(IGP) IAS Pre Paper - 2: GS - Decision Making and Problem Solving (Part 3)

Decision Making and
Problem Solving (Part 3)

Answers to Case Study 2

If you determined that the decision on what to do in the chlorine emergency is individual decision making, you are correct. Unless information ins available immediately, there is no time to gather input from responders before the wind carries the chlorine gas to Soar. Given the weather conditions and the toxicity of chlorine, a decision must be made immediately.

Answers to Case Study 3

If you determined that the decision of whether or not to allow sandbagging would be made through consultation, you are correct. There are clearly too many stockholders to make the decision individually. On the other hand, because the safety of the citizenry and first responders is at stake, the decision ultimately belongs to the emergency manager. Because there is some time available before a decision has to be made—and because tensions are running high-it is best to get input from first responders and key stockholders (i.e., the community groups) before making a decision based on the facts of the situation.

The names of some of places and other recognized symbols could be fictitious and resemblances to events already occurred or occurring to the situations described here are only coincidental. This is just an academic reconstruction

Who is an Effective Decision Maker?

Think of someone you know who seems to be a born decision maker.

What makes him or her effective? Most likely :

1. He or she makes decisions with competence and confidence.
2. Most of his or her decisions work out right.

But what is underlying that decision-making skill? Research has shown that effective decision makers share several attributes.

Attributes of an Effective Decision Maker

Effective decision makers tend to have the following attributes:

Knowledge: The most important requirement for making sound decisions is a deep understanding of all factors. The soundness of the decision depends on how informed the decision maker is.

Initiative: Effective decision makers assume responsibility for beginning the decision-making process and seeing it through. They take an active part in making things better.

Current condition: Good decision makers consider current conditions and take advantage of opportunities that exist at the time. Flexibility Effective decision makers remain open-minded about new concepts and ideas. They are willing to change course or try a different approach if better results seem likely.

Self-knowledge: Good decision makers know their own abilities, biases, and limitations.

In addition, smart decision makers will begin with a review of the information at hand (e.g., the EOP, SOPs, etc.) because, if the planning process is complete, many common situations will have been anticipated, and procedures for what to do in those situations will be in place.

Advice-seeking: Good decision makers know that they need help from others. They identify people who can make specific contributions to the decision-making process and ask them for their advice and counsel. .

Selectivity: Effective decision makers seek pertinent data. They avoid getting bogged down by extraneous facts and figures. Comprehensiveness On the other hand, they look at all available options and consider every possible alternative so as to make the best choice

Good judgment: Sound decisions will not always result from merely following procedures. Decision makers must exercise their best judgment in considering factors particular to the situation.

Calculated risk-taking: The risks and results of various alternatives must be weighed and the consequences accepted, whether positive or negative.


In simple terms, ethics refer to standards of behavior that tells us how human beings should act in many situations in which they find themselves-as children, as friends, as businessman, as teachers, professionals, administrators, as countryman, as world citizen etc. As an administrator you would be put in situations where you would have take decisions based on “ethics”. We all act ethically when we act “according to our best”. “Our best” is conditioned by our image of an ethical community, an ethical business, an ethical society, an ethical government or ethical administration.

“Ethics is a set of standards that guides our behavior, both as individuals and as members of organizations. The ethical principles are simple standards of right and wrong that we learn as children, such as being honest and fair and treating others with respect

An Ethical Decision-Making Model

1. Clarify
(a) Determine precisely what must be decided.
(b) Formulate and devise the full range of alternatives.
(c) Eliminate patently impractical, illegal and improper alternatives.
(d) Force yourself to develop at least three ethically justifiable options.
(e) Examine each option to determine which ethical principles and values are involved.

2. Decide
(a) Make a judgment about what is not true and what consequences are most likely to occur.
(b) Evaluate the viable alternatives according to personal conscience.
(c) Prioritize the values so that you can choose which values to advance and which to subordinate.
(d) Determine who will be helped the most and harmed the least.
(e) Consider the worst case scenario.
(f) Consider whether ethically questionable conduct can be avoided by changing goals or methods, or by getting consent.
(g) Apply three “ethics guides.”
• Are you treating others as you would want to be treated?
• Would you be comfortable if your reasoning and decision were to be publicized?
• Would you be comfortable if your children were observing you?

3. Implement.
(a) Develop a plan of how to implement the decision.
(b) Maximize the benefits and minimize the costs and risks.

4. Evaluate
(a) If any of the options requires the sacrifice of any ethical principle, evaluate the facts and assumptions carefully.
(b) Distinguish solid facts from beliefs, desires, theories, suppositions, unsupported conclusions, opinions, and rationalizations.
(c) Consider the credibility of sources, especially when they are self-interested, ideological or biased.
(d) With regard to each alternative, carefully consider the benefits, burdens and risks to each stockholder.

5. Monitor and modify.
(a) Monitor the effects of decisions.
(b) Be prepared and willing to revise a plan, or take a different course of action.
(c) Adjust to new information.

Ethical Don’ts

The following “don’ts” address specific ethical challenges in a crisis or emergency situation.
1. Using inside information gained through your position to benefit you and/or your family.
2. Using agency t me or property (e.g., a phone or car) for personal reasons.
3. Using your official position or accepting compensation to endorse a product.
4. Don’t exceed your authority or make promises.
5. Don’t use your position to seek personal gain. Examples of seeking personal gain would include
6. Soliciting gifts.
7. Making official decisions that benefit you financially.

Avoid even the appearance of ethical violations. Take the extra step of making sure that your actions (even if they are above-boar(d) could riot be seen as unethical. Think about how your actions would read on the front page of the newspaper.

Ethical Do’s

Keep these “do’s” in mind

1. Put forth an honest effort, in everything even remotely connected to your official position.

2. Protect and conserve agency property. This standard applies both to your actions and to the actions that you should take if you observe fraud, waste, or abuse.

3. Act impartially Do not show favoritism to one group (e.g., victims or contractors) over another. Two aids in acting impartially include making sure that all affected parties have full disclosure, and seeking prior authorization before taking action.

4. Place the law and ethical principles above private vain.

Ethical Issues and Emergencies

Decisions that seem simple or routine in a day-to-day context may become difficult and have serious ethical implications during an emergency Furthermore, a poor decision with ethical implications can escalate an emergency into an unmanageable situation as the emergency response progresses, as the following scenarios illustrate

Case Study* : Ethical Issues and Emergencies

Goods Train Derailment On January 17, 2011 at around midnight, a goods train carrying more than 250 tonnes of liquid propane (HIGHLY INFLAMMABLE) derailed on Moghulsarai-Gaya Section of Grand Chord Delhi- Howrah route and began to burn.

The names of some of places and other recognized symbols could be fictitious and resemblances to events already occurred or occurring to the situations described here are only coincidental. This is just an academic reconstruction.

Upon arriving at the scene and conducting an initial size-up of impending catastrophe, the Local Disaster Cell Head ordered an immediate evacuation of the people in adjoining villages of the railway track, telling the people to expect the evacuation to be completed in not more than 2 or 3 hours. As the expected evacuation period was short, some people evacuated without their belongings and the cattle. Electricity was turned off in the entire area. After 4 hours, the Disaster Cell Head, in consultation with army officials and chemical experts from IT BHU, determined that the evacuation should continue until the fire had completely burnt out.

What are the ethical issues involved in this situation ?

Answers: There are several ethical considerations in this scenario. Some of these are:

1. Did the Disaster Cell Head do the right thing by ordering an immediate evacuation? Or
2. Should he have waited for more information before issuing the order?
3. What should the citizens be told about how long they will be out of their homes?
4. Given the current level of risk, can the Disaster Cell Head ethically allow them to return for their cattle and other belongings?

Components of Ethical Decision Making

Ethical decision making requires being aware of your own and your agency’s ethical values and applying them whenever necessary. It involves being sensitive to the impact of your decisions and being able to evaluate complex, ambiguous, and/or incomplete facts. Three components of ethical decision making are:

1. Commitment
2. Consciousness
3. Competency

Ethical Commitment

A crisis or emergency confronts us with many situations that test ethical commitment. Thus, you need to be very clear about your own ethical values and have a strong understanding of ethical standards of conduct. Ethical commitment (or motivation) involves demonstrating a strong desire to act ethically and to do the right thing, especially when ethics imposes financial, social, or psychological costs

Ethical Consciousness

Understand that people’s perceptions are their reality-and so what we understand to be perfectly legal conduct may be perceived by taxpayers as improper or inappropriate. Ethical consciousness (or awareness) involves seeing and understanding the ethical implications of our behavior and applying our ethical values to our daily lives.

Ethical Competency

,p>Ethical competency (or skill) involves being competent in ethical decision making skills, which include

1. Prediction: The ability to foresee the potential consequences of conduct and assess the likelihood or risk that persons will be helped or harmed by an act.

2.Evaluation: The ability to collect and evaluate relevant facts, and knowing when to stop collecting facts and to make prudent decisions based on incomplete and ambiguous facts.

3. Creativity: The capacity to develop resourceful means of accomplishing goals in ways that avoid or minimize ethical problems.


Decisions can be as simple as delegating a routine task or as complex as responding to a major crisis. Decision making in a crisis is made more difficult because of stress.

Impediments to making good decisions under stress include

1. Perceived or real time pressure.
2. Possible political pressures.
3. Liquor.
4. Sleep deprivation and resulting fatigue.
5. Uncertainty.

Under stress, decision makers are more likely to

1. Experience conflict with other key players.
2. Perceive selectively because of sensory overload, and thus perhaps miss important information. 3. Experience perception distortion and poor judgment.

Decision makers under stress also tend to

1. Be less tolerant of ambiguity and thus perhaps make premature decisions.
2. Experience a decreased ability to handle difficult tasks and work productively. 3. Experience a greater tendency toward aggression and escape behaviors.

They may also
1. Choose a risky alternative.
2. Succumb to “groupthink.”
3. Consider only immediate survival goals, sacrificing long-range considerations.
4. Get tunnel vision.

An important key to effective decision making in a crisis is being systematic. A good way to be systematic is to use the problem