Errors and the PMI Code of Ethics

Posted on March 2, 2010 by

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Nuvola X icon (for errors)

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Uh, oh. You found a mistake in your report that was already sent out to key stakeholders. People can have a range of reactions at this moment of realization. Some will shrug it off and tell themselves that everyone makes mistakes. Others may feel devastated over the error and obsess about it.

As hard as it may be, what we should not do is blame someone else for the mistake, attempt to cover it up, or hope that it will disappear on its own. The fourth responsibility aspirational standard in the Project Management Institute’s (PMI) Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct is “2.2.4 When we make errors or omissions, we take ownership and make corrections promptly. When we discover errors or omissions caused by others, we communicate them to the appropriate body as soon they are discovered. We accept accountability for any issues resulting from our errors or omissions and any resulting consequences.” If people are making decisions based on the inaccurate information in your report, the problem is going to quickly get worse rather than go away. So we are urged to promptly correct the problem.

In another scenario, you find a mistake in a report, but it was not you who made the error. This is not the time to stay quiet because you don’t want to cause problems for the person; nor is it appropriate to broadcast your evidence of how incompetent the individual is. We need to be logical about informing people of what they need to know so that corrections can be made and the project can move on. Ideally as a project manager we do what we can to make team members comfortable with bringing errors to our attention. Being afraid of the boss’s reaction can be strong motivation to keep mistakes quiet and cover them up.

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