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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

Personal Decision-making

You can understand the decision process best when you apply it. Sometimes, it is hard to concentrate on HOW to make the decision with all the complex , impossible details of WHAT the decision has to cover.

We strongly suggest that you take some time to practice applying the decision process so that you can get the hang of the process and can apply it automatically in the larger processes.

Work on a personal decision--one that you really DO need to make--so that you can lay out a rational path.

pointNote: You can click on the name of the step to get more information about that step in the process.


Step 1: Needs

Step 2: Goals

Step 3: Resources

Step 4: Options

Step 5: Workable

Step 6: Alternatives

Step 7: Best fit

Step 8: Select

Step 9: Do it

Step 10: Check back

Go On

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navigate in the page--Groundwork

TIP: Make the question as broad as you can so you have more ways to solve it.





  • What is the problem you want to solve?

Jim's daughter, Jane, is 16. She just got her license and wants a BMW. Jim says, hold it right there. The real question here is:

How do we solve your transportation needs?


  • Who are the decisionmakers?
  • Who will influence the decision? How?

If it is all Jane's money (insurance, car, etc.) then Jane will be the main decisionmaker. Jim still holds veto rights. If it is Jim's money or insurance, Jim will decide.


  • Who is involved? Why?
  • Who will be hurt if they are not consulted?

Other family members, like Jane's brother John, might want to be involved. He is 14 and will want a car, too.

navigate in the page--Step 1, Need

TIP: Think about physical, financial, emotional, spiritual needs.

Wants, Desires, Needs

  • Who wants what?
  • What are the needs?


Transportation: Go to Latin at another high school 10 miles away, go to part time job 5 miles away, go skiing on weekends
Look cool--image, prestige, self-esteem
Be independant--not have to ask for rides
Learn about responsibility
Financial: Save money for college, class trip to Washington, DC.

Financial: Insurance, save for retirement, two kids in college, house, travel
Safety: Ensure that Jane gets to places she needs to safely
Transportation: Get to work 2 miles away, go to events downtown, etc.

navigate in the page--Step 2, Objective

TIP: Ask yourself where you want to be in 5 or 10 years. How do these objectives fit into the overall plan?

Goals, Objectives

  • What needs will we focus on?
  • What do we want the solution accomplish?
  • What will this solution do in 5 years? in ten?


Get into a good college (grades, classes, money, etc.)
Have independant transportation

Have enough money for all financial needs
Ensure safe transportation for both Jim and Jane

navigate in the page--Step 3, Resources

TIP: This step defines the playing field--where are the boundaries?

What you have to work with

  • What resources do we have to solve the problem?
  • What don't we have?
  • What are the limits?


Job ($100 a week)
Drivers license
Drivers education course
Good grades
Friends who drive and have cars
Some savings ($400)

Insurance (property, liability, umbrella policy)
Good, reliable car

Spend no more than Jane's savings and earnings this year.
Get Jane to school by 7:30, Latin by 3, work by 4:30
Jim works from 7:00 to 4:00
Denver's climate is unpredictable--snow, ice, etc.

navigate in the page--Step 4, Options

TIP: Go WILD! Have some fun.

What are your options?

  • What can you do?
  • What would you like to do?
  • What are your wildest dreams?


Get a BMW
Hire a chauffeur
Take taxis
Get an elephant
Get a good used car
Buy a car on credit
Lease a car
Pay for a car outright and save interest costs
Get a beat up pick up truck
Get a good mountain bike
Use the bus
Develop a carpool
Get a motorcycle
Walk--get in shape
Reduce transportation needs--Find another place to take Latin and find another job that is closer
Jim--work at home
Use Jim's car for both Jane and Jim--coordinate schedules
Jane--take shop and build a car from parts

navigate in the page--Step 5, Screening Criteria

TIP: Figure out what won't work so you can develop a range of alternatives that will work.

Train wrecks, fatal flaws, things that blow up

  • What won't work? Why?
  • At what point won't it work?

These items are your screening criteria.


($) Total spending limit: $1,000 initial investment and $100 monthly maintenance (Because there are other financial needs, and this is what can be spared from the budget to still save money for college, retirement, etc.)

(Go) Have to get Jane to work and school, have to get Jim to work (These are the minimum transportation needs)

(Work) Have to be reliable-- work in all weathers--snow, ice, heat.

(Time) Need to have something in place by next month.

Apply the screening criteria to see which options still work. Note which options are eliminated--and why.

Get a BMW ($)
Hire a chauffeur ($)
Take taxis ($)
Get an elephant ($, work)
Get a good used car
Buy a car on credit
Lease a car
Pay for a car outright and save interest costs
Get a beat up pick up truck
Get a good mountain bike (work)
Use the bus (schedules don't mesh. Bus does not go to Jane's Latin)
Develop a carpool
Get a motorcycle (work, safety)
Walk--get in shape (work--can't walk in blizzards)
Reduce transportation needs--Find another place to take Latin and find another job that is closer
Jim--work at home
Use Jim's car for both Jane and Jim--coordinate schedules
Jane--take shop and build a car from parts (time)

navigate in the page--Step 6, Alternatives

TIP: If you have a complicated question, categorize all of your options (location, action, people) so that you can choose from each category to get a complete alternative.

Combinations of options that will work and no action to compare with.

  • What options can we combine to meet the goals?

Always include a no-action alternative to show WHY you need to act, and to measure the other action alternatives against.

You may come up with other options and refine alternatives at this point. Just run the new ideas through the screening criteria to make sure they work.


No action.--Jim would keep the car. Jane would not be able to get to Latin or her job.

Get a car--Get a used car on credit. Pay as much down as possible to lower the overall cost and monthly payments. Make sure the car is reliable and cheap.

Use Jim's car--Jane will get up early, drive Jim to work, go to Latin, pick Jim up from work. Jim will drive Jane to her job and pick her up. Jim and Jane will develop a carpool and contacts in case of emergencies.

Lease a car--Jane will have to get another job so she can afford to lease a car.

navigate in the page--Step 7, Evaluation

TIP: Remember, numbers in matrix tables are NOT magic! They simply show relative strengths and weaknesses.


  • What do you need to consider so that an alternative best fits your situation?
  • What will drive the decision?
  • What is important to you?


Money--the more money available for other things like college, retirement, etc. the better.

Reliability--the more we are sure we will get where we need to be, the better.

Image--the more self-esteem and prestige, the better

The evaluation factors are NOT all equal. Some carry more weight in the decision than others. You can assign a weight to the factors (on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the absolute highest important thing in your life and 1 being couldn't care less). You can then look at how much each alternative weighs on this scale for all actions. This is called a matrix table.

Matrix tables can help map out what is important to you as you make the decision.

Multiply the numbers on the column (importance) by the numbers in each row (function) then add for totals. Then you can see the strengths and weaknesses in each alternative. (What would happen in this example if image were more important than money?). Strengths are the first number, subtotals (weights times strength) are underneath.


Money 7

Reliability 8

Image 3


No action

Not expensive 10

70 (7 *10)

Doesn't work 0


No image 0



Get a car

Costs money, but is an investment 5

Works well 8


ok image 6



Use Jim's car

Not expensive 10


Works ok 6


poor image 4



Lease a car

Costs money 1


Works well 9


good image 8



navigate in the page--Step 8, Selection

TIP: Talk with everyone who will be involved in the decision to ensure they know WHY you decided what you did.


The people identified in Groundwork (above) look at all the tradeoffs and select what best meets the needs and objectives at the moment.

Then they set up a plan to ensure this works--and to revisit it later.


Jim and Jane have looked at the alternatives and decide to share Jim's car for this year. This will allow Jane to save money for next year, when they can look at their resources and go through the decision process again.

navigate in the page--Step 9, Implement

TIP: Daytimers and to do lists help keep track.

Do it.

You may need to set up a step-by-step plan to make the decision reality.

  • What do you need to do today?
  • What questions do you need to answer?
  • What other decisions will you have to make?


Jim and Jane will have to work out "emergency plans"--what happens if the car breaks down, etc. Jim will work out a carpool arrangement with Carol, who lives nearby and has the same work hours.

Jane will ask her friend, Candice, to take Latin with her. Maybe she can work out a car pool arrangement with Candice's mother.

navigate in the page--Step 10, Monitor and Follow up

TIP: Set aside regular times to check back.

Reality check

  • Is the solution working?
  • Why or why not?
  • What can we do to improve it, if we need to?
  • What has changed?
  • What do we need to do about those changes?


At times, Jim has meetings which make it impossible to leave by 4.

To help solve this, Jane got a part time job near Jim's job at the Federal Center, so she can park the car in the Federal Center's parking lot and walk to work. Then Jim can pick her up when she finishes work.

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navigate in the page--Go On

NextVision example
Complex process example

NextTake an Executive Summary Tour

NextTake an Indepth Process Tour

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