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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

How We Did This

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These are things you need to keep in mind as you go through the process, wherever you are.

Hang onto these ideas and make sure that everyone has more or less the same understanding of these concepts. For example, clearly define what you mean by consent/consensus up front when deciding who will make decisions and how.

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The guidebook content stemmed from Reclamation's need for a practical approach to decisionmaking. Many of the planning regulations were sunsetted--leaving planners, resource managers, team leaders, and others without anything to point to and say "this is why we do things this way." Without a clearly documented, rational approach to solving complex problems, decisionmakers and participants could not understand what teams were analyzing, how teams approached problems, and what the end product would be. This led to confusion, misunderstandings, and delays in the process. Our team was assembled to create useable, clear discretionary guidance on government planning and decisionmaking.

Our methodology evolved while we created the linear guidebook. At first, the writing process got bogged down in lengthy discussions of specific wording when we needed to focus on ideas. So we held a series of conceptual discussions, and the writer produced a preliminary reactive draft. Then we held meetings to interactively suggest changes. The resulting draft was then given to core team members for suggestions. This worked well, but we needed an even wider range of input.

We interviewed over 100 contributors in sessions ranging from an hour to four hours. To prepare for the interviews, we developed detailed but flexible outlines for each section and step. We used the interview notes, tapes, written materials provided by contributors, course materials, and independent research to develop reactive drafts (a process often jokingly referred to as "knocking off the rough edges"). The core team and peer review process polished the material with constructive comments, which were incorporated into a demonstration draft. The demonstration draft was sent to contributors for comment. We then incorporated these comments into a distribution draft, often going back to commentors for clarification and input.

For example, in one early go around, people said that the most common problem was politics. So we called everyone back and asked, "How do you deal with politics?" Their answers provided the material for our section on politics. People commented on the distribution draft and we went through the whole process again. Finally, in September 1996, we published the hard copy guidebook.


Using this guidebook, we developed training for various audiences and purposes. These sessions provided more insights. It became evident that a linear explanation of how government works was too convoluted and unwieldy. Further, readers had difficulty locating the material they needed, and the book continually repeated concepts.

Decision processes are not easy, linear concepts. Steps are simultaneous and iterative. Concepts such as communication, credibility, andpriority are repeated themes throughout each step. We needed to present the decision process concepts in a useful way so readers could understand the interactions. We also needed a cheaper distribution, as groups (both within the US and overseas) were beginning to be interested. After looking at several options (e.g., cd-rom, an ftp site, a PDF document), we decided to create a hypertext using HTML.

Hypertext links and levels could show the structure that a linear text could not. HTML was a simpler language that could be manipulated to create this structure. The web was expanding, so that Reclamation employees and others would have easy access.

We set up this web guide to:

  • Develop a flexible document we can continue to use and update
  • Use hypertext to show connections and themes
  • Provide a space where users can explore the decision process
  • Reach the broadest possible audience (both within Reclamation and world-wide).

To do this, we:

  • Stayed away from the cutting edge so that the site would be accessible to the widest variety of technology
  • Rewrote the text to fit into a hypertextual structure
  • Connected main points to show relationships between ideas
  • Created tours, site maps, and other navigational devices (e.g., a comics page, terms, concept pages) so readers can find what they need

We used Storyspace to create a hypertextual space that mirrors the complex connections of governmental decision processes (over 150 spaces with over 2,000 links). The file structure in Storyspace made it possible to see relationships between important concepts and steps in the process. We used the export feature with hierarchical links to maintain as much of the three-dimensional levels as we could. Then we used various html editors (e.g., Claris Home Page, WordPerfect 7.0) to clean up the "look and feel."

Web pieces are not stable. We used Dreamweaver and other templates to force these pages into Reclamation's look and feel.

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