Trust, Service

& Accountability

Behaving Ethically

The Complex Decision Tool

Aim of the Tool

The Complex Decisions tool recognises that some decisions need to be made in situations where there are:

  • Multiple stakeholders
  • Ambiguous or conflicting objectives
  • Various interpretations of the facts
  • Multiple options
  • Pressure for urgent decisions, as well as a need to address longer term consequences
  • Different ethical views. 

When faced with this situation, there may never be a single or ‘best’ decision. Decision making often requires the making of a package of decisions that address urgent as well as longer term objectives, and takes into account the interests of multiple stakeholders.

The Complex Decisions Tool helps decision makers to identify the ‘best possible’ package of options where there may be no ‘best’ solution.

The Complex Decisions Tool has four elements:

Sec 3-1_The_Complex_Decisions_ Tool

The Complex Decisions - Tool – Detail

Consider the following questions or issues. 

Because of incomplete information and changing circumstances, there may only be partial answers, and, necessarily, you will need to make a decision between the possible options that were known and available under the circumstances.

  • Clarify the situation

    • Who has an interest in the problem and why?  What are the immediate and longer-term objectives of the parties seeking your decision? What solutions do they propose in the short term and the longer term? What evidence, if any, supports their proposals, and is it reliable?  What are the likely costs and benefits of their solutions, and who pays? Do their proposals appropriately consider other stakeholders?
    • Are the proposals consistent with the NSW government sector Ethical Framework? Do they allow your decisions to:
      • Promote the public interest?
      • Deliver transparent and acceptable outcomes?
      • Address root causes and underlying issues, or just treat “symptoms”?
      • Be consistent with the Government’s policy directions? 
    • Are there other stakeholders who may not be directly involved but whose views should also be considered? What would they expect? (For a practical example, see the ethical scenario ‘A Tender from Ace?’ at page 121‘
    • How did the current situation arise and why has it become an issue now, what are the underlying causes of the problem(s), and what are the consequences for the parties, other stakeholders and the public interest?
    • What is your role and responsibility in this situation; what powers do you have to influence the situation and what are the limitations of your authority; and can you act independently without conflicts of interests? (For a practical example, see the ethical scenario ‘Does Elizabeth have a conflict?’ at page 119)
  • Add your value

    • What ideal package of solutions – including short term and longer term actions – would deliver good outcomes in the public interest? 
    • Which elements of your ideal package of solutions would meet all or most of the parties’ and wider stakeholders’ needs, or minimise the losses to the parties and stakeholders – both in the short term and over the longer term?
    • What is needed to resolve conflicts between outcomes in the public interest with the objectives of the stakeholders?
    • What legislation, government policies, agency practices or other matters would have to change for the ideal package of solutions to be implemented?  Whose support would you need for the preferred package of solutions to be implemented? 
  • Make the decisions

    • Make a package of decisions with short and longer term actions which:
      • Are lawful
      • Are ethical
        • The decisions meet the objective, values and principles of the Ethical Framework for the government sector – i.e. they preserve the public interest, defend public value, add value to government commitments, are merit-based, are apolitical, and implement government decisions
        • The decisions are consistent with the four core values and 18 principles of behaviour that make up the Ethical Framework for the government sector. – e.g. they consider people equally and without prejudice, focus on quality while maximising customer service delivery, provide transparency, are fiscally responsible etc
      • Are consistent with the Government’s financial, timing and other objectives
      • Are practical over the short and
      • Preserve your integrity and that of your agency and employees.
  • Communicate with key parties

    • Talk with the key parties and stakeholders about your decisions, particularly those who will be important in the implementation of your decisions
      • The purpose of these communications is to satisfy others of the merits of your decisions and identify problems with your decisions or their implementation.
  • Refine

    • Where necessary, in light of new information you gather from your communications with key parties, you may need to repeat the above process before you can make your final decision.

For more information on what it means to act 'in the public interest', see section 41 (Acting in the public interest)