excellent tools can be found on our ethics
and policy resources page.
Framework to Approach Ethics and Policy Study
purpose of this concept paper is to set forth an approach
to developing and employing a framework for inquiry and
understanding in ethics and policy studies. It is based
upon fundamental works on human action, management theory,
and critical thinking. It is methodological and concentrates
on how to think and communicate about ethics and policy
issues, rather than on the issues themselves (Brady 7).
Its components and their relationships are graphically portrayed
in the system model attached.
are a number of assumptions underlying this approach:
First, it should promote "reflection and decision
making under circumstances of complexity" (Beauchamp
Second, it should employ the skills of higher-order
thinking, that is, application, analysis, synthesis,
and evaluation as well as the skills of communicating
orally and in writing.
it should reflect and require quality judgment and
quality action, however the framework defines and
employs those concepts.
its reasoning, conclusions, and projections must be
reducible to a form that can be communicated to others
who are involved, affected, or interested.
it must be systemic in nature, that is, it must effectively
relate the organization to both its external and internal
it should model ethics and policy at the fifth and
sixth stages of Kohlberg's moral reasoning.
of an Approach to the Ethics & Policy Framework
Introduction. David A. Nadler and Michael L. Tushman
clearly describe just how complex the process of reasoning
in an organizational context is. Moreover, they emphasize
the importance of having tools readily at hand to make,
communicate, and evaluate decisions made.
can one achieve understanding and learn how to predict
and control organizational behavior? Given its inherent
complexity and enigmatic nature, one needs tools to
unravel the mysteries, paradoxes, and apparent contradictions.
One tool is the conceptual framework or model. A model
is a theory that indicates which factors (in an organization,
for example) are most critical or important. It also
shows how these factors are related-that is, which
factors or combination of factors cause other factors
to change. In a sense then, a model is a roadmap that
can be used to make sense of the terrain of organizational
behavior. (Nadler and Tushman 92)
framework Nadler and Tushman describe is a congruence
model. Such a model is based on the premise that the elements
in a system must be congruent, or fit, with each other and
with the surrounding environment as well (92-93). If not,
the organization can be neither effective, efficient, nor
Ethics and Policy? Organizational leaders and
managers, moreover, are responsible for the vision, strategies,
and principles that drive the organization. As F. Neil Brady
writes, "any issue that implies significant harm or
benefit to others may be described as ethical" (3).
Indeed, he writes that "good managers employ ethical
theoretic thinking almost routinely and . . . organizational
policies and procedures are permeated by it" (v). Thus,
we hold leaders and managers "responsible for organizational
rules" (4). Another way to look at fundamental aspects
of ethics and policy, as I have written elsewhere, is to
consider as ethical any issue that implies material impact
on human choice or the achievement of organizational or
these rules are fundamental to the operations of the organization,
we think of them as policies. An Ethics & Policy
Framework, then, should provide a way for thinking and communicating
about an organization that addresses the critical questions,
arguments, and actions that significantly harm or benefit
those involved in and affected by its actions. Moreover,
this way of thinking and communicating should permeate all
the decisions, policies, and actions of the organization.
Essentials. At a minimum, it seems reasonable to assume
that an adequate Framework would involve certain elements.
It should recognize that the organization operates in an
environment, and include that portion of the organization's
environment that the organization actually perceives, that
is, its context. It should be clear as to its purpose, and
specifically surface the question(s), argument(s), or action(s)
at issue. There must be some set of elements reflecting
the factors of organizational behavior that the organization
must develop and employ well for the organization to be
effective, efficient, and ethical. It is helpful to think
of these as pathfinding, problem solving, and
implementing (Leavitt 33). So that the relevant question(s),
argument(s), and action(s) have been surfaced, framed, analyzed,
and evaluated well, the organization needs to reach some
sense of what quality judgment and action are. There must
be some output from the process that will lead to the sort
of organization it desires to be, or vision of where it
wants to go, or the principles that will guide its actions,
or its plans. Finally, it must account for the impact of
the consequences of both the process and the output on the
context and processes of the organization.
of Congruence-A degree of congruence, consistency or
"fit" exists between each pair of organizational
inputs. The congruence between two components is defined
as "the degree to which the needs, demands, goals,
objectives, and/or structures of one component are consistent
with the needs, demands, goals, objectives, and/or structures
of another component."
Elements of an Ethics & Policy Framework
are at least nine elements necessary for an Ethics &
Policy Framework to be effective, which are described in
Questions, Arguments, Actions at issue
Dimension: Norms, Standards, Principles
The Organization in Being; Strategic, Trajectory, and
and Consequences: Feedback
Contextual Input. An organization is an open system,
which interacts with its environment. The organization is
not conscious of all aspects of its environment, at all
times. The organization functions in a context of pressures,
resources, and history.
pressures represent "all factors, including
institutions, groups, individuals, events, and so on, that
are outside the organization being analyzed, but that have
a potential impact on the organization" (Nadler and
Tushman 96). These impacts can be organized as the threats
the organization, opportunities, demands, constraints, and
uncertainties the organization perceives.
resources of the organization are all those "assets
to which the organization has access, including human resources,
technology, capital, information, and so on, as well as
less tangible resources (recognition in the market, and
so forth)" (Nadler and Tushman 96).
history of the organization is "the patterns
of past behavior, activity, and effectiveness of the organization
that may affect current organizational functioning"
(Nadler and Tushman 96). This includes such factors as "strategic
decisions, acts of key leaders, crises, and core values
and norms" (Nadler and Tushman 96).
Question at issue, Dilemma to be Resolved, or Problem to
be Solved. When a significant harm to or benefit for
those involved in or affected by the organization is perceived,
this input is filtered into the ethics & policy process
as one or more of the three essential human attributes of
questions, arguments, and actions (Golden and Jamison; Hoppe;
Mises). As such, these questions, arguments, and actions
are derivative; they reflect the pressures, resources, and
history of the organization and are the most direct input
into the Ethics & Policy process.
For an organization to be effective, efficient, and ethical,
it must have a strong sense of where it is going, where
it is relative to that vision, and what it can reasonably
expect (Mises 13-14; Senge 142, 55). This is the leadership
and management function of pathfinding.
Solving. "Whenever we reason [or communicate],
there is at least one question at issue, at least one problem
to be solved" (Paul 98).
framework needs to be adept at formulating a dilemma or
problem in a clear and relevant way, to choose from among
alternative formulations, to discuss the merits of different
versions of the question at issue, to recognize common key
elements in statements of different problems, to structure
the articulation of dilemmas and problems so as to make
possible lines of solution more apparent. In short, the
problem solving process works to close the gap between the
vision and the current reality.
Implementing. It is not enough to merely make a decision
and communicate it. Some form of action is required to put
the decision into action. Management theory, as Harold Leavitt
writes, is based on the wielding of power. "Implementing
in organizations . . . almost always requires some persuading,
commanding or manipulating or forcing other people to do
what you want done" (Leavitt 35). If an organization
is to be effective, efficient, and ethical, implementing
must be the result of the exercise of authority (Kennedy
is helpful, then, to expand on the levels of intervention
that Leavitt describes-coercion, manipulation, and persuasion-to
include the facilitation and inspiration that permits those
involved in or affected by an organization to live lives
of maximum dignity and freedom (UOP 29).
Dimension: Norms, Standards, Principles. Whenever we
reason or communicate, the ends and means chosen are essential
drivers of human action. Understanding of the case requires
that the visions, views or reality and expectations that
purposeful action will fill the gap between vision and reality
of all those involved or affected be recognized and evaluated.
framework must be able to identify the ends and means sought
by those involved and affected by the case, choose among
different ends and means to those ends, and reason about
the subjective valuations that lead to choosing those ends
and means, the personal qualities of the persons who chose
those ends and means, and the inheritance and environment
that led to those personal qualities (Mises 13-14, 46-47).
is where the decision maker or actor employs various theories
of applied ethics. It is helpful to analyze these theories
into one of four bodies of thought: Essential Social Responsibility,
the Ethics of Social Purpose, Organizational Ethics, and
Environmental Ethics. It is here-where these bodies of thought
overlap-that the principles set forth in the dominant theories
of Western ethics reside: virtue ethics, utilitarianism,
deontology, ethical egoism, ethical relativism, contractarianism,
justice, and caring, to name a few (UOP chaps. 1-8).
Quality Judgment/Action. The framework needs
to have some sort of filter that insures that the ethics
and policy process has been accomplished in an ethical
manner. This, then, is the methodological or process aspect
of ethics. It answers the questions, Has this manner been
addressed in an ethical manner, and will the actions taken
to implement any decision be ethical in and of themselves?
Output: The Organization in Being and its Strategic,
Trajectory, and Value Images. The output from the
ethics and policy process will depend upon the purpose
of the inquiry.
from the broadest perspective, the output is the ethical
being of the organization itself. As has been said of Aristotle,
"the virtuous person must enjoy being virtuous"
(UOP 21). Action performed must not be an isolated incident
but rather a manifestation of an enduring state
of character" (UOP 22).
Roy Beach, in his landmark work, Image Theory: Decision
Making in Personal and Organizational Contexts, writes
that decision making is cognitive process, the output from
which is the cognitive structures of value, trajectory,
and strategic images. In Beach's view, an image is
a schema, which consist of "elements, concepts, and
the relationships among them, that are pertinent in some
sphere of interest to an actor" (Beach 18).
value image is composed of principles, which has the broadest
possible definition in Beach's approach:
principles that are the constituents of this image [that]
define what one means when one speaks of such old-fashioned
concepts as one's code of honour, ethics, and ideals, as
well as one's fundamental standards of equality, justice,
solidarity, stewardship, truth, beauty, and goodness, together
with one's moral, civic, and religious precepts and the
responsibility one assumes when performing one's mundane
daily duties and in engaging in routine social intercourse.
trajectory image defines the ends that the decision maker
and organization desires. Beach defines the trajectory image
as "the agenda of goals that the decision maker has
decided to adopt and pursue" (28).
or set goals, however, is not sufficient alone to guide
decision making (McCall and Kaplan 39-40). Problem recognition
involves the "identification of discrepancies-differences
between an existing and a desired state of affairs-that
announce the presence of problems" (12). The desired
state of affairs is contained in standards of the past,
plans and forecasts, and benchmarking (12-13). The standard
might also be the vision of the organization, although vision
alone is not enough (39-40). When these discrepancies are
seen, the manager then embarks on a "search-and-interpret
mission" to "find" the problem (13).
strategic image defines the means that the decision
maker and organization have adopted to achieve the desired
ends. These means take the forms of plans, which are abstract,
and tactics, which are "the concrete behaviors that
are implied by the plan" (Beach 31). Plans have a strong
temporal aspect that relates "an anticipated sequence
of activities that begins with goal adoption and ends with
goal attainment" (Beach 31). Tactics are more or less
clearly defined, though they are often contingent upon events.
Implication and Consequence. "No matter where
we stop our reasoning, it will always have further implications
and consequences. As reasoning develops, statements will
logically be entailed by it" (Paul 99).
framework must be able to identify important implications,
. . . to make fine discriminations among necessary, probable,
and improbable consequences, to distinguish between implications
and assumptions, to recognize the weakness of [any person's]
position as shown by the implausibility of its implications,
to exercise intellectual fairmindedness in discriminating
between the likelihood of dire and mild consequences of
an action to which one is opposed" (Paul 99).
information is of three types:
Impact-The first are the measurable impacts upon the input
factors and transformation processes of the organization
in producing its goods and services.
Systems-The second are the formal systems or processes
that allow organizations to measure, evaluate and learn
from the functioning of the various elements of its organizational
structure, particularly the formal and informal organizational
Impact-The third are the informal effects on the inputs
and components of the organization that are more difficult
to identify or measure, but which influence perceptions
of "how business is done around here."
& Policy Framework Format. The above elements can
be organized into virtually any format provided it is useful
as a practical guide to decision making and action. It may
be graphically or textually displayed:
each element (plus any others deemed essential) as a
component of the model depicting the relationships between
in outline form with defined terms and relationships.
in checklist form with questions to pursue in making
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"Preparing Case Study Analyses."