Trust, Service

& Accountability

Behaving Ethically

The Decision Process Tool

Aim of the Tool

The Decision Process Tool is designed to help make difficult decisions when there is relative agreement between all parties about the objective to be achieved, but disagreement over the best means to achieve that end.

The Decision Process - Tool - Overview

The Decision Process Tool comprises six steps:

The Decision Process Tool.jpg

Details of what actions to take at each step are discussed in the next section.

The Decision Process
Tool – Details

Answer the following questions at each step of the decision-making process.  Add other questions if relevant to your particular situation.

Define the problem objectively

  • What are the facts? (What is the problem, Who is involved, Why is it a problem, When must it be resolved, How did the problem arise and Where is the problem located?)
  • What objective, values and principles in the Ethical Framework for the government sector are significant considerations for the current problem?
  • Why and how is the problem relevant to government policy and/or your agency’s functions, objectives and programs?
  • What are the consequences for stakeholders if the problem is not resolved successfully?

Examine existing policies and precedents

  • Is the problem covered by an existing government or agency policy, or by agency guidelines, manuals or rules?
  • Do other States or the Commonwealth have policies or programs dealing with the problem?
  • Has a similar problem arisen in the past?  If so, how, and how well, was it resolved?
  • Are you authorised to deal with the problem, or is it another employee’s responsibility?

Identify decision options

  • What new options are viable if existing policies and precedents are not adequate?
  • Talk with other relevant parties to identify options that address the following criteria:
    • Duties: Options that best meet your obligations and responsibilities as defined by the Ethical Framework for the government sector, government policies, agency procedures, and job description
    • Results: Options that yield the greatest benefit (or least harm) to the most people, and minimise the number of people who might be disadvantaged
    • Justice: Options that support due process, transparency, fair compensation for harm done, and fair treatment of those affected by any decision
    • Rights: Options that support the legal rights of citizens
    • Public interest: Options that best place the public interest over personal interest (e.g. your reputation, career, personal views or potential for gain)
    • Innovation: Options that address the issue in original or creative ways
    • Interest groups: Options that have been proposed by stakeholders
    • Short-term and longer-term consequences: Options that would deliver the best mix of consequences for all stakeholders in the short and longer term
    • Resources: Options that make the best use of taxpayers’ money, resources, government sector employee time and physical assets (such as buildings). (For practical examples, see the ethical scenarios ‘Social responsibility and aiding the community’ at page 129 and ‘Agency equipment’ at page 131.

Analyse risks

  • What are the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and risks of each option?
  • In the risk analysis consider whether the options best address:
    • Compliance risk: Options comply with the objective, values and principles of the Ethical Framework including preserving the public interest, being apolitical and professional and adding value to and implementing government decisions.
    • Integrity risk: Options support the Integrity principles of the Ethical Framework.
    • Trust risk: Options support the Trust principles of the Ethical Framework.
    • Service risk: Options support the Service principles of the Ethical Framework.
    • Accountability risk: Options support the Accountability principles of the Ethical Framework.
    • Financial and operational risks: Options are consistent with the financial, asset, service delivery, work health and safety, environmental and other risks discussed in Treasury’s Risk Management Toolkit for NSW Public Sector Agencies

Decide and communicate

  • Select the option that best addresses the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and risks
  • Communicate your decision clearly, including implementation measures
  • Highlight expected impacts and where further decisions or action may be required.


  • To ensure any decision making lessons are passed on to others, to improve decision making in the future, or to convert a new decision into an ongoing administrative practice, clarify:
    • How could your decision making be improved next time?
    • What would you advise a colleague who had to deal with a similar situation?
    • Do existing policies, guides and procedures need to be updated to make it easier to make the right decision if the situation arises again?