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Eric Nielsen: How to answer those Professional Responsibility Question? 1/2

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Your PMP exam will include approximately thirty questions testing your knowledge competency and judgment in the area of ‘professional responsibility.’ This represents a significant overall percentage of exam questions and actually serves as a benefit. For many candidates, professional responsibility questions are the easiest.

PMP exam professional responsibility questions are drawn from four primary sources:

  • The PMP Code of Professional Conduct (PMI) click for source doc here
  • Doing Business Internationally; The Guide to Cross-Cultural Success by Terence Blake, Danielle Walker and Thomas Walker, McGraw-Hill
  • The Cultural Dimension of International Business by Gary Ferraro, Prentice Hall
  • Global Literacies; Lessons on Business Leadership and National Cultures by Robert Rosen, Patricia Digh and Carl Phillips, Simon and Schuster

In this lesson, we will address the PMP Code of Professional Conduct, business ethics and cultural competencies. The information presented in this lesson is intended to provide you with all the knowledge competency you need to correctly answer PMP exam professional responsibility questions. No additional study materials should be required.

Click Mastering the PMPBOK to get info on the full course by Eric Nielsen


What is professional responsibility? It can mean different things to different people. As a PMP, professional responsibility involves:

  • Adhering to the PMP Code of Professional Conduct
  • Maintaining high professional ethics
  • Developing cultural competence in our emerging global society

How do we prepare for professional responsibility questions? What do we study? How can a multiple choice exam test ethics? It’s not that difficult.

Professional responsibility questions typically pose an ethical, professional or cultural scenario and ask you to choose the best response. In most cases, the correct answer can be selected by simply asking yourself, “What is the right thing to do.” Unless you are a true Machiavellian type, the correct answer will jump off the screen. In short, most professional responsibility questions can be answered correctly by simply relying on your best common sense.

You will need to familiarize yourself with the PMP Code of Professional Conduct, a copy is available to you as a free download from the PMI website. Here is the direct link:
A few basics in ethics and cultural competencies are also needed.

The PMP Code of Professional Conduct

If you don’t have a copy handy now, you should download one from PMI’s web site and keep it available throughout your PMP career. If you haven’t seen it, it is really quite brief … just one page with two sections:

I. Responsibility to the Profession and

II. Responsibility to Customers and the Public.

As a PMP you agree to support and adhere to the Code.

Responsibility to the Profession You have six basic responsibilities:

1. Be truthful at all times and in all situations

2. Report Code violations (with factual basis)

3. Disclose conflicts of interest

4. Comply with laws

5. Respect other’s intellectual property rights

6. Support the Code

Responsibility to Customers and the Public You have five basic responsibilities:

  1. Be truthful at all times and in all situations
  2. Maintain professional integrity (satisfy the scope of your professional services)
  3. Respect the confidentiality of sensitive information
  4. Refrain from gift or compensation giving/receiving where inappropriate
  5. Ensure conflicts of interest do not interfere with client’s interest or interfere with professional judgment

Business Ethics

Until recently, business ethics was measured by little more than philanthropy and defined simply as ‘doing the right thing.’ Today, business ethics is emerging as something much more. New business books on the subject are being published at a rapid rate and it is likely that ethics will become a more pronounced discipline in project management in the near future.

Here is a quick lesson on business ethics applied to project management, presented as three short adaptations from expert sources. There is no need to study these in detail. Simply read them to develop a general feel for the subject.

The following is adapted from: Complete Guide to Ethics Management: An Ethics Toolkit for Managers, by Carter McNamara,

Simply put, ethics in project management involves learning what is right or wrong, and then doing the right thing.

But in the real world, ‘the right thing’ is not as straightforward as conveyed in lots of business ethics literature. Most managers of large projects agree, however, that a good ethics plan within a project environment can serve as strong preventive medicine.

Here are eight guidelines to help you establish a strong ethics foundation for your project.

1. Recognize that managing ethics is a process. Ethics management is the process of reflection and dialog … that produces deliverables such as codes, policies and procedures.

2. The goal of an ethics management initiative is preferred behavior in the project environment.

3. The best way to manage ethical dilemmas, like negative project risks, is to avoid their occurrence in the first place.

4. Make ethics decisions in teams, and make decisions public, as appropriate.

5. Integrate ethics management with other project practices. Define preferred ethical values directly in the project plan.

6. Use cross-functional teams to develop your ethics management plan. Benefit from varied input.

7. Value forgiveness. Help project personnel recognize and address their mistakes and then support them to continue to try to operate ethically.

8. Give yourself credit for trying. Attempting to operate ethically and making a few mistakes is better than not trying at all. All projects are comprised of people and people are not perfect.

The following is adapted from: Value Shift by Lynn Sharp Paine. McGraw-Hill.

‘Business ethics’ is no longer a contradiction in terms.

Until recently, ethics in business typically meant philanthropy of some sort. However, in light of today’s corporate scandals, ethics has surfaced as an important issue. As a result, values are increasingly becoming an integral part of effective project management.

How do project managers turn to values? Here are five areas to approach:

1. Risk Management. This is fairly straightforward. Incorporating values into your project can help eliminate risks associated with organizational and individual misconduct.

2. Organizational functioning. Planned-in values can build a well-functioning project organization by encouraging cooperation, inspiring commitment, nurturing innovation and energizing team members around a positive self-image.

3. Civic positioning. Values can establish the project organization’s standing in the community as a progressive force for social betterment and as a solid contributing citizen.

4. Market positioning. Values can shape a project organization’s identity and reputation. Values can help build the organization’s brands and earn the trust of customers, suppliers and partners.

5. Simply a better way. Although values do provide financial benefits, this should not be the justification for ethics. Values are worthwhile and fundamental principles of responsibility, humanity and citizenship. They need no justification.

The following is adapted from: Harvard Business Review on Crisis Management by Norman Augustine. Harvard Business School Press,

How to Face a Public Crisis.

Hopefully, you will never encounter the misfortune of having to deal with a public crisis. But, as project manager, you are the one that may be called upon to face the community. Here’s how to handle it: Understand this is a formative experience and let these seven words be your guiding principle … Tell the Truth and Tell it Fast. Communicate frequently, invite everyone, answer all questions willingly and truthfully.

(CONTINUED – pls read part 2/2 and sample exams)

Eric Nielsen, PMP – PMHUB columnist

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