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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

Avoiding Failures

go through page Focus / Too Fast / Blind / Textbook / Role / Detail / Bias / Superiority / Keep Out / Go On

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Forgetting that you are there to solve a problem is the biggest failure*definition of all.

Failure is when you create more problems than you solve--or leaving the situation worse than you found it. At times, you may find the decisionmaking process blurred by political demands, unexpected conflicts, environmental issues, the desire for a quick fix, and sometimes just plain inexperience. The hurdles chart illustrates some of the more difficult barriers to success with ideas for getting over them safely.

These hurdles may tempt you into some of the common pitfalls listed below.

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navigate in the page--Losing Focus

This usually happens if you let your own or someone else's personal agenda replace or interfere with identified and verified needs. Dangers here are:
  • Creating a too costly solution by overestimating the need
  • Sticking to one costly or flawed option (or type of option)
  • Falling short of an acceptable solution by underestimating the need.

You must focus on meeting the need!

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navigate in the page--Cart Before the Horse

Skipping steps will create gaps that must be filled in later when it is more difficult to do so. Stopping to think about how the decision should be made and what is actually needed will pay off in the long run. Watch out for:
  • Rushing in before securely building a foundation
  • Defining the problem without information
  • Forgetting to check assumptions before analyzing the data
  • Developing or anticipating a solution before the considering facts and analyzing data.
  • Neglecting priorities and sequences of tasks

Through knowledge, experience, and expertise, a probable solution may be seen very early, but such a decision will likely fail if challenged--often after considerable time and money have been spent. Shortcuts produce holes in supporting data!

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navigate in the page--Blind Processes

Look at where you are going and why. Assuming that the many smart people involved will automatically come up with a good choice or learn the lessons from the process will only lead to trouble. Consciously keeping systematic records and guiding the process will help avoid future pitfalls.

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navigate in the page--Relying on "Textbook" Rules

Developing alternatives is more than a "cause and effect" or "if then" relationship--it is an innovative and dynamic process that often results in iterative*definition actions. Activities within each step may uncover a justifiable reason for reconsidering some previous action or examining earlier decisions. You and the team must be flexible and adaptive; workable tools, methodologies, or techniques may well vary from one situation to another. There are no universal rules in solving problems!

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navigate in the page--Forgetting Reclamation's Role

To manage water and related resources effectively, Reclamation must serve as an open, fair, and broker for all those who have an interest in water resources.

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navigate in the page--Level of Detail

Reclamation studies encompass many levels of detail. It is vital that you and the rest of the team work on similar or complementary levels. This ensures that all aspects of a process are congruent. Detail must be appropriate to the situation!

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navigate in the page--Biased Attitudes

Biases inhibit impartial judgment. Any display of such an attitude will give credence to the idea long held by many publics that "Reclamation has already made up its mind." Pay attention to questions raised by critics--sometimes the off-beat solution or issue deserves attention. Prove that you are openminded!

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navigate in the page--Superiority Thinking (intellectual, experienced, or otherwise)


The sense of superiority creates blinders that shield us from the sensitivity needed to understand others. Without this understanding, there is no support for the solution or process. This can also prevent knowledgable, accurate analyses--e.g., local water users and environmental groups frequently have first hand knowledge not evident to outside professionals. Believe that others can contribute!

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navigate in the page--Keeping People Out

It may seem more difficult and time consuming to keep people informed and invite them to participate. However, attempting to manipulate or ignore people, particularly vetoers or new players can:

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navigate in the page--Go On

If you fall into a hole, get the news out first hand before people hear it second hand-- and get up quickly . Most likely, other people will help pull you out of the hole.

Helpful Hints Tourwizbang help here Handling Success <----> Handling Failure

Dragon Tour wide-eyed dragon on the loose Communication <-----> Myth Truths

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PreviousGetting Success


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