Decision-making requires selecting between choices. The choice between action and inaction is not always simple. The following theorists have developed logic-based step-by-step models to use when making difficult choices. Ethics instructors often use these models as teaching tools. Some of the tools are quick and simple to apply. Others take a little more time.
An Ethics Check
Is it legal?
Is it balanced? (Is the decision fair, or will it heavily favor one party over another in the short or long term?)
How will it make me feel about myself?
Source: Blanchard, K., & Peale, N.V. (1988).The Power of Ethical Management. New York: William Morrow and Company. 20-24. http://www.blanchardbowleslibrary.com/books/powerofethicalmanagement.html
Bell, Book and Candle
This system suggests that the user ask the following three questions before making a decision:
Bell - Does the decision or action sound right?
Book - Does the decision violate any written laws, rules, or policies?
Candle - How will the decision look when exposed to the "light of day", or public scrutiny?
Source: Retrieved April 15, 2003, from http://cop.spjc.cc.fl.us/cop/Courses/Ethics/Ethics%20slides%20March% 202002.ppt
"A" - Alternatives - Identify all choices
"C" - Consequences - Project outcomes
"T" - Tell your story. Prepare your defense
Source: The Center for American and International Law, Institute for Law Enforcement Administration, P.O. Box 799030, Dallas, Texas 75379-9030. http://www.theilea.org/ethics.html
Situation-based: What is the best outcome possible given the circumstances you face?
Rule-based: Follow the rules, and let the chips fall where they may.
People-based: Following the Golden Rule, what would you have others do if faced by the same situation?
Source: Amrhein, C. (2004, March 8). Is Ethics Training "Full of Sound and Fury, Signifying Nothing?. Insurance Journal (on-line) http://www.insurancejournal.com/magazines/west/2004/03/08/features/39877.htm
United States Army Decision Making Process
Colonel John H. Johns, of the U.S. Army, Office of Military Leadership advocates asking two questions when making decisions:
If everyone did what I am about to do, what would be the consequences?
If all my respected colleagues knew what I am about to do, would I still do it?
Quoted in; Commentaries by Michael Josephson, Week 313: July 7-11, 2003. Josephson Institute of Ethics. 9841 Airport Blvd., Suite 300. Los Angeles, CA 90045. (310) 846-4800 / (800) 711-2670. Retrieved July 19, 2003 from weekly e-mail from the Josephson Institute, http://www.charactercounts.org/
The Williams Institute for Ethics and Management provides the following questions:
Who will be affected by my decision?
What would be the impact of my decision?
What ethical perspective is reflected by my decision?
Can I justify my decision on ethical grounds?
Source: The Williams Institute for Ethics and Management. 6615 N. Scottsdale Rd. Suite 250. Scottsdale AZ 85250. www.ethics-twi.org
Duane Davis suggests the following five step approach to decision making:
Source: Davis, D. (1996). Business Research for Decision Making, (4th. ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth,Publishing Co. 6.
Six Steps to Ethical Decision Making
Define the problem
Evaluate the alternatives
Make the decision
Implement the decision
Evaluate the decision
Source: The Ethics Resource Center. Retrieved April 15, 2003, from http://www.ethics.org
Seven-Step Path to Better Decisions
Stop and think
Determine the facts
Monitor and modify
Source: The Josephson Institute. Resources: Making Ethical Decisions. Retrieved April 15, 2003, from http://www. josephsoninstitute.org/MED/MED-4sevensteppath.htm
The Stakeholder model asks the decision maker to consider everyone who might be impacted by the act being contemplated. Stakeholders are those who have an interest in the ramifications of a decision. The model considers not only those individuals or groups directly benefiting or suffering from the decision, but also those indirectly affected including family, friends and professional associates. Used as an ethics teaching tool, the Stakeholder exercise asks the participant to:
List several options
List the stakeholders who would be affected by each option
Consider how each stakeholder will be affected
Choose the action that does the most good and the least harm
Source: Regional Community Policing Institute, Arizona. (2001). Sharpening Your Ethical Edge: Tactics and Tools Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, cooperative agreement #2001HSWXK001. 12.
In an article published in the Harvard Business Review, Dr. Laura Nash suggests twelve questions that managers should ask when making business decisions. Many of these questions translate easily to those decisions required of law enforcement officers.
Have you defined the problem accurately?
How would you define the problem if you stood on the other side of the fence?
How did this situation occur in the first place?
To whom and to what do you give your loyalty as a person and as a member of the corporation
What is your intention in making this decision?
How does this intention compare with the probable results?
Whom could your decision or action injure?
Can you discuss the problem with the affected parties before you make your decision?
Are you confident that your position will be a valid over a long period of time as it seems now?
Could you disclose, without qualm, your decision or action to your boss, your CEO, the board of directors, your family, society as awhole?
What is the symbolic potential of your action if understood? If misunderstood?
Under what conditions would you allow exceptions to your stand?
Source: Nash, L L. (1981, Nov/Dec). Ethics without the sermon. Harvard Business Review, Vol. 59, (6). 78-91. Retrieved May 10, 2003 from http://libproxy.nau.edu:2064/direct.asp?an=3867971&db=
Analyzing the Decision Process
In Making Decisions, (1998), Robert Heller describes the following process for making decisions:
Identify issues: What exactly has to be decided?
Undertake analysis: What are the alternatives?
Evaluate options: What are the pros and cons?
Identify choices: Which alternative is best?
Implement plans: What action needs to be taken?
Source: Heller, R. (1998). Making Decisions. New York: DK.
The Constitution as an Ethics Training Tool
Another approach to decision making is described by Bradley S. Chilton in "Constitutional Conscience: Criminal Justice and Public Interest Ethics." (1998) Chilton says,
...public servants must discover the Constitution as a document and understand its official interpretations by the U.S. Supreme Court if they are to know the basic ethics, morals, and values that should guide their exercise of discretion in decision making, policy making, and behavior."
According to Chilton, a decision made in the public interest should consider the impact of the decision on all affected persons. He sees the Constitution as the authoritative statement of the moral aspirations of the citizenry. Chilton says that ethics teaching should be grounded in the Constitution, U.S. Supreme Court cases, and other authoritative sources including laws and amendments. An excellent resource for information about the U.S. Constitution and it evolutionary foundations can be found at The Constitution Society web site: http://www.constitution.org/
Source: Chilton, B.S. (1998, Summer/Fall). Constitutional conscience, criminal justice and public interest ethics. Criminal Justice Ethics. Vol. 17, (2). 33-41. Retrieved May 20, 2001 from EBSCO database on the World Wide Web: http://mindy. ucc.nau.edu:2160/ehost.asp
Purchase the book: Kardasz, F. (2008). Ethics training for law enforcement: Practices and trends. Saarbrücken, Germany: VDM Verlag. ISBN: 3639001567. ISBN-13: 9783639001563. Available from http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/3639001567/