Figuring Out What's Most Important
One of the complexities of project management includes dealing with conflicts of interest that arise between stakeholders. By stakeholders, the first sector that usually comes to mind is that of the shareholders, whose interests have always been regarded as first and foremost by virtue of business traditions and norms.
In managing this issue, however, project managers today should be aware that many CEOs have come to regard the concept of shareholder value management as a thing of the past.
In fact, critics believe that the overemphasis placed by top management over the shareholders’ interest contributed to the downfall of numerous companies during the recent decade. Senior executives came to use it as their own excuses to further their personal interests, which many regard as a contributing factor to the economic crisis that subsequently transpired.
Hence today, in taking into account the concept of conflict of interest, project managers should be aware of the current views expressed by business executives about shareholder value. It is worth mentioning that their respective company’s performances have been tested and can attest to the soundness of such views.
To quote the CEO of Unilever, Paul Polman, in a Financial Times interview published last April 04, 2010:
“I do not work for the shareholder, to be honest; I work for the consumer, the customer,” he says. “I discovered a long time ago that if I focus on doing the right thing for the long term to improve the lives of consumers and customers all over the world, the business results will come..."
This being mentioned, a project manager confronted with issues of conflict of interest would find it best to adopt the same outlook. Taking care of consumers’ or customers’ interests is taking care of business. The entire planning, scheming and modeling are, after all, directed at gaining their patronage to ensure not only the success but the security of a project.
However, we should first be clear on what “conflict of interest" means, and when is it considered a problem to deal with?