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

Hidden Agendas

go through page What They Are / What They Do / What To Do / Go On

pretty border

navigate in the page--What They Are

If an agenda is never brought out openly, it is a hidden agenda*definition. Hidden agendas which cannot stand the test of public scrutiny or are counter to a professed agenda pose problems for the decision process as they embody the antithesis of public policy and open decisionmaking.

Your own agendas need to be explicit. If you find yourself promoting a hidden agenda, change it to an open agenda as soon as possible. Otherwise, your logic process will be flawed and the program will fail--taking you and your motives with it.

pretty border

navigate in the page--What They Do

Hidden agendas are the lurking land mines of the decision process.

Hidden agendas can:

  • Disrupt the decision process
  • Thwart or skew analyses
  • Preselect an alternative without a thorough evaluation
  • Redirect the decision process after the decision has been made
  • Create loss of credibility
  • Sow mistrust among key parties
  • Result in lawsuits, funding withdrawals, and public conflict
  • Risk nonacceptance or even noncompliance with other agencies, policy, legislation, and regulations

pretty border

navigate in the page--What To Do About This

Agenda Myth-Truths

Sometimes, participants may be convinced that there is a hidden agenda when everything is above board and open. Others may be sure that something sinister is afoot because they can't accept or don't understand internal and external changes in the process (e.g., Reclamation's role and mission). To dispel these myth-truths, you may need to clarify actions and decision factors, explain the analyses, or reevaluate the process.

Keep checking for hidden agendas by watching for counterproductive actions, unexplained inactions, or conflicts and reversals in policy, actions, or statements.

If you suspect a hidden agenda (either internal or external), first validate that perception by asking concise, direct questions. Then examine past and current actions to see if results diverge from the professed agenda. These explanations will probably reveal the real concerns, and you can then address those concerns as you would any other agenda or political concern.

If you still feel that someone is refusing to provide a rational explanation and continuing to hide an agenda, you may need to speculate on what that agenda might be and work around it. You may be able to:

Bring the agenda out.
Some tools, such as devil's advocate, trading cards, ranking techniques, Pareto charts, and issue maps, may be useful in bringing agendas into the open.
Show the implications.
It might be possible to show the inherent dangers within a hidden agenda and, thus, lead participants into an open process.
Develop broad-based support.
If the hidden agenda centers around a special, specific interest group, developing broad-based support for the study process and the solution may diffuse the agenda's impact.
Meet the underlying need.
Sometimes, hidden agendas themselves hide deeper, more basic objectives, which may be met in other ways. If you or the agenda maker can express these deeper objectives, then ways to meet these objectives might be developed.
Plan around it.
Determine how many resources (time, energy, money) the individual is willing to invest in the hidden agenda and plan your actions accordingly. Determine if you need to put the process on hold. Be careful, however. This may lead to second-guessing the process and may confuse issues even more than the original hidden agenda did.

pretty border

navigate in the page--Go On

Dragon Tour wide-eyed dragon on the loose Change <----> Risk

pretty border




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