Johnson: Five I Format of ethical decision-making

Johnson: Five I Format of Ethical Decision-Making

In his book “Organizational Ethics: A Practical Approach,” professor of leadership studies Craig E. Johnson presented a five-step model for making decisions. Based on other decision-making models and ethical frameworks, such as the Paine Manager’s Compass and the Baird Method, he called his model as the Five I Format.

Five Steps in Making an Ethical Decision: The Five I Format of Craig E. Johnson

Step 1: Identify the Problem

The first step in the Five I Format of ethical decision-making involves the identification of the problem. To be specific, identification means determining the moral question or ethical dilemma of the situation.

Setting goals and objectives is also part of problem identification. The decision maker needs to understand why the problem needs to be solved and what are the consequences if it remains unsolved.

Step 2: Investigate the Problem

Investigation involves situational analysis and data collection. The causes and effects of the problem need to be determined to identify the stakeholders. Furthermore, it is important to identify conflicts in duties and values.

The second step is also the best time to introduce ethical perspectives or theories. The decision maker needs to identify theories that are applicable or relevant to the situation or the specific context of the problem.

Step 3: Innovate by Generating a Variety of Solutions

It is essential for the decision maker to avoid making quick decisions. In the third step of the Five I Format of ethical decision-making, Johnson asserts the importance of generating a variety of solutions or options.

The decision maker needs to weigh the merits of each solution based on a set of criteria such as its applicability to the problem and its context, suitability to a particular ethical perspective or theory, and how it can help reach the identified goals and objectives as effective and efficient as possible,

Step 4: Isolate a Solution

The fourth step involves reviewing the results of step two and comparing it to the outputs of step three. The purpose of this process centers on the need to isolate a solution. Note that the decision maker is looking not for the perfect solution but for a well-reasoned one.

Isolating the solution specifically requires evaluating the data collected and the results of the analysis, examining the pros and cons of alternative solutions, taking into consideration the context of the problem, and referencing a particular ethical perspective or theory.

Step 5: Implement the Solution

The fifth and last step to the ethical decision-making framework of Johnson involves the actual implementation of the solution. However, it is important to recognize the fact that implementation is not always straightforward.

The decision maker needs to develop an action plan on how to implement the solution. Furthermore, he or she needs to determine if he or she would be deciding alone or if the solution requires group participation.


  • Johnson, C. E. 2018. Organizational Ethics: A Practical Approach. 4th ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. ISBN: 1544327854