· Required:

· Cooper, T. L. (2012). The responsible administrator: An approach to ethics for the administrative role (6th ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

· Chapter 9: Applying the Design Approach to Public Administration Ethics

· Chapter 10: Conclusion: Responsible Administration

· Module notes

Module 8: Module Notes: A Design Approach to Ethical Problem-Solving

A primary goal of applying the design approach to ethical decision-making is to push administrators to go beyond merely analyzing an ethical dilemma and choosing the most ethical course of action (Cooper, 2012, p. 254). While these initial steps are obviously essential, when administrators employ a design approach, they also factor in the organization’s structure and culture when choosing the best course of action, and consider possible interventions to improve the ethics of the organization.

Embedded in this approach are the descriptive and prescriptive models Cooper described in Chapter 2. You will also recall from Chapter 2 that part of this process is not linear.


Carefully and systematically define the ethical problem you are facing.


Work through the decision-making model in Chapter 2 to identify the best course of action to address the problem.


Consider organizational factors (i.e., structure and culture) that may encourage or impede the action you are proposing to take.


Consider intervention strategies you might employ to make the organization more supportive of the kind of conduct you have decided is consistent with public administrative ethics.

(Cooper, 2012, pp. 252–253).

Module 8: Module Notes: Steps in the Design Approach to Ethical Problem-Solving

Let us now take a closer look at the four steps involved in this approach to ethical problem solving, and the factors you should consider in each step.

Define the Problem

In defining the ethical problem, be sure to describe it as objectively as possible (Cooper, 2012).

Identify a Course of Action

When identifying the alternatives available for addressing the problem, resist thinking in “either/or” terms and be open to all possibilities before making a final decision (Cooper, 2012).

Consider Organizational Factors

Also, before making a final decision, consider the positives and negatives about the organization’s structure and culture as they relate to the action you are proposing. For instance, is the organization more of a bureaucracy that is resistant to change or often retaliatory toward employees who do not “toe the line”? (Cooper, 2012). On the other hand, a more rigid organization might be rooted in law and support ethical initiatives you seek to implement (Cooper, 2012).

Consider Intervention Strategies

In Chapter 10, Cooper (2012) also emphasizes that a manager should be thinking strategically and employ interventions that will likely result in the desired structural and cultural changes.

In your first discussion board in this module, you will be applying this design approach to an ethical dilemma you have chosen.

Module 8: Module Notes: Connecting the Dots

These module notes tie together several of the concepts you have studied in the course. They are intended to be useful as you write your final paper. You should also review the section called “The Responsible Administrator” on pages 256–259 in the textbook, where Cooper summarizes key points from each chapter.

In the second discussion board for this module, you will provide your own definition of what it means to be a “responsible administrator.” This can be a complex concept to define, due to the many conflicting roles and responsibilities of public administrators.

You will now see the first six items in a checklist of factors that public administrators must consider when they face ethical dilemmas.

Levels of Ethical Reflection

These include the expressive level, moral rules, ethical analysis, and post-ethical level (Chapter 2).

The Context of Administrative Ethics

Macintosh HD:private:var:folders:z7:myr0nqzd0pl8y04h8pryb_8r0000gn:T:TemporaryItems:MPA604_M8_L3_G2.png

This includes the social, cultural, and political framework impacting the organization (Chapter 3).

Tension Between Different Roles

There could be tension between the roles of public administrator and citizen, as well as between the public and personal roles held by the public administrator (Chapter 3).

Objective and Subjective Responsibility

These include conflicts of authority, role conflicts, and conflicts of interest (Chapter 5).

Objective responsibility is the responsibility to someone and for tasks, subordinates, and goals. Subjective responsibility, on the other hand, is our own internal sense of responsibility and beliefs about responsibility (Chapter 4).

Conflicts Between Objective and Subjective Responsibilities

These include conflicts of authority, role conflicts, and conflicts of interest (Chapter 5).

Internal and External Controls

Responsible conduct can be maintained in public organizations using mechanisms to shape the “conduct of members of public organizations toward consistently ethical conduct,” using internal and external controls.

Cooper (2012) describes four “components of responsible conduct” an administrator can use to design an organizational environment that supports ethical conduct: individual attributes, organizational structure, organizational culture, and societal expectations (pp. 165–192; p. 258) (Chapters 6 & 7).

Module 8: Module Notes: Connecting the Dots: Completing the Checklist

Ethical autonomy should be maintained in public organizations to protect against “organizational corruption” (Cooper, 2012, p. 259).

Cooper identifies four means for encouraging autonomy: “(1) The delimitation of commitment to an employing organization and the cultivation of identities that transcend its boundaries, (2) legal and institutional protection for individual rights and conscience, (3) an ethic of awareness, and (4) the cultivation of principled thinking” (p. 259) (Chapter 8).

Maintaining Ethical Autonomy

Macintosh HD:private:var:folders:z7:myr0nqzd0pl8y04h8pryb_8r0000gn:T:TemporaryItems:MPA604_m8_notes4.jpg

Ethical autonomy should be maintained in public organizations to protect against “organizational corruption” (Cooper, 2012, p. 259).

Cooper identifies four means for encouraging autonomy: “(1) The delimitation of commitment to an employing organization and the cultivation of identities that transcend its boundaries, (2) legal and institutional protection for individual rights and conscience, (3) an ethic of awareness, and (4) the cultivation of principled thinking” (p. 259) (Chapter 8).

Design Approach for Ethical Decision-Making

The design approach for ethical decision-making could be applied at both the grand scale (e.g., Challenger or Columbia disasters) and for small, everyday occurrences (Chapter 9).

Tension Between Different Roles

Macintosh HD:private:var:folders:z7:myr0nqzd0pl8y04h8pryb_8r0000gn:T:TemporaryItems:MPA604_M8_L4_G3.png

Leadership theories (transformational; transactional; servant; and laissez-faire) could be applied (from Module 4 readings).

Administration in the 21st Century

Specific considerations need to be made when leading diverse teams and public administration in the 21st century (e.g., use of social media) (Lean In and Modules 5 and 7).


Sandberg, S. (2013). Lean in: Women, work, and the will to lead (1st ed.). New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf.

**MPA506 M8D1

Read and respond (approximately 250 words each) 


At my last duty assignment, a Major in the Air Force had, upon numerous occasions, displayed overly familiar interactions with one of my colleagues who was a middle-enlisted airman. On most occasions, this seemed to be an attempt at personability. However, over time, this became overly inappropriate in nature, including emails, chats, and in-person leaning over the desk discussions. Upon questioning the airmen her relationship with the Major, she informed me that this was not mutual. She also revealed that she had been saving the individual’s emails and chat conversations, thus removing any doubt in my mind that this was a problem and not just somebody who did not understand the appearance. However, she was building a case on the occasion that this escalated to an assault or retaliation. I viewed the dilemma as requiring proactive action to prevent escalation entirely. Moreover, the final straw was when the Major did this openly in front of me. He asked if I had heard what he was saying and then asked for my discretion, which further solidified my assessment of guilt.

The first few steps in Cooper’s (2012) model are to identify the ethical problem in place, describe it, and define it. Military regulations prevent certain types of relationships between people of different ranks, especially officer versus enlisted. Second, my colleague was clearly uncomfortable with the interactions and that the Major was part of her chain of command. If she complained, it was possible that retaliation would come her way. Moreover, I could not deny that this situation was happening as I witnessed it both in person and on numerous occurrences. Therefore, the ethical issue is to decide if the incident required intervention.

Now, Cooper (2012) prescribes identifying options that I could take. First, I could let it be. The airman was already gathering data, and I could have left it up to them. Alternatively, I could have addressed the Major directly and tried to prevent further interactions through confrontation. Third, I could report this up the chain of command using the testimony of both myself and the airman as well as the evidence that she compiled.

Then, Cooper (2012) recommends projecting consequences for each of these options by applying moral and ethical principles, rehearsing defenses, and deciding what I would feel with each option. I had the UCMJ and workplace harassment policies to consider. I also had to consider the feelings of my colleague and the environment that this behavior was causing. Moreover, if something happened to my colleague and I did not take action, how would I feel? Alternatively, if this was reported and she did face retaliation, would that be worse? 

Finally, Cooper (2012) recommends selecting the choice and acting. In this case, I actually utilized both the second and third options, addressing the situation directly to the Major and reporting this up the chain of command directly after, as I felt the confrontation could cause a more immediate escalation.

A big factor to consider was the rank issue. At the time, I was also an E-5 and in a different branch than my colleague and the Major. These issues both helped and hindered my possible actions. As I was in a different branch, there was little chance of retaliation against my career. However, as an E-5, there was a chance that the chain of command would take the Major’s word over my own. 

Honestly, the problem that I find is the most difficult to apply in the field is making the correct decision. It is effortless to define what a problem is and list out options. However, the actual action or inaction brings you into the issue. Moreover, if you do not have all the information, you may be acting prematurely and incorrectly. Alternatively, you may assess a situation to be less or more time-critical than it actually is. That timing would influence what is ultimately the right choice at the right time. Thus, there is always a certain level of hesitation on my part as I may take too long on the stage where I assess the emotional consequences to myself. However, in this case, I was forced to make a decision quickly, and by reporting it, I think it was the right choice.


Cooper, T. (2012). The responsible administrator: An approach to ethics for the administrative role (6th ed.). Jossey-Bass. Retrieved from


Using a real-world ethical dilemma, summarize how you would apply each step of the design approach in responding to that ethical dilemma.

Ok everyone. I am going to describe the most common ethical dilemma of out time.  Being week 8, I’d thought I would have a little fun. The ethical dilemma is asked to thousands of people every day, “Paper or Plastic” On the surface it seems like a simple solution but as we use the design approach to ethical decision making outlined in our text, you will find out is more of a dilemma than you thought.

The first step of the design approach outlined in Cooper is “It is important to understand the characteristics of the organizational structure and culture that may encourage or impede acting on the decision.”  What is the organizational structure of a plastic bag company vs a paper bag factory?  Both are industries that manufacture bags!  Both are business to provide a product and make money.  Both damage the environment in some way during the manufacturing of their product. 

Ok. Step 2. “What changes would need to be made in the organizational structure and culture to make them more supportive of the decision you have arrived at using the model?”  Well? Each company can begin by changing the organizational culture to promote better environmentally friendly products. For example, the plastic bag companies could change the composition of the plastic bag and add an ingredient that makes it biodegradable.  Or develop a process that uses less petroleum and uses less toxic chemicals. Paper bag companies can manufacture bags with 100% recycled paper, or design them so they can be used as garbage bags so you get a double use out of them.  Ok, now we are getting somewhere.  Paper bags are one up in the decision-making process.

Step 3. What kinds of management intervention strategies would be appropriate to effect these changes? Does change call for a top-to-bottom management audit, an organizational development exercise, a new training program, a review of the organization’s structure, a code of ethics, or ethics training?

Hmmmm!  Probably corporate leadership must develop a strategic plan to change a manufacturing process. This plan would include research and development, manufacturing and marketing. Employee training would be required in learning new equipment and processes.  Marketing would have to develop an advertisement plan to increase sales of the product.  Now I have to honest I have not really considered  an ethical training class for a plastic bag or paper bag manufacturing company?

Oh, the hell with it I am bringing a cloth grocery sack.

Describe which step of the model you believe will be the most difficult for you to apply in the field and why.

Of all of the questions to consider in the model outlined on pages 38-39 of the text I think that “Is there anything about the hierarchical structure and the people who occupy key positions in it that either may make it difficult for you to carry out the chosen decision or may provide support for your conduct?”  would be the hardest to change.  The reason is, in my experience people in general are resistant to change.  And top managers are usually have the greatest resistance because they have the most years in an organization.


Cooper, T. (2012). The responsible administrator: An approach to ethics for the administrative role (6th ed.). Jossey-Bass.


Looking at the state of the world today there are no shortages of ethical dilemmas to be found.  But one that hits close to home is medical professionals choosing between treating patients and their concern for their own safety and wellbeing.  As my significant other is a registered nurse and works in the intensive care unit (ICU) of the largest local hospital, COVID-19 and specifically the care of those with it has been dominating most conversations.  With two school age children at home, as well as my work on base and my educational endeavors there was a long discussion about what she was going to do when the pandemic began.  Her job and her inner sense of purpose is and has been the care of those that come into “her” hospital.  She in fact chose to work in the ICU straight out of school because she wanted to help those that were in need of the most care.  So, it was no surprise that when COVID-19 emerged that she was one of the nurses that wasn’t mysteriously sick while in good health, went to work and donned her space suit and jump headfirst into the first round of sickness that emerged in Bangor.  She loves her family (ok, so maybe the kids more than me some days), but she never wavered when she had every reason to do so.  The belief that she was duty bound to care for the patients that were sick outweighed her potential infection and any potential cross contamination that she might have brought home.  While I set her up a nice living arrangement in her new “basement bedroom” to keep her away from all of us at the beginning, I have to say that I was proud of her for making the decision that she did.  I can still remember the second that it all made sense for me, when she said, “you would do it too if you were in my shoes, it’s my turn to go to war”.  I can’t help but start to get a little misty eyed right now typing this as I think back to that morning… I am so proud of her.

1. The assumption of uncertainty: No one really knew what they were up against when COVID-19 first emerged. It was described as something similar to the flu and the rest were unknowns.

This first step is where most of the ambiguity was, or at least the uncertainty.  I suppose that it is like any first-time event, that you just don’t really know what you are dealing with until you deal with it.  For healthcare providers it was a situation where you have an ethical responsibility to treat the patients that are under your care, but you also have the responsibility to keep yourself and your family from being infected by your work.

2. Defining the problem: What would happen if those in the medical profession didn’t come to work for self-preservation.

This is where many healthcare workers found themselves, trying to weigh the risk to themselves and their families, against the requirement to work.  As an outsider, there really is no wrong answer and it is more about what the individual feels is right for them.  If they chose to work and risk exposure, then they were doing their part to help people to survive and recover.  If they chose that the risk was too great, then they were protecting the life that was important to them.  As you can see, there was no wrong answer.

3. Resolving ethical problems within the constraint of time: This was important, as the healthcare workers had to make the decision to work or not and in a very short period of time as the cases were emerging rapidly.

This is where the emergency of the situation or decision really emerged.  The medical centers needed to know if they were going to be properly staffed or if they were going to have to try to find help from outside of their organization.  Once they had an idea of the staffing levels, they were then able to distribute the patients to ensure care.  This put the stress on the medical professionals to make their decision without all the information truly being known.

4. Ethical problems impede ethical conduct: This is where those involved potentially feel forced to make a decision that compromises their ethics in some way.

With the speed of the decision, it was easy for medical professionals to choose one path over the other and compromise their ethical obligations.  From deciding to work and display “service before self” and increasing the risk factors to themselves and to their homes, to deciding that their loves and their family’s lives were not worth the risk, something was going to have to give.  Unfortunately, in situations like this, only time will tell if they made the decision that was best for them and what they hold dear.

 The most difficult step that I would have applying in this model step 4.  Being a person that doesn’t like the feeling that they have mitigated all the risks possible and then making the best decision that can possibly be made, knowing that something was going to have to give would leave with a bad feeling.  While I understand that this is something that must happen in certain situations, it doesn’t mean that I feel any better about it.  This is also not to say that I can’t make decisions in “real-time”, because I specialize in that… it is about the choice causing sacrifice somewhere.


Cooper, T. L. (2012). The responsible administrator: An approach to ethics for the administrative role (6th ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

**MPA506 M8D2

Read and respond (approximately 250 words each) 


A responsible administrator balances the needs of the employees with the needs of the people the administration serves and policymakers’ expectations. The employees need to work in an ethical and fair environment and help them grow into future leaders and encourage them to voice both concerns and ideas to help improve the organization. Next, the administrator must do right by the citizens they serve. This includes providing the service they are expected to provide in both a fiscally responsible manner and with a utilitarian lens to ensure the most people possible benefit from the services. Moreover, a responsible administrator ensures the accurate interpretation of responsibilities set by policymakers to avoid conflicts between capabilities, expectations, and interests. A responsible administrator does not allow personal or political convictions to sway their actions away from the interests of the people and the politicians. A responsible administrator does not turn a blind eye to ethical violations within the organization, and they foster a culture within the organization that does not tolerate corruption or abuse. Furthermore, the ability to identify and appropriately react to a concern is essential as inaction can alienate individuals and cause a loss of faith in leadership. Ultimately, as an administrator cannot be aware of every action that occurs within the administration, having an ethical and transparent organizational culture is imperative to the functionality of an administration.

Transformative leadership empowers both indirect and direct subordinates to make changes and improvements in the interest of operational functionality and ethical integrity. When individuals take ownership of their roles and responsibilities, they are less likely to be tolerant of neglect or abuse of their personnel and resources. This, in turn, creates a level and transparent organizational culture. Transformative leaders will reject the status quo if it is objectional to their objective and subjective responsibilities. This enables them to utilize their ethical autonomy when a dilemma arises regarding widespread corruption or other concern of significance and others to do so as well, thus reinforcing a more positive organizational culture.

Having a systematic approach to decision-making, such as Cooper’s (2012) prescriptive model, is a useful tool for myself as this serves to forecast potential issues of action or inaction. It seems reasonable that if some of the administrators that we studied in this course had used a similar model to examine their dilemmas, they might have had better results in public perception of their actions and capabilities. Even if the administrators ultimately made the same choice, using the step that analyzes their actions’ defensibility will allow them to explain their intent and maintain some level of trust through their transparency (Cooper, 2012). Moreover, doing an internal review of my feelings on each choice can help limit the effects of bias by acknowledging its presence. Utilizing this model will encourage my peers and subordinates to use similar processes, creating an ethical standard of well-thought-out decisions (Cooper, 2012). Overall, leading through action is the most effective method of making change within an organization. The transformational leadership style ultimately supports the longevity of the beneficial results the leader established as their peers and subordinates will have internalized these positive traits.


Cooper, T. (2012). The responsible administrator: An approach to ethics for the administrative role (6th ed.). Jossey-Bass. Retrieved from


Being a responsible administrator is about making the best decision possible in each scenario that presents itself.  Understanding that the needs of the organization and the needs of the employees can be the same, but rarely are.  Finding a way to balance the two will be the daily challenge and will go a long way to determining the success or failure that I will encounter within the realm of public administration.  As public administration has the effect on people from day one, then the margin for error even while in the beginning stages of the career are slim.  This will help to keep the focus where it needs to be on a daily basis and be one of the driving factors towards my daily goal of self-improvement.

As someone who identifies as a servant leader, I put the needs of the employees above my own.  In this way, I have always tried to better the organization that I am working within through the people that work there.  An environment where the employees feel empowered and supported has proven to me to be an organization that is effective and productive.  With my focus being away from myself and the needs that I have, I am able to make decisions that will provide an opportunity to better the organization or climate within the organization, before worrying about how the change or decision would affect me personally.  I have always understood that part of change is change within one’s self and that as long as I am not compromising my morality or ethics, then a change for all can and should be an easy change for me.

Wanting to be involved in politics in the very near future means that I will need to understand that ethics, specifically my ethics are going to be talked about and tested on a daily basis.  This class has prepared me to be more methodical in my approach and to understand the process that I need to adopt to minimize any questions that may arise.  This will be truly my first time in the “public eye” and I understand full well that comes with scrutiny.  That all decisions that I will make, all associations that I may have, that even the way I present myself will be watched and discussed.  While I don’t pretend to be ready for everything that might befall me as I get started, I know that because of this course that I have validated my ethics and know now how to “prove” them to others that I work with, work for, or those that work for me.  It is an exciting time as I think towards the local election for city council next year and how I will want to run my campaign and who I will want to surround myself with.  They say that you only get one chance to make a first impression and I know that because of what I have learned here and the connections that I have made within the class, that I am going to be putting the right foot forward!


Cooper, T. L. (2012). The responsible administrator: An approach to ethics for the administrative role (6th ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.


Summarize what it means to you to be a “responsible administrator.”

The responsible administrator is one who demonstrates certain characteristics. An administrator must demonstrate honesty, integrity, selfless service, self-control, political and professional acumen as well as a strong sense of personal and professional ethics.  A responsible administrator considers the objective responsibilities of his/her job, to serve the public, the Government and the employees under their charge.  The responsible administrator also considers his subjective responsibilities and meshes them the agencies objective responsibilities. The responsible administrator must create a vision for the agency, and create and implement a strategic plan for the accomplishment of goals and objectives.  When confronted with ethical dilemmas solves them using some design based decision making model.

Describe how your leadership style factors into being a responsible administrator.

Leadership style plays a part in any situation where you are supervising people. My default leadership style is transformational. I enjoy training and empowering people to perform at their very best and improve themselves professionally and personally.  Transformational leadership requires accepting the risk of putting a great deal of responsibility on an employee and helping them rise to that level.  You have to be able to accept failure and then use it as a teaching tool.

Select one practical ethical or leadership aspect you studied during the course and describe how you will implement it in your current or desired role.

There are several leadership an ethical qualities that are minimum requirements for a leader.  Two are honesty and integrity.  Honesty is about keeping your team informed and tht includes telling them bad news.  Integrity is having the self-knowledge to do the right thing, even when it is going to be unpopular.  Lastly, administrators need to be technically and tactically proficient. They must “Walk the Walk and Talk the Talk.

Just a thought,



Cooper, T. L. (2012). The responsible administrator: An approach to ethics for the administrative role (6th ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.