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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


go through page Why / Methods / Timing / Effectiveness / Go On

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Succcess: :)

If you are serious about a solution, spend your resources on communication.

Communication*definition is the way you share the process and build consent . You, the participants, and the decisionmakers need the best communication you can get to provide the information necessary (both given out and received) for the solution and process to succeed. Public involvement is the way we make communication an integral part of decision making. Talk to everyone early, often, and honestly.

Continually communicating with all participants and others can help ensure you are addressing the right problem and that related problems are identified and addressed .

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navigate in the page--Why?


Any statements you make can and will be used against your agency. Build credibility--our statements must be consistent with your actions.

When all participants listen to everyone else and clearly share their points of view, problems and potential misunderstandings or trip wires are identified early.

Communication (both inside and outside organizations and the team) is the major means of avoiding arbitrary assumptions and adversarial relationships from creeping into your process. Communicating also provides a foundation for dealing with problems, conflicts , decisionmaking .

All participants must communicate. The biologist who consults under Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act, for example, has as much a part in fostering communication as the team leader. However, you may choose to designate a team member to coordinate and facilitate communication with groups outside of the team. Don't hesitate to consult with public affairs, public involvement, conflict management, or social analysis specialists. Shaping the Presentation

Recognize that people can comment on something more easily than they can create. Rather than expecting the public to conjure up full-blown proposals, give them something to react to--but don't wait until you have every i dotted and in place. Give people as much information as possible on decisions that have already been made. For example, the description of a proposal in a scoping meeting may leave the respondants with a large amount of room to suggest ideas, other options, or refinements. However, the description must be much more fleshed out and concrete when describing the selected alternative in a hearing on a final EIS*definition.

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navigate in the page--Methods

Think about the format of your message. Reports, for example, help decisionmakers reach a balanced, informed decision. However, people tend to shy away from thick tomes. Summarizing the same information in another format would reach more participants. You might publish a summary as a newspaper supplement, a separate newsletter, or even as a bookmark for the larger report. Consider video and audio tapes to show the project area and explain the problem. People get most of their information from TV and are used to this format. Internet and E-mail avenues may also be appropriate.

If a method of communicating has some practical use in identifying activities which would be appropriate for us to be involved in, then the method is well worth keeping.

Communication methods abound, including:

  • Face to face conversations
  • Formal and informal meetings
  • Informational billboards at a site
  • Field trips and presentations
  • Slide shows and displays
  • Telephones (messages while on hold, 1-800 comment lines)
  • E-mail (newsgroups, list servers, forwarding interesting information)
  • Internet (WWW pages, downloadable releases)
  • TV, radio, and newspapers
  • Video and audio tapes
  • Pamphlets and brochures
  • Letters and memos
  • Routed articles, messages, and other information
  • Information packets
  • Business cards
  • Restaurant napkins

The choice of technique and content must be tailored to your process, where you are in your process, and who you are communicating with.

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navigate in the page--Timing

Before you throw out that newsletter or article--think about who else might be interested and send it to them.

Diferent types of questions and communication take place during various phases of the decision process. Ask:

  • Who needs what information when to do what?
  • Are we putting information out?
  • Do we need information in?
  • What kind of informaton?
  • What level of detail?
  • What audience/participants?

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navigate in the page--Effective Communication

The formal process outlined in NEPA, Section 404 permits and other mandated decision processes does not describe the informal communication that allow people to work together to solve problems. It is up to you to tailor the process to the situation.

Communicators do more than get information across--they interact and ensure that the participants and decisionmakers work off the same reality. They keenly observe, pay attention to the other participants, know when to smile and joke--and when not to, and most of all, listen perceptively.

When you present information:

  • Always set the stage. Don't assume the audience knows what you are talking about. (Don't let them assume that you know what they are thinking, either!)
  • Be concise and in context.
  • Avoid jargon--use expressions everyone can understand.
  • Mark fact as fact and opinion as opinion.
  • Check to make sure that the audience understands.
  • Answer questions and if you can't, then make a note to get back with answers.
  • Ask questions to elicit responses.
  • Provide the context for your remarks define terms and be upfront about agendas .
  • Clarify possible myth-truths .

When anyone communicates:

  • Listen for:
    What facts are stated? How do they relate to solving the problem?
    Is the speaker angry, frustrated, sad? Why?
    What values are influencing the speaker's perception? Is the speaker open to new ideas or perspectives? Can you put yourself in their shoes?
  • Show you are listening:
    Summarize statements:
    Verify that you understand by summarizing what the speaker said--ask "is this what you mean?"
    Indicate interest
    Use silence, body language, and acknowledging phrases ("I see,Tell me more,").
  • Don't dismiss an idea just because some of it seems ridiculous or the person cannot articulate ideas well or is unversed in technical matters. There may be something valuable buried in there.
  • Assess the context--what do the terms mean to the speaker? What is the speaker's agenda?

We cannot overemphasize the need for you to communicate clearly and concisely. The analysis and decisions you have made for mboth the decisiomaker and the affected people. Too often, we assume everyone knows logically what we haven't told them.

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navigate in the page--Go On

Executive Summary Tour Take this car on a fast tour Decisionmakers <------> Partners

Helpful Hints Tourwizbang help here Consent/Consensus <---------> Credibility

Dragon Tour wide-eyed dragon on the loose Partners <-------> Potential setbacks--Avoiding failure

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