Systems and complexity

A simple decision tree to guide adaptive management

A senior monitoring, evaluation, research and learning specialist at USAID has created a simple decision-making tool that acts as a framework for best practice adaptive management. While it is intended for use by USAID, partners, and others working in international development it is an excellent good guide for anyone seeking to implement a knowledge management (KM) initiative, or indeed any kind of systems-focused intervention.

As Matthew Baker explain on KM4Dev:

… there is a growing recognition that adaptive management skills and processes are critical for success, but there is still not consensus about what this means in practice … what types of decisions should we be making? Is there any way we can do this systematically across our work?

One way to be systematic in our adaptive management decisions is to use a decision cycle / tree. A decision cycle is a series of steps used by a manager in a systematic way to reach and implement decisions and to learn from the results. Decision cycles exist across disciplines including the tech industry, military, and the medical field. They represent industry-standard ways of understanding a particular context and taking the necessary steps to make informed decisions. If you ever heard of a cycle that goes something like “plan–do–check–act/adjust” that’s a popular example of a decision cycle used in many management fields …

This resource lists the important steps and choices that we often face with adaptive management, and it provides a relatively simple way to ensure you are not missing potential alternatives and steps to consider when managing your program.

The field of international development continues to be a great innovator in the practical implementation of KM techniques, and it’s well worth considering how this resource could be adapted to your own organisation.

Knowing when to adapt
Knowing when to adapt (click to enlarge)

Header image source: Gerd Altmann on Pixabay, Public Domain.

Stephen Bounds

Stephen Bounds is an Information and Knowledge Management Specialist with a wide range of experience across the government and private sectors. As founding editor of RealKM and Executive, Information Management at Cordelta, Stephen provides clear strategic thinking along with a hands-on approach to help organisations successfully develop and implement modern information systems.

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