The PLUS Decision Making Model

May 29, 2009

Six Steps to Ethical Decision Making

- Step 1: Define the problem PLUS
- Step 2: Identify alternatives
- Step 3: Evaluate the alternatives PLUS
- Step 4: Make the decision
- Step 5: Implement the decision
- Step 6: Evaluate the decision PLUS


The traditional decision making model taught in most ethics programs is beyond the reading comprehension level of an estimated 25% of the employee population. We need an alternative model capable of ensuring that the ethical issues inherent in routine business situations could be effectively surfaced while making the model easy to use by people who were functionally semi-illiterate.

While developing this alternative model we kept two overriding conations in mind:

  • Every employee is called upon to make decisions in the normal course of doing his/her job. Organizations cannot function effectively if employees are not empowered to make decisions consistent with their positions and responsibilities.
  • For the decision maker to be confident in the decision's efficacy, every decision should be tested against the organization's policies and values, applicable laws and regulations as well as the individual employee's definition of what is right, fair, good and acceptable. What we were looking for was a simple set of guidelines that would make it easier for the individual employee, regardless of position or level, to be confident that his/her decisions meet all of the competing standards for effective and ethical decision-making used by the organization.

The decision making process we adopted was carefully constructed to meet several criteria. It had to be:

  • Fundamentally sound based on current theories and understandings of both decision making processes and ethics.
  • Simple and straightforward enough that it could be easily integrated into every employee's thought processes.
  • Descriptive (detailing how ethical decision are made naturally) rather than prescriptive (defining unnatural ways of making choices).

The Decision Making Process