Here’s why you need to combine analysis and ethics to reach decisions

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Every day in and outside of business we are faced with a range of critical decisions; some small nonetheless important, and others challenging, significant, and involving situations that we may not have encountered before.

If you are like me the best decisions I have made or seen are those made with the benefit of 20:20 hindsight.

There is no such thing as a perfect decision for a variety of reasons; for a start the information is not perfect, it is usually a blend of fact, assumption, and opinions. Most leaders today have abandoned the old “pros” and “cons” model as the basis for sound decision making.

There are other models available which take a more reasoned and disciplined approach. In our coaching with leaders we recommend they explore as an alternative a four step approach as opposed to the familiar “pros and cons” approach. The steps are:

  1. Invest time up front in discussion and analysis to agree the apparent problem or opportunity; you may need to enlist the assistance of a team as opposed to purely relying on your evaluation. Don’t stop at this point, invest time to define the real problem or opportunity by going into deeper discussion and exploration of the circumstances and the information available to ensure the scope of the opportunity is clearly defined.
  2. To address the opportunity or problem map all of the possible decision options. Two things to note;
    • There are usually six to eight options available, you may have to dig for them.
    • Don’t dismiss those ideas that might be regarded as radical or fall into grey or uncertain area as often it is these options that become the catalyst for other viable options to be generated.
  1. Discuss in detail each of the options and consider the positive and negative consequences that would result if the option was adopted and actioned.
  2. When the positive and negative consequences have been fully discussed and explored, step back.  Remember there is no such thing as a perfect decision so for each decision option there will be trade-offs required to reach an effective decision.

The above forms a straight forward process to this point; however there is second dimension that is often ignored which is the ethics of the decision you are about to make.   At the point of having determined the consequences for the decision now consider the impact of the decision, particularly the human impact; what will be the real impact on people, who will be impacted, are there short term and long term impacts?

The second point to consider is if this decision is implemented what are your moral and ethical obligations if everything goes as planned and do those obligations change if something was to surface that had been overlooked that will adversely impact on others.

The final point is that as a leader you have to commit to making a decision, the question that you must ask is can you live with this decision now and into the future. Until there is certainty around these three points the decision should not be taken.

Applying the four steps of clear problem or opportunity definition, options, consequences, and trade-offs, produces deeper exploration and discussion of the issues. Overlaying the decision by exploring the ethics of the decision challenges and teases out aspects that don’t surface using the “pros and con” approach.


Vivente Australia enables leaders and managers to create the conditions that allow their people to do their best work every day thus creating a powerful advantage: the synergy between people, leadership, management, and culture, produces performance that allows your business to achieve its outcomes.

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