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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

toolboxWhat Tool to Use

go through page What Tools Do / Which To Use / Go On

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navigate in the page--What Tools Do

How you use the tool is often more important than which tool you select.

Tools do not automatically make decisions or form agreements for you. But using them wisely can make or break your decision process. If you effectively gather data, analyze and display information, and build working relationships, then you can reach balanced decisions and successfully solve problems. Throughout the decision process, tools play a vital role in ensuring a consistent, rational, and objective approach. Use tools to:

  • Shape objective, consistent, and tangible rationales.-- Tools help shape a consistent analysis, by providing a consistent framework to handle each option, resource, or issue. This will show data gaps, identify relationships between processes and actions, and help foster balanced, thought-out decisions.
  • Help avoid delays and procrastination.--Tools can divide a daunting project into manageable pieces. Participants can then tackle one small part at a time, rather than putting off dealing with the whole mess. Planning out the task is much more effective than doing it poorly under pressure later.
  • Focus work.--Focusing on the goal while still allowing input is a tough balancing act. But tools can help you avoid tunnel vision, blind alleys, and sideline issues because they present a logical, consistent order to follow.
  • Provide analytical perspectives.--Tools allow you to see the big picture and analyze how the parts interact. This provides insights and perspectives beyond prior assumptions or opinions. Balanced, informed decisions depend on a wide base of consistent data and evaluations.
  • Defuse emotional situations and conflicts.--Often, emotions, agendas, and politics will steer the process off course. Small disagreements over data, approaches, or other matters will balloon into large conflicts. Agreeing to use a particular tool may help build common ground. Using analytical tools helps refocus the argument on the analysis and comparisons as each option is treated in the same manner. Also, tools can track participants' input to assure that everyone's comments are taken seriously.

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navigate in the page--Which Tools To Use?

Adapt the tool to your needs.

We use tools daily without thinking much about it. You pick up the phone when you need to talk with someone, or you reach for a pen to scribble a note. In the same way, you will sometimes automatically use tools in the decision process. For example, a casual conversation can lead into an impromptu brainstorming session.

Consciously thinking about and choosing the proper tool will help you reach your objectives and avoid wasting a lot of time and effort. Think about the situation. Who will be involved? What are their levels of participation or awareness? What are their agendas?

Find a tool that you and the other participants are comfortable with and can use to reach your objectives. Select a tool to find a mechanism that works with:

  • A given situation and context
  • Participants
  • Agendas
  • Political influences
  • Resources
  • Physical and social interactions

You can adapt practically any tool to force-fit any situation. Knives can open envelopes, stir coffee, and cut meat. But as every handyman can attest, the job is half done when you have your hands on the tool best suited for your task. Each situation is unique, and you will need to be flexible. We put a wide variety of tools at your fingertips to help you find one that's effective in your particular situation. The tool selector worksheet will help you examine your situation to determine what you need to do.

When you list possible tools to use, start with the tool's purpose. All tools help identify areas where more emphasis or action is needed. Some tools, like brainstorming, are good for a variety of purposes (to generate ideas, build consent, and identify problem areas). Others, like MATS, have much more specific uses. To help generate a list of possible tools, the tool list displays a variety of tools with a checklist of which tools are useful for which of the following decision process activities:

  • Generate ideas.--Getting ideas from various sources opens the decision process and jump starts it at strategic times (particularly good in Step 3, Resources and Step 4, Options).
  • Display and analyze data.--Displaying data in various ways provides a needed perspective for making a decision (particularly useful in Step 5, Screening and Step 7 Evaluating).
  • Evaluate solutions.--Consistent evaluations allow balanced comparisons (Step 7) and decisions (Step 8). Evaluating tools helps find fatal flaws to identify a range of viable options. Establishing weights for benefits and costs allows you to compare options and alternatives.
  • Building working relationships.--Getting input, understanding perspectives, tracking participants' concerns, and clearly displaying rationales help develop working relationships. This will help build consent for a decision and support for the solution. Participant interaction is a vital part of every step in the decision process.
  • Keep the process itself on track.--Focusing on relevant parameters, schedules, and use of resources leads to an effective process. These tools are also useful for diagraming processes like desalinization or water treatment.

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navigate in the page--Go On


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