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

Step 10, Monitor and Follow Up

Purpose / Why / How / Tools / Look Forward / Go On

pretty border

Now that the solution is operating , make sure it continues to solve the problem.

pretty border

navigate in the page--Purpose

click for comics

(What we learned)

  • Adapt to changes
  • Monitor to ensure that the solution continues to work
  • Maintain support

pretty border

navigate in the page--Why?

Keep track of the solution so your investment pays off.

Monitoring the performance of the solution is Reclamation's best investment bet for future credibility and effectiveness. Monitoring focuses the attention on what does work and what continues to work. Participants, clients, and customers will see that you can and do adapt the solution to fit the changing needs . They will thus be more willing to work with you on a continuing basis, increasing your effectiveness and ability to solve problems. This will help lay the foundation for future processes.

pretty border

navigate in the page--How?

Do what you said you were going to do and continue to do it until someone gives you a good reason to stop .

The level of monitoring and followup will vary for each process. Examine how the solution works and interacts with other processes. Get with participants to determine the best procedures for monitoring your solution. Some questions to consider are:

  • How often will you monitor check the solution?
  • What criteria will be used?
  • How will you determine what changes and adaptions need to be made?

How will you make those changes?

Monitoring and adapting can become less and less frequent over time but this decrease depends on the level of performance and public trust that has been built and can be maintained.


If you've never had a process break down, then you won't know when it is working. (Think about the oil pressure light in your car.)

Now that the solution is a reality, people will see it in a very different light. Do some scoping to figure out whether the solution still meets the needs. Areas to consider include:

Identify the decisionmakers you will need if anything changes. What will they decide? What do they need to know? How often do they need to be involved? Have participants (e.g., State legislators, water masters, environmental organizations, and political appointees) changed? Have agendas , priorities , or strategies changed?
Do participants think the solution is working? What does work? What could be improved?
Related problems.
Are there other actions in the area that keep the solution from being effective? Can you address these?
What are the solution's effects on the community and area? Have any problems been created by the solution? How will you address these?
Review the commitments made throughout the process. Are they still valid? Have you met these commitments?

The solution's purpose and scope may be redefined due to changes in laws, court interpretations, funding and authorizations, etc.

Documenting and Tracking

If the solution works, don't fix it--just keep folks informed.

Collect data and monitor progress to see if the solution is working. You may run into some resistance. (Documenting is a waste of time! We've already solved this!) These records, however, will help new players and be valuable resources in other solutions.

Adapting and Changing

The solution may not work as depicted on the drawing boards--it may need to adapt to the real world. Keep track of what has changed. Can the solution work within the changed parameters? Can the solution address changes in needs and resources? Going through the decision steps to address these changes will help find balanced, effective methods of dealing with the changes. Update the action plan. Include people who can support and make the changes. You might expand your scope to work with new groups and organizations.

Take Stock

Long-term management is as much a part of the job as evaluating alternatives , signing the record of decision, or driving the bulldozer.

Use the information you have gathered throughout the process and the latest scoping to develop flags for reviews. These may be formal or informal, depending on the solution. Flags may be linked to events or may occur at certain intervals. When a flag is triggered, review the process by asking:

  • Who has jurisdiction now?
  • Who are the players?
  • Do they understand the solution?
  • Do they understand the agreements?
  • Has anything changed in the community that requires changes in the process?
  • Does everyone have fair, open, and easy access to information?

Review cycles need to be tailored to the problem and goal. If things happen daily, a weekly review of daily results might be appropriate. With an annual cycle, a 5-year review might be useful. Schedule reviews far enough apart so you can have an overall perspective and yet close enough together to remedy any problems. Think about how long it will take before an identified problem can be resolved. How long can problems go without being addressed? How long will it take to address them? Keep decisionmakers in the loop--they need to be fully informed about monitoring results and to participate in adaptations.

Monitor your progress closely when there is time to address problems and when problems would matter most. For example, on a flood control project to contain spring runoff, you might meet regularly when snow accumulates, much more frequently during the critical spring runoff period, and once during the year to review and plan. Holding meetings to review and plan when nothing is going on is critical--you need time when you can calmly review the program.

pretty border

navigate in the page--Tools

tools(See the toolbox for more tools)

The major tool here is time and commitment to keep people informed.


Workshops at regular intervals provide an indepth format to let newcomers know what is going on and remind participants. Particularly, invite staffs of newly elected officials, people who have moved into the community, and newly formed organizations. Review the problem, explain why (and how) the solution was developed and put in place, and go over changes that have occurred. Figure out if the solution is still working and determine what actions need to be taken so that it continues to be effective.

Issue Tables

Use the issue tables generated in Step 8, Select , and updated in Step 9, Implement, to continue to keep track of the progress. Using the same tables throughout the process keeps a continuity so that new players can follow what has been done and all players can work with a familiar process. (New issues may need to be added to these tables.)

Sample Issue Table


Resolution/ decision

Implementation plan

Implementation notes


Briefly discuss the issue

What you decided to do about it

Who will do what

Who did what, what happened

Was this satisfactory? What changes needed to be made?


Put in erosion control measures

Contractors will compact side slopes

Contractors compacted sides, added riprap for further control.

Continue to look at South shore for potential problems

Chemicals in the workplace

Measure levels of chemicals

Contractors will institute measures x and y

State lab monitored for QA/QC standards

Agree on standards and techniques. Laws changed in the middle of process-work with lawmakers.


Safety training and drills

Each office will develop training and schedule drills

Training was provided to safety officers. Drills worked well.

Provide further training during a staff meeting or time when people will be there.

pretty border

navigate in the page--Look Forward


Now everyone has 20/20 hindsight. Use this knowledge to start developing a library of case studies and a treasure-hold of advice to:

  • Help people understand and analyze the decision process
  • Show how the process worked--rather than keeping it shrouded in a black box
  • Strengthen other actions
  • Create the opportunity for flexibility and adaptation based on new information
  • Build credibility by focusing on solutions

Please add your insights to the discussion groups .

You really need two separate debriefing processes:

This gives implementors a chance to honestly critique the process (e.g., we could have worked together more smoothly if we had done things differently). Using this information to help improve the process will show that you are serious about solving the problem and promote support for the next effort.
Debriefing participants helps forge support and credibility for the next process by providing vital insights into what works--and what doesn't. Ask:
  • What happened in the process? (Various versions of the same events can help put the process into perspective.)
  • How were the most important concerns identified and tracked? Was this effective? Why or why not?
  • What materials and actions were most useful?
  • What was effective? Why?
  • What could have been done more effectively? How?

Apply Elsewhere

Share the findings with others in related or similar processes and discover what others have done. Consciously apply what you have found to your next process. Evaluate how it works.

Continually experimenting with new ideas and techniques will help:

  • Adapt your processes to technical, social, and political changes
  • Find effective methods of implementing workable solutions
  • Keep solutions working

Recognize what has been accomplished, keeping in mind ways to handle success and failure .


pretty border

navigate in the page--Go On

Executive Summary Tour Take this car on a fast tour Implement < -- ->Celebrate!

Process Tour spiralling forward Implement <--->Handling Success

pretty border

PreviousStep 9, Implement

NextResults of a Decision Process

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