To my chagrin I only recently came upon Bill Nelson’s elegantly practical article “An Organizational Ethics Decision-Making Process.” The eight step model Nelson presents will be useful for anyone concerned with the interface of management and ethics:
1. Clarify the ethical conflict
2. Identify all of the affected stakeholders and their values
3. Understand the circumstances surrounding the ethical conflict
4. Identify the ethical perspectives relevant to the conflict
5. Identify different options for action
6. Choose an option and make the reasoning public
7. Implement the decision
8. Review the decision and modify it as needed
The eight steps are common sense, not rocket science. But achieving a more robustly ethical climate within an organization requires exactly the kind of systematic and practical application of ethical thinking that Nelson describes.
Nelson’s model is part of an ethics toolkit he helped the American College of Healthcare Executives develop. I will write about the toolkit in a future posting, and I encourage readers to share their own approaches to decision-making about ethical issues.