All decisions, including those made by in-house attorneys, are based on values and involve an implicit or explicit trade-off of values. That being true, attorneys will make better decisions if they have a methodology for addressing the values inevitably present in a situation.
According to MIT Sloan Mgt. Rev., Vol. 49, Summer 2008 at 75, a useful article about values and decisions, “Values are enduring beliefs, both hard-wired (i.e., acquired genetically) and shaped by cultural context, about preferred ‘end states’.” The authors of the article describe a decision map – “a tool for exploring the values and motivations inherent to” important decisions. The map consists of four elements: choice options, consequences, outcomes, and values/goals.
Choice options are the alternative actions available to the person making the decision. Most of us feel cabined in our choices, even though in fact we often have several we could choose from. Consequences are the short-term results of a decision; outcomes are the longer-term impacts of a decision. The framework proposed by the article pushes decision-makers to express the positive and negative poles of outcomes and consequences for a broader array of choice options. The final step is to consider all that in light of personal goals and values (See my post of May 23, 2008: values of a law department, with 12 references cited.).