Monitor your resultsAlthough monitoring is not a new concept, when managing holistically it takes on a new dimension. It's traditionally been used in most industries to confirm that one is 'on track'. In agriculture for instance, after a biocide spray (herbicide or insecticide) the next action is usually a post-spraying field check. Dead plants or bugs confirm the short term efficacy of the application, and this is a process that has been repeated billions of times around the planet. All the while, despite this intense level of observation, almost everywhere desertification has increased rather than decreased.
When managing holistically the basic premise is that decisions you make could be wrong. You don’t assume they ‘are’ wrong, but simply that they could be wrong. As part of the decision-making process, you will discuss and note down what you will look for to give the earliest possible alert that despite your best intentions, a decision might not be turning out as expected. If the decision is a financial decision, it is likely the early warning will be a financial indicator. If it is an ecological decision, the indicator is likely to be found in the paddock (I'd suggest that almost always you should look at the soil surface first). If an action related to a social decision, the place to look for early-warning is around the behaviour and actions of the people concerned.
You are always looking for the “tap on the shoulder” warning that comes early on, rather than the “pole over the head” type of warning, as that's usually a late and severe indicator that occurs after you have missed a few earlier hints! IMPORTANT: Apart from clear evidence of adverse outcomes, don't forget that early warning of a problem also includes evidence that no change has occurred when some change was expected.
When managing holistically, monitoring becomes a 24 letter word, and that word is spelt:
PLAN - MONITOR - CONTROL - REPLANThe word means: 1) Make a plan (grazing, land or financial etc). 2) Monitor for deviation from plan. 3) If early evidence of a problem shows up, take corrective action immediately. 4) If that action doesn’t work, or if the problem is already an overwhelming one (for example a major market crash or a total seasonal failure), where little actions will not address the problem, then get stuck into major re-planning immediately!
When taking either control or replan actions, pass your ideas through the testing questions, to ensure that your new decisions begin to move you in the direction of your holisticgoal. You will find this works, even if everything has gone, as they say, "to hell in a hand basket”.
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