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This information is intended to convey the underlying concepts for Reclamation's decision processes. It is not mandatory.
See the Reclamation Manual for official Reclamation-wide requirements.

Reclamation's Decision Process Guide

Action Plan

go down the page: Purpose / Why / How/ Updates / Review/ Go On

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navigate in the page--Purpose

An action plan*definition is developed to apply the steps in the decision process*definition . This explains what has happened and what needs to be done. Most of the action plan is the responsibility of the team leader, with support from team members, and can be used to obtain funding, support, and commitment from managers and decisionmakers.

The action plan is also a good tool for determining whether or not to proceed --changes in funding, authority, or the need for action are strong "go/no-go" indicators.

To track and document :

  • What decisions have been made
  • What needs to be done
  • What changes have occurred
  • What you have learned

The action plan forms the backbone of the decision process by providing organization and direction. The action plan describes how eac h of the key study elements will be achieved so everyone can keep track of the steps and where they are going.

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navigate in the page--Why?

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(Plan. Then do.)

The action plan will:

  • Clearly communicate intended actions, rationales, resources, and timeframe
  • Become a touchstone for players to measure actions and events against
  • Provide a handy background for new players.

Document what you have built.

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navigate in the page--How

Start by gathering whatever information you have developed so far into an action plan and fill any remaining gaps. Disseminate the action plan to all participants for comments. Meet with participants to reconcile comments. Set up a procedure to modify the action plan as changes occur and the process develops. (For example, add pages to explain the changes and periodically update and circulate the plan.) Put a date on every plan. Keep a master list of versions as you revise it to keep track.

The simpler the action, the easier it is to coordinate. Try to break complex actions into simpler parts.

In developing your action plan, answer the suggested questions below to provide a basic foundation:

  • What is the authority and source of funding ?
  • What is the purpose?
  • What is the need for action
  • How will the publics and participants be involved ?
  • What are the existing relationships and constraints ?
  • How do participants perceive the expectations for the solution?
  • Who will make decisions and how?
  • Who are the players and what are their roles ? (Note: this may include other entities and individuals as well as the core team.)
  • What will documents cover? (For example: making decisions, formulating agreements, and documenting the progress of the decision process.)


Decision process analysis helps categorize your information.

Write your action plans to stamp out misunderstandings as early as possible and preserve agreements that have been made as the process proceeds.

At a minimum, the action plan should cover:


Provide the necessary amount of detail needed to understand the problem : location, physical details, a short history, etc.

Focus your action plan on actually solving the problem .

Define the problem. Show why it is serious and should be addressed.
Briefly describe why you are doing something show that it would be irresponsible not to act.
Funding and authority
Briefly describe the funding sources for both Reclamation's involvement and other governmental and nongovernmental agencies. Citing the authority under which Reclamation is operating will help communicate Reclamation's role in the process.
Existing relationships and constraints
Document these to help everyone understand the parameters of the study. List the ground rules
List who is involved and what they are contributing to help provide an overall picture of the process and encourage players to communicate and interact.


Tailor the action plan to fit your task (e.g., a hazardous waste study may include very specific details on proposed actions and constraints; a watershed initiative may take a broad, overarching approach.)

List what you expect to address and achieve. This helps focus the study and prevent surprises down the road. (e.g., But I thought we were going to address x, not y!) Be sure to list opportunities available.
Show who will do what, when, and why to provide the backbone of the study. Participants will be able to refer back to the proposed actions and agree on what actions need to change in response to external and internal changes. Be sure to list the resources committed, payment method, and timeframe.
Although schedules slip, show a timeframe for events to keep participants and decisionmakers on track. Show how each action is a step toward solving the problem by including milestones, decision points, and places to re-examine the process. Make sure everyone understands how events are connected (time charts and flow charts can help).
Lay out when and how you will communicate to help identify potential changes early and prevent misunderstandings and delays, and build credibility.
Training and team building.
Training can build the team up to function productively and show team members new, effective methods of working with others to solve problems and resolve conflicts.
Document how analysis and corresponding reports will be generated and used. Agree on general assumptions and sensitivity ranges.
Documents to produce.
Documents are the primary vehicle for formally communicating with the team and participants. Note what documents you will need to explain analyses, share participant's and public's comments, show decisions and rationales, and fulfill legal and Reclamation requirements. Lay out ground rules for how the reports will be developed and how comments will be addressed.
Outline what agreements will need to be reached with whom to help reduce future misunderstandings and effectively pool participants' resources.


get successSuccess:

Take off your blinders to look beyond what is authorized (or even reasonable. ) Others can address what you can't.

Decisions to make
List the decisions to be made, when they'll be made, and who will make them. This helps keep decisionmakers involved and aware of what is going on and what they need to do. This includes thresholds of significance and how to decide whether to continue the process. This will also help smooth decisionmaker and administration transitions.
Level of detail.
Describe briefly the level of detail needed for decision points to reduce technical conflicts and promote credibility for the data and decision.

Since changes are inevitable, plan for them from the start.

Build flexibility into your action plan. Separate the process into formal phases to provide joints or breaks to determine course changes or even whether or not to continue. Participants can join or opt out at these breaks. You can then manage change rather than letting change manage the process.

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navigate in the page--Updates

Keeping the action up-to-date by recording what actions have occurred will turn the action plan into an effective tool to help keep new participants informed. Listing changes in study direction, participants, and actions will provide a basis for determining the future directions of the study.

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navigate in the page--Review

After establishing the plan, examine it regularly to determine if any element has changed or needs to change. Allow for time for review and revision at appropriate intervals

Throughout the process and after implementing the solution, examine the process and apply what you have learned. Use 20/20 hindsight to figure out what worked and what to improve for the next step--and the next action.


  • What changes have occurred?
  • What have the analyses and interactions among participants uncovered?
  • How do these changes and revelations affect what you are trying to do?
  • Who needs to see and comment on the action plan?
  • Is the budget appropriate for the scope of action now

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navigate in the page--Go On

Handyman's tourHandyman's Tour Decisions <-----> Decision Analysis

Please contact Deena Larsen 303-445-2584 with questions or comments on this material.