Rion’s five stages

Rion’s five stage model (1990)

Rion’s model was developed while he was Director of Corporate Responsibility at the Cummins Engine Company in the U.S.

Although his is essentially a practical approach, he recognises that analytic concepts are critical features of ethical decision making yet stresses the importance of the ability to: “…resolve issues, to take the leap from analysis to integrated judgment”

Rion illustrates how analysis can be used in forming this ‘integrated judgment’ by use of his decision-making framework, the five stages of which are:

1 Why is this bothering me?
2 What else matters?
3 Is it my problem?
4 What do others think?
5 Am I being true to myself?

And in more detail:

1 Why is this bothering me?

Trying to answer this question may help decide if the problem is really an ethical one. It may act as a restraint, at times, on over-zealous interpretations of ethics.

Answering this question can also, importantly, help to clarify the problem. Is it a question of one or more of the following:
· fairness
· honesty (integrity)
· promise-keeping
· avoiding doing harm?

Are there competing claims inherent in the ethical problem? What principles and rules are applicable?

2 Who else matters?

The decision maker is asked to consider what impact the action or the decision will have on others – the stakeholders.

The Golden Rule – ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you’ – may be of relevance here.

In short, the ethical problem is examined from the viewpoints of all those who are affected by the ethical problem.

3 Is it my problem?

This addresses the question of responsibility and obligation. To what extent is the responsibility mine – a role responsibility?

Is the responsibility, in part or solely, that of a client or employer or others?

Is the decision a matter of moral obligation (avoiding harm) or a good deed (helping others)? A moral obligation may place more stringent ethical requirements compared with performing a good deed.

Nevertheless, ethical concern, as respect for others, encourages one to do good deeds that are ‘above and beyond the call of duty’.

4 What do others think?

Consulting others about an ethical problem can expose one to different facts, principles and perspectives. This additional information may not have been considered or have been given the importance that it deserves.

This applies to problem solving in general, of course, and does not pertain solely to ethical decision making. The extra insights gained can serve to enlighten, puzzle, perhaps even paralyse one’s thoughts. You may have encountered such a situation!

Ideally, however, consulting others, especially if they are well informed, professionally experienced and, importantly, have ethical sensitivity and awareness, can be most helpful.

5 Am I being true to myself?

This step is essentially a check on the ethical validity of the decision arrived at.

Can one justify the decision in ethical terms?

Am I happy with the decision? Are the decision and its implications what a professional manager should accept? Is the decision consistent with a profession’s Ethical Code?

How would I feel if the decision were reported in the newspaper?


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