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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

toolboxInfluence Diagrams

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navigate in the page--What Is It Good For?

For years, researchers have explored ways to get technical and creative minds to work together. One remarkably effective tool to do this is an influence diagram.

This tool provides a way to brainstorm relationships and to see overall patterns. They are good for displaying relationships between resources, publics, and options.

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navigate in the page--How Do I Use It?

An influence diagram consists of a central core with branches emerging from the core and twigs from the branches:

  • Core -- Any item you want to focus on
  • Branches -- Significant items associated with the core
  • Twigs-- Items associated with a specific branch

Start by filling in the central core with the subject you want to focus on (e.g., water resources). Draw a few branches and label them with major concerns about your idea (e.g., fish, hydropower, water demands, decisionmakers, publics). Draw as many branches as you wish. Then draw in twigs (e.g., instream flows, temperature) off the main branches. Label the twigs with ideas that relate to its main branch. When you are through, check to see if an idea appears more than once. If so, draw an arrow between (or circle) the ideas that are the same. Those that appear most often will likely be the most important ideas, having the greatest relationships. They should probably command the highest priority. Schedule your time and money on these ideas first.

Need more detail? Make that item a new focus and start another influence diagram.

Great precision is not required. Continue work on a specific diagram until enough knowledge is displayed to distinguish a choice, usually not more than 10 minutes. There are no right or wrong choices.

These diagrams can be very effective when used within your team, in workshops, or in meetings with people of diverse opinions. Organize them into small groups and have them create influence diagrams on flip charts. It will help them visualize relationships and identify the most important issues.

Because the process is nonthreatening and nonpolarizing, ideas are expressed openly and without judgment--making it easier to build trust and consent.

  • Use the results from a brainstorming exercise to develop influence diagrams.
  • Use specific resources as the focus for influence diagrams.

Pay attention to those related ideas--they may represent primary elements that can be combined into other solutions.

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