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Ethics and the Business Analyst

Do you consider yourself an ethical person? How about an ethical professional? How about an ethical project leader and team representative?

You’re a business analyst operating in a project leadership role – working closely with four distinct entities or groups. You are working with the Project Manager, the Project Team, the Customer and all Key Stakeholders. Making decisions, meeting requirements, communicating constantly and keeping the project on track. Are you staying true to project leadership standards, corporate policies, and human resources rules of conduct on each and every project initiative?

For the most part, probably. And how well you match up with the corporate policy is not what I’m really concerned about because too many times that policy can get in the way of project success and your best practices of running the project and working with the project customer. So, what is considered ethical practices and standards in project leadership? From my 20+ years of consulting and leading projects and teams, my list comes down to these five. Let’s examine each…


One of my top ones – be transparent with your project customer, your team, your stakeholders. Everyone is in the game with you. There’s no need to go it alone, hide bad news or tough decisions. If you go it alone and fail, all fingers point at you. If you take it to the team and the customer, then everyone works together to solve the problem or issue. If you go down, you go down together. But it’s about transparency and communication. Committees may not be the best thing and they get made fun of enough. But project teams – and the customer is part of that project team and they are funding the project ultimately – are not a committee. They are a skilled group of individuals charged with delivering a successful project. Be transparent and use them when you run into a brick wall on the project and need help.

Ask questions. Lots is made of and discussed about feeling weak or showing weakness in asking directions or help making decisions or help solving problems. But it’s not weak to ask questions. Asking questions eliminates the bad info and gets you closer to a solution or root of the problem. Asking questions can give you the other half of the picture. Trying to solve a problem with only half of the information or half of the picture is nearly impossible. If we only saw the world through our view, we would all think the Earth was flat. We know it isn’t, but there are those that don’t believe it. They are only seeing things in their selfish view and ignoring the real information, the established facts.


Lead by example

The project team is going to need to take leadership and direction from both the project manager and the business analyst. We hope the project manager is a great, ethical leader. If not, you probably should do yourself, the customer and the team a favor and take him to task on it. If problems persist, go to his manager. But you, as the business analyst and co-project lead of sorts, have a responsibility to the team, customer and management to practice ethical project leadership behavior as well. So lead by example – always. Be above and beyond reproach – especially during team and client meetings and in front of these individuals on a daily and weekly basis. Follow through on your work and project commitments, and practice honesty. Don’t say bad things about others or the client behind their backs no matter what you might be thinking. It doesn’t need to be spoken. The project needs action not gossip. If you see something going on that is less than ethical or even illegal, consider yourself to be somewhat of a “mandatory reporter” and take it higher up in order to get action and not harm the project.

Golden rule and team management

The Golden Rule, of course, is “Treat others how you would want to be treated.” Would you want to know the issues? Yes. Would you want to be included in decisions and meetings and information sharing? Yes. So include the whole team and include the customer. And treat people honestly, ethically and like the peers they are. Respect their skills and levels of expertise. Expect much from them, but never be too quick to criticize. And respond, reward and recognize quickly and appropriately.

Your customer is YOUR customer

Remember the customer. Never forget the customer. Include the customer, be transparent and courteous to the customer and keep a professional relationship with them. My motto is always “You’re only as successful as your last customer thinks you are…” Live by that concept. And if you think management is pushing a customer approach that is damaging to the customer relationship or the project or team, tell them so. Management isn’t always right. They have priorities that may be different than yours or the customer’s or the project team. Respect your leadership, but if you think direction that is given will be harmful to the project or customer, say so.


The bottom line is more best practices. I believe that ethical, honest behavior and follow through fall under project management best practices. If we all try to stay above reproach, stay professional, stay focused on the client and team needs and the goals of the project and work toward their success, then we will be fine most of the time. Treat people fairly and equally and your role as a project leader will be an easier and more successful one. Avoid favoritism and open criticism. Conflict and issues happen, but not everything has to be public. Practice appropriate behavior and treat others how you want to be treated.