holistic decision making in a nutshell

Aspen Edge,

ApartadodeCorreos19, 18420Lanjarón, Granada, Spain
Tel: (00 34) 958 347 053 Fax: (00 34) 958 347 117 e.mail: aspen@holisticdecisions.com

Behind every action we take, there is a decision. These decisions
affect every aspect of life, often far from the site of the decision, for example, certain aerosol products used in the home contribute to ozone destruction. Every minute of our human history is made up of decisions and actions taken by individuals through to governments. It is these decisions that have brought us to where we stand today ... economic unpredictability, social instability and environmental degradation. We need to challenge the way in which we make decisions.

Our decisions tend to be focused on the achievement of a single aim and
the discovery of a final solution. We generally do not include the broader vision that we have for our life, based on our personal values. We often do not consider the wider social, economic and environmental considerations on which our actions will impact. We rarely check to see whether our daily decisions are really contributing to the quality of life for which we would wish. We mostly deal with the symptoms rather than the causes of our life’s concerns. We are generally driven by our likes and dislikes. We are resistent to change and rarely monitor the impact of our decisions.

However ....

holistic decisions enable us to create the quality of life to which we aspire whilst ensuring social, economic and environmental sustainability holistic decisions encourage us to be aware of our actions and their impact on the whole of life holistic decisions ensure that we take responsibility and accept accountability for the decisions we make holistic decisions empower us to be part of the ongoing process of change 2

Holistic decision making involves the use of a simple framework which enables us to:

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create definition to our life through determining direction and who and what will be involved ensure we have taken social, economic and environmental factors into consideration determine what action is to be taken create practices to manage our life and feed our experiences back into the fine tuning of our way forward


Before we move into a more detailed description of the holistic decision making framework, below are some of the terms that will be used, together with a brief explanation. decision makers these are all those people involved in making holistic decisions in the area in which they exert influence whole this represents the interaction of all aspects of life in any identifiable unit or community of relationships ... the smallest being a subatomic particle and the largest being all of life as we know it whole under management this term is used to describe those who will be involved in making the decisions and the area that the decision makers will be managing. It includes a definition of all the social, economic and physical resources that the decision makers can use in managing their whole under management. A whole could be an individual or family home, an office, a department in an organisation, a whole organisation itself, even a government. testing questions a collection of challenging questions that test whether we have thoroughly considered the social, economic and environmental implications of our decision, and that the proposed action will lead us towards the quality of life outlined in the mutually-agreed holistic direction


The Holistic Decision Making Framework in detail
Create Definition ensure those who are involved in managing these resources are involved in the decision making process
If we are to have a real commitment to any decision, we need to feel that we are an equal partner in the decision making process ... that our concerns will be respected and taken into account, that we will be involved in the final outcome, that we will have responsibility and accountability for the final decision and that we are supported in this process by being part of a team.

define what area and what resources the decision makers will be managing
Before we can set about making decisions and taking action, we need to decide what our whole under management is (an individual or a family) and what social, economic and environmental resources the decision makers can draw on. All the decision makers are involved. When the decision makers are clear what it is they are managing, then they identify what social resources (people, skills, knowledge, advice, schools, libraries) economic resources (money in the bank, loans, overdrafts) and physical resources (clean air, water, garden, land) they can draw on to manage the whole. 5

create a mutually-agreed holistic direction that reflects all the decision makers values
Once we have determined who is to be involved in making the decisions, what whole we are managing and what resources we can use to manage that whole, we need to determine in what direction we need to be moving. If we do not determine where we are going, how will we work out how to get there or whether the actions we take are leading us in the right direction? This involves the creation of a statement of the value-led quality of life to which the decision makers aspire, what needs to be done to create that quality of life and what the future needs to look like to sustain that quality of life. The holistic statement of direction includes social, economic and environmental values and represents a mutually-agreed focus for our personal lives.


Considerations to be Taken into Account ensure that we have included social, economic and environmental considerations in our decisions
As we are linking our own values with the social, economic and environmental health of the whole of which we are a part, we also need to consider the impact of our potential decisions on those aspects of life. Social considerations would include geographical location, national history, culture, personal history, personal style, relationships, listening, responding, understanding, trust, co-operation and resolution. We need to ask ourselves whether the action we intend taking is going to enhance the health of the social elements of the whole we are managing. Economic considerations would be the political climate, economic policies, income, expenses, profit, assets, savings, liabilities, resource conversion, product conversion and marketing. We need to ask ourselves whether the action we intend taking is going to enhance the health of the economic elements of the whole we are managing. Environmental considerations would concern the likely impact of our decisions upon the healthy functioning of our planet’s key natural processes as determined through the soil’s ability to cycle water and nutrients, sustain diversity of species and generate plant life to cover bare ground. We need to ask ourselves whether the action we intend taking is going to enhance the health of the environmental elements of the whole we are managing.


conduct a final testing process to ensure we have left nothing out of our considerations
In order to ensure that these considerations have been taken into account and that any intended action reflects the values outlined in our holistic direction, we run our decisions through a final process using the following testing questions which ensure that we are:

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addressing the root cause of any problem rather than a symptom focusing our attention on the area which is slowing progress towards our holistic direction considering all the possible options available to us making the decision that is going to provide the best overall return of all the options available obtaining resources from sound sources using those resources in sound ways acting at the best possible time ensuring that any action taken will be sustainable satisfied that the action we propose taking also sits well with our feeling or intuition about the matter

These questions are always applied within a social, economic and environmental context. As you develop your own experience you may want to add other testing questions of your own.


Management Practices establish management practices to ensure that the decisions we make are always taking us towards the holistic direction we have outlined
Once we have decided on:

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who is making the decisions what resources are being managed in what mutually-agreed direction we are headed the social, economic and environmental considerations we need to take into account whether the proposed decision has passed the testing questions

we need to ensure that every action we take moves us in the direction we want to be headed. We do this through a variety of management practices which in essence involve:

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organisation planning monitoring controlling diagnosis feedback

and which in their construction and use will reflect the values outlined in the mutually-agreed holistic direction.


Conclusion The use of this simple holistic decision making framework offers us an opportunity to create more positive outcomes in our life through ...
enabling us to create a quality of life that inspires us, secure in the knowledge that our decisions will safeguard the environment, foster good relations and create prosperity encouraging us to develop awareness of the actions we take and their impact on the social, economic and environmental elements of our lives ensuring that when we take action we accept responsibility for the choice we have made and that we are accountable for the outcomes that result empowering us to respond to the constant process of change

We can use this simple framework to guide our decisions whatever our situation or whatever our challenge. It is universally applicable and infinitely adaptable.


I do not believe that we can look to any present government or institute in the world for leadership in this necessary change. The magnitude of world desertification alone, taking but one of our problems, has already grown beyond the power of any human organisation to handle. So great is the problem that now only ordinary people can deal with it - you and I - teachers, farmers, ranchers, tribesmen, foresters, mothers, fathers, business people, or whatever we are outside our institutional identities. We can only do what is necessary by working collaboratively and supporting one another with a vision of a world greater than ourselves. Allan Savory, creator of Holistic Management®, the holistic decision-making framework described in this booklet
Holistic Management is a registered trademark of The Savory Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA; www.holisticmanagement.org.

Learn about making holistic decisions at Semilla Besada in southern Spain with Aspen Edge, the only certified trainer in Europe tel: (00 34) 958 347 053 fax: (00 34) 958 347 117 e.mail: aspen@holisticdecisions.com

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