JSB178 Week Two Lecture Notes
What does it mean to be an advisor?
As an advisor you will be the expert on a particular topic and advise politicians, Ministers etc. The term ‘expert’
essentially refers to the most knowledgeable person that is present on a topic – it is not an official title and does not
denote any kind of qualifications. For example, in a room of five people the person with the most knowledge on
something specific is the expert on that topic.
An advisor may also be a specialist, that is, someone who has specific and detailed knowledge and works specifically
in a particular area as a result of this. An advisor is not a decision maker, as this is the job of the person being
advised. Advisors are also often not the only advisor.
Full and Frank Advice
Full advice is that which provides both sides of any given story and does not leave out any ‘embarrassing’ parts. Full
advice is necessary to ensure the Minister is not surprised by later revelations. Frank advice refers to advice which is
honest, does not try to protect sensitivities and delivers both bad and good news. Frank advice is important and
advisors should always ignore people who say ‘the Minister does not want to hear that’. Often, what these people
are really saying is ‘I don’t want the Minister to know that’.
As an advisor, it is your job to ensure the Minister hears everything and as a result you should be including all
information, no matter how seemingly trivial or sensitive. If an advisor does not include all relevant full and frank
advice, they may leave themselves open to criticism if the Minister or politician cannot effectively answer questions
or address situations as a result of lack of knowledge. In this instance, the blame will inevitably fall to the advisor and
it is therefore important to protect oneself from this happening by providing all information to begin with.
There are, however, some rules when it comes to providing full and frank advice:
Never tell the Minister what to do
You are the advisor, not the decision maker. Avoid using phrases such as ‘obviously’, ‘of course’, ‘it was a disaster’ or
‘this decision would be offensive’. Instead, simply provide all the information necessary for the Minister to be able to
make his or her own informed decision.
Never make assumptions
There are two forms of assumptions specifically which should be avoided. The first is when an advisor simply does
not check their facts and assumes that something is correct. In most cases you may be right; however, you will most
certainly suffer if you are wrong. The second form of assumption is the assumption that the Minister knows
everything about a topic. Remember that Ministers are often amateurs and even though they may be well-informed,
they do not have the time to look at the details; that is your job. If you assume that the Minister knows all the
details, then you run the risk of allowing them to make an incorrect decision.
Complete and succinct information
It is important to give the Minister all the information necessary to make an informed decision, however Ministers
are very busy and therefore the information must be in a form they can use. This is why the government relies on
two-page only briefing notes. This means that all the information must be provided concisely so that it may be read
in a short space of time. Further attachments may be used to provide greater detail but only when necessary.
Even though advisors are not responsible for making decisions, they must still make recommendations. In practice,
this involves presenting the Minister with a range of alternative solutions to the problem to choose from. These
solutions must be well thought out and logical. In order for you to formulate these recommendations, you must
carry out the decision making process. Steps of the Decision Making Process
Identify the Dilemma
o A dilemma is not a problem – it is when there is no clear solution. If there is a clear solution then
there is no need for a complex decision making process.
o You should express your dilemma in one sentence stating two alternatives and why it is a dilemma.
Identify the Stakeholders
o Make a list of the stakeholders (that is, people who will be affected by the dilemma). Only concern
yourself with those who are involuntarily involved. For example, the stakeholders of increased crime
include the community as victims, and the police who will need extra resources. Stakeholders do not
involve the criminals themselves, the media (who are after a good story) or politician seeking re-
o Explain why a person or group is a stakeholder.
o Identifying the stakeholders is important in a democracy because it indicates the electoral
significance of the decision.
o Provide 2 – 4 alternative courses of action which could solve the dilemma.
o The easiest way to present alternatives is to provide the option of doing nothing at all (can
sometimes be the best choice as opposed to other options), an option of taking significant action or
the option of finding a balance between the two.
Cost Benefit Analysis
o Compare all of the outcomes to all of the stakeholders involved and identify how many people will
be happy, sad or indifferent to this alternative. Ask the question of how much happiness you will
Apply Other factors
o Consider other factors relevant to the alternatives and apply them. Examples of other factors include
legality, cost, ethics etc.
o The Cost Benefit Analysis and other factors should all be included in the briefing note under the
Weigh Up and Decide
o Weigh up all of the alternatives and their consequences to decide which is the best and explain why.
o In a briefing note you must:
Say which is your preferred alternative (remembering that you cannot tell the Minister what
Explain why this preference is the best alternative
Explain why the other alternatives are inadequate
o In most instances where an advisor has presented a fully informed and logical recommendation as to
the best alternative, the Minister will adopt this option.
o Remember that if the Minister does not have all the information then they are not properly and fully
A doctrine is an established method of performing a task in order to avoid making basic mistakes. Doctrines are not
implemented to prevent free-thinking, but rather to provide a frame of reference for common issues and to provide
uniformity. A doctrine cannot guarantee that you will arrive at the best result, however if you always follow a
doctrine you will place yourself in the best position to deal with that problem.
The Policy Doctrine
The Policy Doctrine is the always necessary to follow when providing full and frank advice. It involves a number of
questions to be ad