of project management provide guidance, the degree of application and the way in which they are applied are influenced by the context of the organization, project, deliverables, project team, stakeholders, and other factors. The principles are internally consistent, meaning that no principle contradicts any other principle. However, in practice there may be times when the principles can overlap. For example, guidance for navigating complexity can present information that is useful in recognizing, evaluating, and responding to system interactions or optimizing risk responses.
Principles of project management can also have areas of overlap with general management principles. For example, both projects and business in general focus on delivering value. The methods may be somewhat different in projects as opposed to operations, but the underlying principle associated with focusing on value can apply to both. Figure 3-1 demonstrates this overlap.
The principle labels are listed here without any specific weighting or order. The principle statements are presented and described in Sections 3.1 through 3.12. Each section begins with a figure that provides the principle label across the top with the principle and key points under the label. Following the figure, each principle is elaborated in the text. The principle labels are:
▶ Be a diligent, respectful, and caring steward (see Section 3.1).
▶ Create a collaborative project team environment (see Section 3.2).
▶ Effectively engage with stakeholders (see Section 3.3).
▶ Focus on value (see Section 3.4).
▶ Recognize, evaluate, and respond to system interactions (see Section 3.5).
▶ Demonstrate leadership behaviors (see Section 3.6).
▶ Tailor based on context (see Section 3.7).
▶ Build quality into processes and deliverables (see Section 3.8).
▶ Navigate complexity (see Section 3.9).
▶ Optimize risk responses (see Section 3.10).
▶ Embrace adaptability and resiliency (see Section 3.11).
▶ Enable change to achieve the envisioned future state (see Section 3.12).
Stewardship has slightly different meanings and applications in different contexts. One aspect of stewardship involves being entrusted with the care of something. Another aspect focuses on the responsible planning, use, and management of resources. Yet another aspect means upholding values and ethics.
Stewardship encompasses responsibilities both within and external to the organization. Within the organization, stewardship includes:
▶ Operating in alignment with the organization, its objectives, strategy, vision, mission, and sustainment of its long-term value;
▶ Commitment to and respectful engagement of project team members, including their compensation, access to opportunity, and fair treatment;
▶ Diligent oversight of organizational finances, materials, and other resources used within
a project; and
▶ Understanding the appropriate use of authority, accountability, and responsibility,
particularly in leadership positions.
Stewardship outside the organization includes responsibilities in areas such as:
▶ Environmental sustainability and the organization’s use of materials and natural resources;
▶ Organization’s relationship with external stakeholders such as its partners and channels;
▶ Impact of the organization or project on the market, social community, and regions in which it operates; and
▶ Advancing the state of practice in professional industries.
Stewardship reflects understanding and acceptance of trust as well as actions and decisions that engender and sustain that trust. Stewards also adhere to both implicit and explicit duties. These can include the following:
▶ Integrity. Stewards behave honestly and ethically in all engagements and communications.
Stewards hold themselves to the highest standards and reflect the values, principles, and behaviors expected of those in their organization. Stewards serve as role models, building trust by living and demonstrating personal and organizational values in their engagements, work activities, and decisions. In the project management context, this duty often requires stewards to challenge team members, peers, and other stakeholders to consider their words and actions; and to be empathetic, self-reflective, and open to feedback.
▶ Care. Stewards are fiduciaries of the organizational matters in their charge, and they diligently oversee them. Higher-performing projects feature professionals who diligently oversee those matters, beyond the confines of strictly defined responsibilities. Stewards pay close attention and exercise the same level of care over those matters as they would for their personal matters. Care relates to the internal business affairs of the organization. Care for the environment, sustainable use of natural resources, and concern for the conditions of people across the planet should be reflected in the organizational policies and principles.
Projects bring about changes that may have unanticipated or unwanted consequences. Project practitioners should identify, analyze, and manage the potential downsides of project outcomes so that stakeholders are aware and informed.
Care includes creating a transparent working environment, open communication channels, and opportunities for stakeholders to raise concerns without penalty or fear of retribution.
▶ Trustworthiness. Stewards represent themselves, their roles, their project team, and their authority accurately, both inside and outside of the organization. This behavior allows people to understand the degree to which an individual can commit resources,
make decisions, or approve something. Trustworthiness also entails individuals proactively identifying conflicts between their personal interests and those of their organization or clients. Such conflicts can undermine trust and confidence, result in unethical or illegal behaviors, create confusion, or contribute to suboptimal outcomes. Stewards protect projects from such breaches of trust.
▶ Compliance. Stewards comply with laws, rules, regulations, and requirements that are properly authorized within or outside of their organization. However, high-performing projects seek ways to integrate compliance more fully into the project culture, creating more alignment with diverse and potentially conflicting guidelines. Stewards strive for
compliance with guidelines intended to protect them, their organization, their stakeholders, and the public at large. In instances where stewards face conflicting guidelines or questions regarding whether or not actions or plans align with established guidelines, stewards seek appropriate counsel and direction.
Stewardship requires leadership with transparency and trustworthiness. Projects affect the lives of the people who deliver them as well as those who are affected by the project deliverables
and outcomes. Projects can have effects, such as easing traffic congestion, producing new medications, or creating opportunities for people to interact. Those effects can produce negative impacts and consequences, such as reduced green space, side effects from medications, or disclosure of personal information. Project teams and their organizational leaders carefully consider such factors and impacts so they can make responsible decisions by balancing organizational and project objectives with the larger needs and expectations of global stakeholders.
Increasingly, organizations are taking a holistic view to business that considers financial, technical, social, and environmental performance simultaneously instead of sequentially. Since the world is interconnected now more than ever and has finite resources and a shared environment, stewardship decisions have ramifications beyond the project.