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Independence and the project manager

Adeline Teoh ed.
July 2, 2012

So mining magnate Gina Rinehart has failed in her bid to become a media magnate via her shareholdings in Fairfax Media. The current members of the board have excluded Rinehart from the board due to her refusal to accept the media company’s charter of editorial independence.

Meanwhile, as the United States of America gears up for its 236th Independence Day on 4th July, I’d call into question what independence means for those in the ‘land of the free’ when the sources of funding for political parties have recently become less transparent thanks to a change in the law that makes it easier for donors to remain secret. Plutocracy much?

What is independence, anyway? If we take the dictionary definition, independence means “free from outside control”. And yet we find ourselves in a world where organisations may be free from control but highly subject to influence: money talks, sometimes very loudly.

Instead, I’d like to propose that independence needs to also include transparency and disclosure around what influences may affect the decisions and actions of an organisation. As with travel articles that state whether a trip had been paid for by a particular tourism company, imagine a story about mining in a Fairfax publication being accompanied by a mention that mineral exploration company Hancock Prospecting is chaired by Fairfax shareholder Gina Rinehart, or a US political campaign accompanied by a note that it had been funded by a certain lobby group.

How would independence affect project managers? In his article addressed to hiring organisations, ‘Getting to know your project contractors‘, Matthew Franceschini underlines the value of independent professionals as both independent and professional: “Organisations engage them because of their expertise, so acknowledge their skills and consult with them where appropriate.” That means allowing project managers to be open about what’s happening in the project without judgement, including disclosing problems, and trusting them to get on with the job.

I don’t think this should stop with project contractors. I think all project managers need an environment where they can be confident that their concerns are heard without suffering the consequences of being the bad news messenger, and a workplace where they feel supported in their role. Who says you can’t be independent and committed to a project?

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Adeline Teoh ed.
Adeline Teoh is the editor of ProjectManager.com.au. She has more than a decade of publishing experience in the fields of business and education, and has specialised in writing about project management since 2007.
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