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Holistic Management: Part 2 – Holistic Decision Making Framework

19 March 2024

This is the second of a four-part series exploring holistic grassland management. The other articles in this series cover an introduction to Holistic Management, the Holistic Decision Making Framework, Holistic Context, and Holistic Planning.

As outlined in Part 1, Holistic Management is more than just a grazing system, it is a decision-making framework that allows the user, farmers and land managers to simultaneously address the social, environmental, and economic complexities at play to develop soundness in both the short and long term.  

The Whole Is Greater Than The Sum Of Its Parts 

The first key insight found during the development of the Holistic Management method was that nature functions in wholes and patterns, ‘the whole is greater than the sum of its parts’. Relationships exist between different aspects of the whole meaning removing or altering one aspect will inadvertently impact another, often negatively.  

The Holistic Management Framework, shown in Table 1, moves away from Reductionist Management where decisions are based on only one or few factors to solve short term needs or problems to instead understanding that as above the world functions in wholes and that actions do not happen in isolation.  

Under Holistic Management, before moving to decision making and actions, we must first establish our ‘Whole Under Management’ and ‘Holistic Context’, these are then referred to during decision making to ensure that the social, environmental, and economic factors are all accounted for.  

Table 1. Holistic Management Framework: Savory Institute 

Defining Your ‘Whole Under Management’

Defining your Whole Under Management is to clarify what you are managing. Each of us is responsible for managing at least one whole, ourselves, but there may be several larger wholes such as a family, a farm or a business.  

In clarifying the whole, three key things must be identified: 

  • The decision makers – identifying those directly involved in the management of the whole. 
  • The resource base -this includes physical and human resources:  
  • Land, buildings, equipment and other assets on which you will generate revenue or derive support,  
  • The people who influence or are influenced by your management.  
  • The money available or that you can generate from the resource base.  

Knowing who and what your whole includes helps determine who makes management decisions, who merely influences the decisions made and it helps put boundaries around what you will or will not manage.  

By referring back to the Whole Under Management when making decisions this ensures that actions are not taken that may impact, for example, the land or people without this being considered. It makes you more aware and thoughtful when making decisions but also more aware of resources available that can be utilised for better management decisions.  

We’ll discuss defining your Holistic Context in the Part 3 of this four part series.  

A free introductory eBook, The Foundations of Holistic Management, is available through the Savory Institute website for those who would like to learn more: Savory Institute - Free eBook  

Author: Daniel Stout, SAC Sheep and Grassland Specialist  

Sheep grazing on multi species swards

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