I.C.1. Determine your objectives.
In this step, you will identify all of your objectives and record them in Objectives Table 5: Objectives for Action. Your objective statements will be derived from the problem statements and problem components of Objectives Table 4: Problem Components. For example, a problem component "fire" may be translated into the objective statement, "supress wildfires".
When identifying objectives, make sure to include both general goals and objectives and specific project objectives. Your set of objectives should be complete, controllable, concise, measurable, and understandable (adapted from Keeney, 1992).
I.C.2. Create an objectives hierarchy by structuring your objectives from high-level, general objectives to low-level, specific objectives.
Based on Objectives Table 5: Objectives for Action, Table 2: Area or Unit Goals Objectives, and other relevant sources of information, create an objectives hierarchy. You may wish to begin the process in table format, Objectives Table 6: Objectives Hierarchy. Alternatively, you may want to work graphically (see box).
You can create an objectives hierarchy by brainstorming as a team; to some extent, brainstorming may provide the most innovative approaches to your challenges. Two more structured approaches could be described as "top-down" or "bottom-up" approaches. The two approaches provide flexibility, recognizing that risk assessments and planning exercises often begin with a narrow view of a larger problem. Using these structured approaches can help ensure that all important objectives are included.
We've included examples of both approaches to illustrate the differences.
THE TOP-DOWN APPROACH: Narrowing the focus
A higher level objective can be decomposed into lower level, measurable objectives that help accomplish the higher level objective. To help identify these, ask yourself questions such as What is important about this objective? or What are the key components of this objective?
Table 1:. How to construct objectives hierarchies (Modified from Clemen, 1996:47)
At some point in the top-down process, it will become obvious that a higher level objective is sufficiently specific to (1) design or select monitoring indicators or measures; and/or (2) identify lower level objectives that contribute to the achievement of the higher level objective.
You can continue the process of building the objective network downward through more steps by asking How does this happen? or How could I achieve this? (Table 1). Eventually this process links higher level objectives to lower level management activities. This process not only helps identify a wider range of candidate management activities, but also begins to flesh out your team's understanding of how social values integrate into management activities.
An example of the top-down approach: Restoring forest health
Scenario: A planning team is formulating an approach to maintain and restore forest health in late-successional reserves (LSRs) in a national forest under the Northwest Forest Plan.
The top-down approach to building an objectives hierarchy is a sequential process of narrowing a team's focus from broad to specific objectives using "what" and "how" questions. In this example, a higher level objective is decomposed, or broken down into more detailed higher level objectives and eventually into several lower level objectives that help accomplish them (Figure 1). A planning team has identified a higher level objective, or desired future condition, Maintain Healthy LSRs. The team asks (for each objective identified), What is important about this objective? or What are the key components of this objective? This team concludes that Healthy LSRs can be fully addressed within their decision context by decomposing it into two sub-objectives (or desired future conditions): Restore Natural Fire Regimes and Protect from Uncharacteristic Wildfires. These two objectives do not fully define Healthy LSRs in a scientific or managerial sense, but only circumscribe the project's contribution to Healthy LSRs. Obviously, there are many other aspects of LSRs not addressed here that might define what is meant by "healthy" .
Figure 1. Objectives hierarchy developed in the top-down example.
How long does this top-down process of creating new objectives continue? Generally, once an objective starts to sound "manageable", when specific management prescriptions, indicators, or measures become apparent, then it's time to ask How do we accomplish this? In this example, the team perceives that the main threat risk to future LSR health is wildfire. They select Reduce Wildfire Hazard as an appropriate means to Protect from Uncharacteristic Wildfires and Restore Natural Fire Regime.
The objective Reduce Wildfire Hazard is still too vague to measure readily. By continuing to ask How do we accomplish this?, the team reveals subordinate objectives, Reduce Fuel Loads then Prescribed Fire and Mechanical Fuels Reduction. By continuing the“decomposition” process, specific management activities can be defined.
THE BOTTOM-UP APPROACH: Initial focus on activities
In contrast to the top-down approach, the bottom-up approach begins by asking the question Why is this accomplishment valuable? or What benefits are derived? The bottom-up approach to building an objectives hierarchy is a sequential process of broadening a team's narrow focus on specific threats, issues, or management prescription to derive higher level objectives. It uses mainly "why" questions. It is a process of discovery that helps clarify and identify higher level objectives, and may even uncover "hidden" objectives (Keeney, 1992) that can expand or re-define the decision context.
An example of the bottom-up approach: Collaborative efforts to solve a problem.
Scenario: A planning team and various stakeholder groups are formulating a collaborative approach to address hazardous fuels and wildfire at the wildland-urban interface (WUI).
In this example, the bottom-up approach helps a planning team and other stakeholders whose main reason for undertaking a risk assessment action is the threat of wildfire. In such a case, the conversations within the team and stakeholder groups may already be focusing on a specific management strategy for reducing wildfire risk, Mechanical Fuels Reduction (Figure 2). While a narrow initial focus is to be expected, defining the scope of the project (i.e., the decision context) and conducting a risk assessment may require a more extensive exploration of the decision context. The bottom up approach facilitates this.
Figure 2. Objectives hierarchy developed in the bottom-up example.
In the bottom-up approach, Mechanical Fuels Reduction is the point of departure for the team. The goal is to identify or clarify broader objectives and additional management options. First, the team asks, Why is this objective important? In this example, their response is that it will Reduce Fuel Loads (Figure 2). Having identified this intermediate objective, the team now considers the question, What can help achieve this objective? Their answer is Prescribed Fire. As in the top-down example, specific management prescriptions might be defined by continuing to decompose these two strategies.
At this point the team again considers the objective Reduce Fuel Loads, again asking Why is this objective important? They make the obvious conclusion that it would be a means to Reduce Wildfire Hazard, and proceed to again ask Why is this objective important? At this point in the exercise, the team realizes there are numerous answers to the question, some outside the scope of their project. But because the team's initial focus was restoration, the team understands that the objective Reduce Wildfire Hazard is a means for moving the ecosystem towards two important desired future conditions (i.e., higher level objectives), represented by Restore Natural Fire Regime and Protect from Uncharacteristic Wildfires.
As before in the top-down approach, the team shifts continually from lower level to higher level objectives in stages. The members feel that Natural Fire Regime and Protected from Uncharacteristic Wildfires are really statements about desired future conditions, fundamental to the entire forest plan and not likely to be achieved by any individual project.
In this example, the exercise of stating (and documenting) the obvious prompts a conversation about forest health among a diverse set of stakeholder groups. For some, forest health implies a strong connection between ecological and economic integrity. The river corridor along which the project is situated is well-known to commercial mushroom harvesters who are concerned that management prescriptions also address their needs. The team decides to include the objective Improve Mushroom Harvest under Restore Forest Health in the WUI.
Because the ecology and management of fungi that fruit in fall versus spring differ so markedly, they are represented by distinct higher level objectives (Figure 2). Prescribed Fire will likely improve spring harvests of morels, while Improved Access to foot traffic will help harvesters during both seasons. Most importantly, the consideration of hidden higher level objectives has facilitated further thought about design, placement, and timing of management prescriptions for fire and fuels to account for various mushroom species and their harvests.
Proceed to the next stage, II. Design Alternatives
Return to the Wizard home page