ethics & policy tools
Considerations for Ethical Decision Making
are at least five matters that the decision maker must be
clear about in his or her own mind before beginning the
formal process of ethics and policy decision making:
What motivated the need for choice: a sense of inquiry,
betterness, or uneasiness?
Is one framing a question, developing an argument, or
deciding how to act?
For purposes of this decision only, what can be reasonably
assumed to be true ?
What is meant by the concept "values," and what
is the significance of values in making a choice?
What constitutes "quality judgment" and "quality
action" under these circumstances?
and Policy Decision Making
the desired result. A vision of a desired future? A question
to pursue? An argument to support a position? A resolution
of a dilemma? A solution to a problem?
to solve a problem, for example, be sure it is a problem
not just a symptom. (Likert 126)
the desired result clearly.
the conditions or criteria that the result must meet
to be satisfactory?
are the essential criteria. List, in addition, the other
conditions that it would be desirable for a result to
meet. (Likert 126)
essential criteria include that the result is a quality
judgment or quality action that is feasible,
suitable, and cost-acceptable, specifically
taking into account opportunity cost. (Eccles passim)
the specific ethics test to be applied: e.g., right-versus-wrong
issues, right-versus-right paradigms. (Kidder 184-85);
another approach is to strive for a solution that is
true, good, and beautiful and reflect the reality of being
(epistemology, ethics, aesthetics, and metaphysics).
organizational essential requirement is that the result
is consistent with the organization's purpose and values.
(Collins & Porras, Built to last)
the legal and organizational rules that apply to the result.
(MacDonald http://www.ethics.ubc.ca/chrismac/ publications/guide.html)
all stakeholders, i.e. who are involved, affected,
and knowledgeable in the decision making process or will
be in the result. What are their relationships?
an organizational or community decision, further categorize
the stakeholders as either internal or external.
for all reasonably promising results and list them. Use
brainstorming. What else is possible?
to use different frames of reference and ways of looking
at the desired result in order to develop new and better
results. (Likert 126)
all the relevant facts concerning the the extent to which
each of the proposed solutions will or will not meet the
criteria for an acceptable resultor be likely to do
are the stakeholders' perspectives? That is, how do they
understand the facts of the matter; what do they value
concretely and in the abstract; and what do they understand
the key concepts to mean? (Suggested by Paul passim)
valuable is each stakeholder perspective? That is, how
stable are they? If they conflict, can the conflicts be
harmonized? If not, how does one prioritize among them?
all the alternatives by examining them in terms of the criteria
or conditions that a result must meet (essentials) and also
those that are considered desirable (desirables). (Likert
alternatives best meet the criteria of the desired result?
Be prepared to support your evaluations with reasons and
justifications. ( See also Ethical Decision Styles
for right-versus-wrong paradigms, then test for right-versus-right
issues. (Kidder 184-85)
the alternatives and choose the alternative that best meets
the essential and desired criteria.
first all the alternatives that do not meet the essential
conditions. Then, eliminate, progressively, those alternatives
that meet the desirable conditions least satisfactorily.
object is to make a good choice with the information available,
not make a perfect choice.
the choice forward.
the vision. Pursue the question. Make the argument. Act
on the resolution. Begin implementing the solution. Ethics
and policy choices presume action, though a decision to
do nothing where one has the power to act is also action.
responsibility for the choice, the quality action required
to take it forward, and the consequences.
on the consequences of the choice and the actions effecting
it and learn from both the process and the consequences.
questions do they raise? What arguments can be made for
staying the course or changing? What could have been done
better in arriving at the result? At implementing the
William J. The Thinking Manager's Toolbox: Effective
Processes for Problem Solving and Decision Making. Cambridge:
Oxford Univ. Press, 1999.
James C. and Jerry I. Porras. Built to last: Successful
Habits of Visionary Companies. New York: HarperBusiness,
Henry E. Logistics in the National Defense. Westport,
Conn.: Greenwood Publishing Group, 1981.
Sanford. Ethical Decision-Making Style: Survey and Interpretive
Notes. Addison-Wesley Training Systems, 1987.
Geert. Cultures and Organizations: Software of the Mind.
London: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1991.
Rensis and Jamie Gibson Likert. New Ways of Managing
Conflict. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1976.
Harold. "Management and Management Education in the
West: What's Right and What's Wrong? The Management of
Organizations: Strategies, Tactics, Analyses. Ed. Michael
L. Tushman, Charles O'Reilly, and David A. Nadler. New York:
Harper & Row, 1989.
Ludwig von. Human Action: A Treatise on Economics.
3rd rev. ed. Chicago: Contemporary Books, Inc.,
Richard W. Critical Thinking: What Every Person Needs
to Survive In a Rapidly Changing World. 2nd
Rev. ed. Ed. A.J.A. Blinker. Santa Ana, CA: The Foundation
for Critical Thinking, 1992.