DECISIONS, Decisions, decisions …

Decision-MakerMost often the decision-making process includes both behavioral and ethical components. Most organizations use a decision-making processes that relies on a mix of individual decision making based upon self-interest, group decision making based upon consensus, and authoritative decision making based upon values, rules and hierarchies. These fundamentals of determining a course of action are generally accepted.

Behavioral elements of decisions allow for individualism, collaboration, use of power and authority in a harmonious blend. However, you should be mindful that all human behaviors are based on motives. For example, team leaders who want to motivate members to higher production often use salary and monetary incentives as well as awards that signify prestige.

With respect to the behavioral aspects of decision-making, the foundation is based on the “rational choice theory.” We must also be careful to avoid misidentifying our habits as a decision making process. Decision-making involves reaching a conclusion, but also implies conscious deliberation and thought. But a reaction or unconscious act must be labeled as habit, reflex or impulse. Reflexes, habits or impulses cannot be allowed to function as your center of gravity when you start your decision-making process.

If your decisions affect others, the most universal difficulties arise from people’s fear of change. People often oppose a proposed change merely because they have participated in planning it, or because it may have been planned by those whom they dislike or distrust. People resist changes made by other people. Resistance can take the form of either open hostility or covert sabotage of decision-makers’ efforts. Even the best designed strategy always fails if those who must carry it out refuse to do so.

As Machiavelli wrote in The Prince:

“It must be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to plan, more uncertain of success, nor more dangerous to manage than the creation of a new order of things. The initiator has the enmity of all who would profit by the preservation of the old institutions, and merely lukewarm defenders in those who would gain by the new ones.”

Let’s now consider the ethics of a decision. A “good decision is never an accident.” An ethical decision is never an accident. The question that has to be decided is whether ethics and morality are a further step in the decision-making process or is it an element of the process. Morality is a system of rules that modifies our behavior in social situations. It’s about the doing of good instead of harm, and it sets some standard of virtuous conduct.

Quantitative analysis is useful in making effective decisions, but this is simply the execution of the numbers you choose to evaluate and how you choose to evaluate the results. These tools provide empirical information to utilize when making a decision but they do not provide the decision itself. This is true whether or not you include ethics as part of the process or not.

There are five (5) basic ethical principles to consider:

Autonomy relates to the question of exploitation of others and impacting their freedoms. Almost every decision has impacts on multiple persons and taking these impacts into not only consideration but engraining them in the process is not easy but necessary.

 Non-malfeasance will create harm towards others. In government almost every regulation benefits one group while hurting another. The same holds true in the majority of business decisions. Every action creates a situation that benefits some and disadvantages others. It is possible that something that is not beneficial to you does not necessarily create harm.

Beneficence creates good but the challenge is whether or not we can solve the identified problem in a way that creates the most good.

Justice is fair if it is implemented fairly. Essentially both the means and the end must be considered. There is a difference in treating people equally and attempting to make them equal.

Fidelity often involves looking at the bigger picture and understanding the spirit of your role beyond straightforward results.

Every person potentially will have different perspectives or degrees of agreement with these definitions.

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James E. McClain is the author of Successful Career Development: A Game Plan, the book upon which some of our training programs are based. He has over 30 years' experience as a corporate HR executive, small business owner with ongoing experience in career development and as a college instructor. His educational background includes a B.S. and Masters degrees Education and Certification in Financial Planning. Our promise is that "you can pay more for training but you can not buy better training." The mission is to deliver the most effective and cost effective training and development programs.

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