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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


Step 2 Developing Objectives

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

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Based on the foundation and identified needs, develop the scope and objectives that your process will address.

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navigate in the page--Purpose

Use the goals*definition as your mission statement--put them in clear view every time you meet.

  • To narrow the focus of your effort
  • To decide what you are going to accomplish
  • To define, categorize, and quantify objectives
  • To agree on priorities for objectives

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navigate in the page--Why?

click for comics (Set boundaries or else...) 

The objectives*definition that you set here will drive the action and the solution. As such, they will define limits, help establish priorities, and identify time schedules and funding*definition requirements. Overall, they will enhance the efficiency of your efforts. Objectives become a test of accomplishment as you compare them to actions taken throughout the decision process. In addition, once formed, objectives anchor the course of the process. They help each specialist evaluate what needs to be done, how much time and funding may be required.

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navigate in the page--How?

Objectives should be a natural outgrowth of Step 1, Needs .

Roundtable reviews*definition can hammer out objectives in actions which are driven by a few key individuals. Roundtable reviews are appropriate for small, well focused studies, some operations and maintenance work, and other activities with a small number of partipants or key decisionmakers guiding a larger project.

Other processes may require numerous contacts, meetings, data gathering, and consent building .

Develop Objectives

Some of the objectives may be outside the scope of Reclamation's role and your specific authority . Showing interrelationships, importance, and responsibility can invite action and partnerships from other groups.

Decide which needs your program will try to meet. Examine each of these needs carefully and craft objectives to meet them. Make the objectives as specific as possible--word the objective so that specific measurements and timeframes can be added. Consider amount, timing, temperature, water quality, etc.

Objectives can be:

  • Numerical measurements (water quality, instream flows)
  • Political measurements (support, potential partners)


Water for Old Holler Wetlands
Provide 1,500 acre-feet of water between April 1 and November 15. Water quality will be sufficient for waterfowl (i.e. will not contain more than 1,000 milligrams per liter of total dissolved solids).

Try to develop as many different objectives that would meet the need as you can. This will also force participants to re-examine underlying needs. (e.g. Do you need water at Old Holler Wetlands specifically or do you need wetlands within a 10-mile radius of Settler's Creek to preserve the greybeard snowcatcher and cut-tail trout? Do you need x amount of acre-feet at Marbled Reservoir or do you need x amount of acre feet as a water supply in Marble River Valley?)

Choose and Prioritize Objectives

Once you have a list of objectives, you need to decide which ones will drive your action. Which objectives will best meet your purpose and prioritized needs? Which will be more cost effective? Which are more timely? Which could create the largest base of support and participation? (Often, the more complex the objective, the more bogged down the process gets.)

Winnow down the objectives to a reasonable number. This is by no means the final cut.

Prioritize the objectives by asking:

  • How much does that particular issue or cause contribute to the overall problem? Focus on the largest contributors for the biggest results.
  • Will solving the problem in one area simply move the problem to another area? If providing a water supply to one area robs the water supply from another area, you have not solved the overall problem.
  • What kind of funding do we have? If funding is limited and inflexible, the objectives may be limited.

Present this data to the decisionmakers , who will make the final cut on which objectives have what priority.

Pull It Together

Succcess: :)

Get the taproot of the matter: if objectives address the symptoms (e.g., rebuilding the roof after the dragon sneezes) but don't fix the root causes, then the problem will occur again.

Once you know what objectives you will be concentrating on, estimate how much effort it will take to realize these objectives. The data and views obtained from this effort should enable the team to:

  • Determine the level of effort (detail) needed to meet the objectives
  • Verify an appropriate level of funding and probable schedule for achieving the objectives
  • Agree on what milestones will be used to measure progress in meeting objectives
  • Identify a product for reporting the achievement of the objectives

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navigate in the page--Tools

tools(See the Toolbox for more tools)

Both formal and informal meeting and communication techniques help gather input and shape objectives. Public involvement and scoping techniques provide information and perspectives. Input from affected publics, technical disciplines, decisionmakers, and management are all important.

Tools such as issue maps and influence diagrams can show interactions within needs and objectives. Considering these interactions may help build consent and participation.

Ranking Tools

These tools are often used with affinity grouping and influence diagrams to show connections.

To decide what is most important to address, find a fair, open way to rank items and apply it consistently. Do a reality check with decisionmakers to ensure that priorities match what is needed and doable. You'll need to tailor tools and uses to your process. Techniques include:

Multivoting and Ranking techniques
Everyone "spends" the same number of points to vote on various objectives. The objective with the highest value thus becomes the most important item, and so on.
Focus groups
Let small groups negotiate priorities. Report each group's answers. If results differ, you may need to analyze the reasons for rankings before hammering out an agreement. This is especially effective if you can get various groups, including opposition groups represented in the same room.

Focus Tools

Focusing on the largest part of the problem that can be addressed with the smallest amount of effort will help ensure that objectives are effective. To analyze these areas and communicate the rationale for your objectives, use display techniques including:

Pie charts.
Pie charts show relationships between parts of a whole. This can provide a quick overview to determine what is important within a single area (e.g, how much water does each town use?). See also percentage pie charts.
Bar charts.
Bar charts show relationships of wholes to wholes. When you want to compare a number of objects or show the same object over a period of time, bar charts are particularly useful (e.g., how have annual water amounts changed?).
Frequency charts.
Marking down how often an event, problem, action, or comment occurs can help determine its importance and relative significance. A frequency chart records sample observations to help you detect patterns.

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navigate in the page--Look Forward

Your objectives form the purpose or reason for being for your process. To ensure success and to focus on meeting the need and fulfilling the purpose:

  • Create a short summary of the purpose and need
  • Keep this statement in front of everyone every time you get together.
  • Start every document with this statement--and show how the actions taken are steps to meeting these goals.

Go/No Go*definition

Consider the issues below carefully. Answering "no" to any of these questions indicates a need to revise either our level of participation, objectives, or allocated resources. Document findings, conclusions, and recommendations to either continue the process or terminate it . Share these with management and affected publics as appropriate. Determine:

Do the objectives meet the identified needs?
Do the objectives conflict with any other Federal, State, local, or Native American activity? Can these conflicts be resolved?
Federal role:
Do the objectives justify a Federal/ Reclamation role? (Do they contribute to national interests? Will we manage, develop, or protect water and related resources?)
Schedule and funding:
Is the schedule still appropriate? Is the funding adequate for the scope for each team member's and participant's projected involvement?

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navigate in the page--Go On

"Jumping to the solution frequently leads to incomplete diagnosis and limited alternatives for solving the problem." Managing with People, p. 79

Executive Summary Take this car on a fast tour and Process spiralling forward Tours:

Determine Needs <----- >Identify Resources and Constraints

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PreviousStep 1, Identify Needs

NextStep 3, Determine Resources and Constraints

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