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Holistic Management


by Debby Sugarman


" In the end... all the information we have amassed in the past decades
will serve little purpose unless we make intelligent decisions
about how it is to be used."
-Allan Savory


While the notion of thinking holistically has been around for a long time, Allan Savory is one of the first to develop a step by step process for holistic decision-making. His method can be used by individuals, families, communities, organizations, businesses, government agencies -- anyone or any group that needs to make a decision.

This method first helps the decision-makers identify all the important people and resources relating to the issue at hand, especially those that are very often forgotten. The next step is to bring these elements together into a new "whole", represented by a short "statement of purpose". With this broad holistic goal in place, the group has a benchmark by which they can measure their future decisions. A subsequent testing phase reaches back to often ignored considerations to make sure that none are being forgotten.


The following is a very basic summary of what the Holistic Management process looks like.


1. A group of decision makers agree to use Holistic Management in their business, community, family, government agency, etc.

2. They identify anyone else whose decisions will affect the entity that they are managing and invite them to become part of the process. This includes owners, administrative assistants, volunteers, laborers, agency heads, elected officials, and so forth.

3. Next, they identify all the resources available to this group of decision-makers including physical resources and financial assets. They identify as a resource, anyone who will be affected by the decisions -- clients, suppliers, family members, community organizations, homeowners, farmers, etc.


1. The group produces a quality of life statement. This takes into account individual needs as well as group considerations. It takes into account what constitutes economic well-being, what they want to achieve in relationships with others, how they will find challenge and growth, and what they see as their particular contribution to the community, family, workplace, etc.

2. They then create a list of what they will need to produce to meet each quality of life need. Allan Savory gives an example from his book, Holistic Management (p. 74), "If one of your desires was 'to enjoy what we do everyday,' that could be met in part by producing 'a balance between our work and personal lives','sufficient time for strategic planning', or a host of other things."

3. Finally, the group takes the future resource base into consideration. This includes the people, land, and community of the future which will sustain what you have to produce to meet your quality of life need. This step can be framed in terms of what you would like to be said about you in the future.

The next step is to combine all of these elements into a short statement.

Here is a sample statement of purpose from Holistic Management:

"We want to be debt-free; we want to be excited and enthusiastic about what we are doing and have to do on a daily basis; we want to leave this world (when we are very, very old) with our family happy, knowing that we led productive, happy lives, left the land in a better condition than we found it, and be recognized for this achievement, we want Laurel and Jayson [their children] to be happy and productive, and we want to be able to help them reach their full potential."


Once the holistic goal is established, future decisions will be tested by whether they are in line with the holistic goal.

These are some questions which can help with this step:


Allan Savory has been primarily focusing this technique on land management and has developed a variety of complementary tools for land managers. . See his book (with Jody Butterfield) Holistic Management: A New Framework for Decision Making (1998). But the method has broad decision-making application beyond farming and land management.