Project management is a critical activity for organizations as it designates the process through which things are done. Successful completion of projects forms the basis for a positive image of the company to its important stakeholders. In fact, the project management indicates the efforts to take the operations of the business seriously and work towards achieving its mission and objectives. Therefore, project management should be guided by business ethics, and defined in relation to the environmental and social responsibilities of professionals in the business. Business ethics creates a responsibility for the management to think past the bottom-line in decision-making (Turner, 2016). Organizations have come up with codes of conduct and systems for incorporating ethical considerations into the process of making decisions. However, ethical issues are not always put into consideration in the implementation of projects. The ramifications include project managers using more resources than allocated and taking longer than the set timelines. In any project, it is possible to spot ethical issues that affect the successful completion of the project.
The “Big Dig” in Boston, Massachusetts ended up being one of the most complex and the most costly project in the history of the United States. Initially, the project anticipated cost was $2.8 billion but ended up costing $14.6 billion ($6.0 billion after inflation adjustment). It ended up being the most expensive highway project in the history of the U.S. At the beginning of the project, the responsible agency and other stakeholders were informed of the projected cost, making it unethical that it ended up costing them much more than projected. Duty to the people is the theory that underlies the actions of the management of the project from a secular standard. The project management had the responsibility to provide the public with a complete project at the cost projected. They had the responsibility to guide the financial interests of the stakeholders, including the taxpayers.
Just like it is unethical from a secular perspective for the management to misuse the taxpayers’ money in running the project, so is the Bible. The Bible is categorical against making others poor by mismanaging or misusing their finances. “The rich rule over the poor and the borrower is the slave of the lender” (Proverbs 22:7). By misusing the funds of the organization mandating the project, or the taxpayers’ in the case of the “Big Dig,” the project managers went against the ethical business and Biblical principles. In the short term, the effect of the ethical issue is making the organization to overspend and probably use the resources meant for other projects. In the long run, the overuse of the resources will continue to have financial implications, such as making the investors to spend more than they should. For example, if an organization overspends its budget on a single project, it will be forced to seek more investment capital, which will have a negative impact on shareholders’ trust and loyalty.
Projects are primarily temporary endeavors that have a defined time of commencement and completion. Therefore, when those involved in the management of the project begin the work, they notify the organization about the time the project is expected to be completed (Schroeder, Rungtusanatham, & Goldstein, 2013). Projects cannot be continuous ventures, as they will unnecessarily cost the organization. The management has an ethical duty to work according to the agreed timelines. However, in the “Big Dig,” the project was characterized by delays, which led to the increased cost of the task. The shareholder primacy is the principle that the management of the project went against. The management had the responsibility to the shareholders and other stakeholders to deliver the project within the stipulated deadline. Failure would result to an ethical issue, which is what happened in the case of “Big Dig.”
According to the Biblical principles, delays are not allowed: “O Lord, hear! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, listen and take action! For Your own sake, O my God, do not delay, because Your city and Your people are called by Your name” (Daniel 9:19). Delay of any kind goes against the systematic plan of things and can have both short and long-term effects on the organization. The delays used up the time that would have been used for other projects. In the long term, it will create a negative image of the organization by destroying its reputation. A perfect case is where an engineering company is hired to make a bridge, which takes longer than anticipated. In essence, such a company will definitely fail to enjoy other contractual engagement in the future because of not observing timelines when dealing with a critical project with public interest.
Management of the Project
The Massachusetts Turnpike Authority assumed the management of the project. For such projects, it is critical to have people with adequate experience of managing complex tasks (Schroeder, Rungtusanatham, & Goldstein, 2013). However, this was not the case in the choice of the agency to manage the “Big Dig” project as the agency lacked adequate experience in managing large complex projects. Based on the failure on the part of the management, the project was faced with challenges from the very beginning. The ethical issue associated with the failure on the part of the management was the moral obligations of agents. The management had an ethical responsibility to complete the work in the most suitable way possible, but it failed. In addition, the failures and disasters that followed were as a result of the management letdown in the moral obligation.
The failure on the part of the management can also be considered from a Biblical perspective. In Luke 16: 1-13, Jesus speaks about an irresponsible manager who lost his job on the account of being unable to offer his services as a good manager: “Turn in the account of your management, for you can no longer be manager.” On a short term, irresponsible management damages the reputation of the company and would also result in additional cost in hiring new managers to replace the irresponsible ones. In the long run, the damaged reputation of the company might bring loss of contracts for the implicated agency. The Volkswagen scandal indicated that bad management could create trouble for the company in the long run. Getting out of the trouble caused by bad decisions is not easy and can take years to remediate.
Evidence from the failure of the project indicated that things started going wrong from the onset. While the engineers mandated with the completion of the project were experts in the development of such large and complicated assignments, the ultimate failure indicated that something went wrong somewhere (Bible & Bivins, 2012). Project planning is a critical step in project operations. Therefore, the management should have involved people who would complete the project successfully. The engineers and architects might have been qualified but working as a team could have caused serious flaws that led to the presentation to the public of a faulty product. From a deontological ethical perspective, it is possible that the developers did not follow the rules at some point, a situation that compromised the project. It would be anticipated that following the rules of engineering and related to such projects could have eliminated the danger that was encountered.
The Bible is critical about the importance of finishing what one has started and completing in a good manner. “Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God” (Revelation 3:2). Failure to complete the project or delivering a project, which is substandard, has serious ramifications for the organization. Both in the short and long-term, delivery of a faulty program costs the reputation of the company. In addition, the engineering companies that were involved in developing the product would take some time before regaining the trust of the clients. It would take a long time to forget that faulty engineering resulted in the death of an individual.
Being able to control the costs assigned to the project is critical in the project management (Schroeder, Rungtusanatham, & Goldstein, 2013). In the event that the costs are not adequately controlled, the resulting cost overruns can be extensive. In fact, this is what happened in the management of “Big Dig” project where due to poor management the project ended up costing more than it was anticipated. Corruption is one of the reasons for the overdue cost in the management of the project since it leads to waste regarding resources. Corruption is an ethical issue in business as it ends up allocating the resource in ways that are unfair and unjust. Rather than working for the interests of the stakeholders, corruption leads the project astray.
The Bible is categorically against corruption: “For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life” (Galatians 6:8). Through corruption, the organization is not able to deliver its promise to the stakeholders. Corruption also results in the delivery of a product that is below standards since the vice does not allow for the effective use of the resources. Corruption can be ruthless in the end since it creates damage to the reputation of the company as well as affect the reputation of the company negatively in future. For example, no one would be willing to hire project managers who are marred by corruption and would not deliver the quality product and on time.
Performance is an important factor in project management as it highlights the potential of delivering the promised product at the stipulated time and within the budget (Schroeder, Rungtusanatham, & Goldstein, 2013). However, in some cases such as the “Big Dig” project, it was not the case. One of the factors that led to poor performance in the project was treachery. The team involved in the development of the project did not deliver the product promised to the public, but instead, they delivered a faulty product that even led to the death of one person. From a consequentialist view of the project, the results being the best for a majority (public) would have highlighted success in the delivery of the final product. However, it was not the case as the project management team completed a faulty product that was delivered to the public without much consideration of its efficacy.
The project management team betrayed the public, which goes against the Biblical ideals, which indicate, “A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who breathes out lies will not escape” (Proverbs 19:5). The Bible warns people against being treacherous like was the case with the team developing the tunnel. The project that was presented to the people following the actions of the team was faulty and led to loss of life. In the short term, it was a dangerous project that did not take long before the accident occurred. In addition, it was faulty in the long run as it ran the risk of continued loss of life and property.
Project completion is very important in any project operations for it should mark the end of a successful project operation (Schroeder, Rungtusanatham, & Goldstein, 2013). However, completion does not always suggest success for the team. The case of “Big Dig” project is a typical example of a failure based on the delivery of a faulty product. The project was almost complete, and the public in Massachusetts thought that they had finally put the nightmare of cost behind them. Nonetheless, they came to realize that the nightmare was far from over when a three-ton ceiling tile collapsed leading to the death of one person. In the days following the event, it would come to the knowledge of the people that the tunnel was constructed using faulty materials. Deontological theoretical perspective applies to understanding the problem since the use of defective materials went against the rules and standards of proper project management.
If God started a good work in us, He is faithful to complete, so is the same expected of humans. In project management, the Bible expects that once an individual has started a project, he or she should work towards fulfilling it and doing so in the best way possible. “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6). The ultimate failure in the project has serious short and long term effects. It did not take long before the failed project led to death. In essence, the project had serious financial consequences that would be experienced in the short and long run. Many organizations suffer undue costs and economic failure resulting from investing in failed projects. A good example to demonstrate this is the Harrisburg’s Failed Infrastructure Project.
Biblical Foundations Application
Project management is founded on a systematic process requiring critical decision-making, careful planning, scheduling, control, and closure (Schroeder, Rungtusanatham, & Goldstein, 2013). From the beginning to the end, the process requires making decisions that are well thought out and which are founded on adequate information. At the planning phase, the resources, timelines, and objectives of the project are determined. Project management requires good leadership since failure at any point can generate detrimental results. The Bible is awash information relating to effective project management, beginning from a proper start to an effective closure where a functional project is provided to the organization. In the Bible, there are many instances where God required someone to perform a task. In such cases, God would expect commitment to the end and delivery of functional results. A good example is the building of the ark by Noah that would save his family and animals from destruction when God decided to destroy the world with floods. In such situations, God expected Noah to work from the beginning to the end following the specifications given and then deliver the very product requested.
The aspects of instructions and having an understanding of the methods and models to use in developing the product are critical in project management (Burnett, 2012). Research provides different methodologies that can be used in project management and project operations. From the same perspective, the Bible indicates the provision of clear instructions any time God gave a project to be completed. For instance, God gave clear instructions to Moses and Aaron on how they would deal with Pharaoh as the way they would create the Tabernacle. Any diversion from the instructions would have led to complete failure just like in the “Big Dig” project. It is critical that the team mandated with the management of the project has adequate understanding of what is required from the beginning to the end and follow through with every requirement (Kerzner, 2013). The preparation and following the rule become the basis for effective completion of any project. In the case of “Big Dig,” it is evident that at some point, there was an aspect of failure to follow the instructions in the project life cycle.
Project planning is critical and indicative of the path that the project will take (Schroeder, Rungtusanatham, & Goldstein, 2013). It follows a meeting between the team to decide the way forward in developing a functional project. For all the projects that took place in the Bible, there is indication of advance preparation and communication between God and the project managers. The timings that should have been followed and the expected outcomes would also be communicated. These aspects of the project were communicated at the beginning of the project and would be expected to guide the team until the end (Bible & Bivins, 2012). In the case of Moses, failure to follow through the instructions given led to his death and those of other Jews before they could see the Promised Land. Clearly, failure to follow the expectations of a project can generate serious ramifications in the course of the project and the final project.
Organizations are engaged in operations since projects are the basis for getting things done. Projects are time-bound and cease to exist when the final product is delivered. It is a process that takes careful planning, design, development, and closure. A failure at any point in the cycle has serious consequences for the individuals involved and the organization mandating the project. A good example is the “Big Dig” project, which failed based on the number of ethical issues and problems with project management. The case indicates what can go wrong and the possible consequences in case project management are not done in the proper way. It provides critical lessons, from a secular and Biblical perspective, on how proper project management should be done. Following the failure of the case, reading through the Biblical perspective and theories of project management provides the basis for effective process and delivery of good project outcomes.