When facing a tough decision, a tough ethical decision how does one know they are
making the best choice? One way that helps is the use of “Decision Analysis”
Decision analysis is "a structure for representing the decision situation and a
mathematical procedure for prescribing the alternative action that is most consistent with
what is known and what one values" (Ref. 1)
But what is an Ethical decision you ask? It is the process of evaluating a situation and
choosing amongst the choices presented that which is most consistent with ethical
Decisions also take into account the consequences of the choice. The magnitude of
consequences is defined as the total harm or benefit resulting from the moral actions in
question (Ref. 1).
Decisions making analysis tools
IRAC Analysis- Generally used as a legal analysis tool is an equally effective tool when trying to
make a decision in situations of ethical conclusion.
An IRAC Analysis breaks down as follows (Ref. 1)-
1. To find issues, look for anything in the facts of a case that could raise a question
2. Issues are the core of your paper or essay.
1. They are statements that cannot be ignored without punishment
1. If you know the facts, can see the issues, and know the rules pertaining to those issues, the
application will write itself.
2. Simply state the issue, state the facts & rules that give rise to the issue.
3. Be vigilant to not leave any loose threads; address all the relevant facts.
1. The conclusion gives the result of your arguments , or what it should be. But, as with all good
writing, the conclusion should be redundant.
2. All of your application sections should have already clearly stated the conclusion for each
Decisions making analysis tools
The Five Why’s is another approach to decision making. The point of the Five Whys is to drill
down to the cause by continuing to ask questions instead of running around curing symptoms.
The Five Why’s work as follows (Ref. 2)-
1. Write down the specific problem. This focuses the team on the problem.
2. Ask why the problem occurs and write down the answer.
3. If the answer doesn't identify the root cause of the problem, ask why again and write down
4. Repeat step 3 until the team agrees that a root problem has been found. This could be at
four, five, or even six or seven whys. Despite its simplicity, the technique has been proven to
The DMAIC Framework
DMAIC is a tool generally used with the Six Sigma is also very effective on its own and used as
a problem solver and process improver.
DMAIC works like so (Ref. 3)-
Define: What’s the issue and goal?
Measure: Where’s the data?
Analyze: How did you analyze the data and what root causes did you find?
Improve: What improvements did you consider and reject? How do you test the
improvements and determine that the improvement will work?
Control: What did you put in place to hold the gains?
Keep in mind, DMAIC can bring together the tools from various methods and integrate them in
a holistic framework.
The 7 Quality Tools
The Seven Quality Tools are different forms to a structured approach and way of thinking about solving
problems. They are listed and briefly described as follows-
1. Affinity diagram- This is a basic tool used to stimulate creativity and bring structure to the
brainstorming process. Especially useful in interdepartmental
2. Relations diagram- This tool discovers causes and effects of problems. It identifies the cause of
problems at high levels by linking the many factors that contribute to the problem.
3. Tree diagram- A logic based tool, also be called a systematic diagram, is more focused than the affinity
or relations diagrams. It starts with a broad category, theme or problem and attempts to break the
issue down into granular levels of detail using a branch system.
4. Process decision program chart (PDPC)- When facing multiple options to solve a problem, the PDPC
is useful in assessing all alternative solutions to find the best fit. Because a tree diagram might give
multiple solutions, the PDPC is a tool to use after the tree diagram to determine which solution is best.
5. Arrow diagram- This tool addresses resource problems and bottlenecks during the innovation process.
Similar to a Gantt chart, the arrow diagram allows the mapping and scheduling of multiple tasks. The
tool is valuable when resources must be allocated across an interdepartmental project.
6. Matrix diagram-This shows relationships between groups of information and illustrates how changing
one factor might affect others.
7. Matrix data analysis- A mathematical technique that quantifies the interrelated factors created in the
See the next slide for examples of each
Studying decision-making processes can enable the identification of assumptions, or
partial truths (Ref. 6). So why do people make the choices they do?
Rational choice theory – A principle that states that individuals always make prudent and
logical decisions. This offers insight into many decision-making domains, and has a long
established body of empirical evidence to support it.
Image theory- whether a decision is carried out depends on whether the decision-maker
feels that it fits with their personal values, goals and strategies. These cognitive structures
are collectively called "images" .
Key differences between RCT and image theory across three domains: construction of the
person as decision-maker; description of the steps in decision-making; the underlying
nature of the decision process.
All decisions whether judged highly ethical, grossly unethical or anywhere in between are
In order to understand a persons values and motivations we conduct decision mapping.
A decision map is a tool for exploring values and motivations. Decision mapping literally
creates a picture of a decision that is built around choice options, consequences, outcomes
and values/goals. (Similar to a tree graph) (Ref. 7)
Choice Options tell us what goes into the decision map as the different results of those
1. Consequences- These produce short term consequences — that is, immediate results. Every
choice option has both positive and negative consequences.
2. Outcomes - This word is used to represent longer-term impacts of a decision. Outcomes are
related to whatever consequences were presumed to emerge from the choice.
3. Values/Goals- At the deepest level are the decision maker’s personal goals and values. Every
decision, after all, is a means to an end, and values/goals simply refer to the desired end
states. In short, we seek here to determine what goals of the decision maker might be
achieved if the choice option under consideration is selected.
I leave you with the following quote:
"It is curious - curious that physical courage
should be so common in the world, and moral
courage so rare." - Mark Twain
Thank you for your time.
• (Ref. 1) Nathan C Whittier, Scott Williams, Todd C Dewett, Evaluating ethical decision-making
models: a review and application. Society and Business Review 1.3 (2006)
• (Ref. 2) Joan Adams, The Five Whys, Supply House Times 51.10 (Dec 2008)
• (Ref. 3) Ronald D. Snee, Use DMAIC to Make Improvement Part of ‘The Way We Work’
• (Ref. 4) Justin Levesque, Fred H Walker, The Innovation Process and Quality Tools. Quality
Progress 40.7 (Jul 2007):
• (Ref. 5) Kevin Morrell, Decision Making and Business Ethics: The Implications of Using Image
Theory in Preference to Rational Choice. Journal of Business Ethics 50.3 (Mar 2004)
• (Ref. 6) Joel E. Urbany, Thomas J. Reynolds and Joan M. Phillips, How to Make Values Count
in Everyday Decisions