Bureau of Reclamation Banner
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

Getting Success

go through page Fair and Open / Communication / Participation / Consent / Flexibility / Guidance / Document / Go On

pretty border

We can't promise a magical recipe for success, but we can provide some of the key ingredients. It may be impossible to include every ingredient in a given process; but keep in mind that the fewer ingredients listed below, the lower your chances of success*definition.

pretty border

navigate in the page--Fair, Open, and Honest Process.

You may need to change the status quo or the current mindset before you can solve the problem.


If participants see the process is fair, open, and honest, the solution will more likely survive challenges and get commitment. An open process considers, respects. and makes known the concerns and agendas of all participants. A fair process ensures that everyone has an equal opportunity to be involved. An honest process avoids pre-formed decisions and acknowledges the political as well as the technical influences.

pretty border

navigate in the page--Communication

A quick band-aid will not satisfy long-term needs.

Put your money in your mouth--communicate. Get information from people who already have it--Include and inform people to avoid surprises:

  • Decisionmakers
  • Implementors
  • Supporters
  • Vetoers

Keep in touch early and often.

pretty border

navigate in the page--Participation

Without a voice in the process, communities*definition will probably not accept or support the solution. This will lead to apathy or resentment so that, at best, the solution is neglected. At worst, it is sabotaged. After the community has helped provide a solution, local participants will probably help support that solution and adapt it to meet future needs. Local involvement may also provide more insights into the underlying needs, find out what requires consideration, avoid unnecessary analysis, and create more options.

pretty border

navigate in the page--Consent

While consensus*definition is great, sometimes consenting*definition (agreeing not to fight) is all you can do and is enough for a workable solution. Build consent by ensuring that everyone can live with the solution and no one will bitterly oppose it. This crucial ingredient will involve negotiating, listening, and making tradeoffs*definition. Often, people will agree to a solution they don't like if it has been arrived at fairly.

pretty border

navigate in the page--Flexibility

Be willing to change as the study progresses; otherwise, someone else will change things for you. The process needs to consciously provide for needs, objectives, participants, and data which will evolve as you move toward a solution. Keep current and check back regularly.

pretty border

navigate in the page--Process Guidance

Someone at the helm is needed to guide the process. Some tips for keeping on track include:

And let everyone know your decision

navigate in the page--A Workable Solution.

Focus on solving the problem, and cure the cause rather than the symptoms. Analyze what will work to meet the needs--and test your assumptions before you trust your weight to them. Make sure the community continues to use the solution to meet the need after you are gone. Defining a reasonable length of time for the solution to function and planning for future operations is essential to measuring the solution's success. Physical elements require people to maintain and operate facilities. Institutional elements require organizations, partnerships, or other groups willing to continue the solution and to ensure that it still meets the needs. Building flexibility into the solution will allow it to be adapted to meet changing future needs. Innovative, creative solutions can address needs and get around constraints.

pretty border

navigate in the page--Documentation

Document the process and solution so that you can:

  • Quickly see who decided what
  • Build on the analyses and solution when the needs change
  • Clearly record commitments made by all participants
  • Answer challenges to the process
  • Accumulate a track record that builds credibility and points the way to future successes
  • Apply the lessons gained from the process elsewhere

pretty border

navigate in the page--Go On

Helpful Hints Tourwizbang help here Defining Success ---------> Handling Success

pretty border


PreviousDefining Success

NextAvoiding Failure

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