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.
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
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
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
- Political influences
- 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
- 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.