How To Write A Holistic Context: A Step By Step Guide

A Holistic Context is necessary for anyone who wants to be a Holistic Manager. It can help you with your personal life, your business, and your family life. Having a Holistic Context has eliminated a lot of decision-making stress in my life.

“Holistic Management involves using a simple decision-making framework that ensures all significant management decisions are simultaneously economically, socially and environmentally sound both short and long term. No longer are decisions made toward objectives or goals alone, but always toward a new concept called the holistic context for any management situation. The holistic context provides the context for all objectives, goals or actions toward any vision or mission. This helps greatly in avoiding unintended consequences to our actions that are so universal that economists long ago used the term “Law of unintended consequences.””

-Allan Savory

So how do you actually write a Holistic Context?

Here is a step by step guide to the process which I have developed based on a combination of the techniques used by Allan Savory, as described in his book, and the techniques used by Don Campbell who is one of the top Holistic Management Educators in the world.

*Note: “Holistic Context” used to be called “Holistic Goal”, but Allan Savory found that “Holistic Context” better described what he was pointing towards and that the word “goal” brought too much baggage with it which often derailed the Holistic Management process. 

“The Holistic [Context] is the “magnetic north” toward which all decisions and actions are made.”

-HMI

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DefIne Your “Whole”

What are you managing? Who is involved?

  1. First, determine who the decision makers are:
    • “Decision makers are the people who will form the holistic [context]. They should include anyone making day-to-day decisions in the family, business, corporate division, or whatever entity your whole is based on. They should range from these who make the most profound, far-reaching decisions, to those making the most mundane decisions — from the owner of the coffee shop to the person who serves across the counter; from the owner of the ranch to the cowboys handling the cattle…. Make a list of them all, trying to be inclusive rather than exclusive. If there are people who, while not making decisions can veto them or in some way alter them, they too should be included…” from ‘Holistic Management’ by Allan Savory and Jody Butterfield

      ***Do not continue with the Holistic Context creation process until you have ALL of the “decision makers” in the same room, involved in the process. This is essential to success. 

  2. Next, define your resource base:
    • “List the major physical resources from which you will generate revenue or derive support in achieving your holistic [context]: the land, the factory and its machinery… These resources need not be owned, but must be available to you. You are not after a detailed list of every asset you have, only a very general one.” from ‘Holistic Management’ by Allan Savory and Jody Butterfield

  3. Finally, list the financial resources available to you:
    • “Make a note of the sources of money available to you. This might include cash on hand or money in a savings account or available from relatives, shareholders, or a line of credit at the bank. And it would almost always include money that could be generated from the physical resources listed in your resource base.” from ‘Holistic Management’ by Allan Savory and Jody Butterfield

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Create your “Quality Of Life Statement”

What do you really want?

  1. Preliminary Exercises
  2. Statement Of Purpose
    • If you are writing this goal for some sort of institution which was formed for a specific purpose you should create a “statement of purpose”. Put your “statement of purpose” right at the beginning of your Holistic Context, before anything else.
    • “If the entity you manage was formed for a specific purpose that you are legally or morally obligated to meet, you will need to ensure that your holistic [context] addresses this purpose…. In stating your basic purpose, you will want to get at the heart of the matter. The statement should reflect, in very few words, what you were formed to do. If it takes you more than a sentence or two, you have not thought carefully enough….” from ‘Holistic Management’ by Allan Savory and Jody Butterfield

  3. Put It All Together
    1. Each individual should now write their personal “Quality Of Life Statement”, don’t worry about combining them into a group statement at this stage. That will come later.
      • Using what you learned in the previous exercises (step 1) write your Quality Of Life Statement (some people call it a “personal mission statement” and that description may indicate the sort of statement we are looking for in this step… it should be something that inspires you!)
      • You do not have to include anything from the previous exercises if you don’t want to
      • Don’t over think it.
      • The format does not matter. You can even just use point form notes.
      • This part of the process should probably take somewhere between 5 minutes and 20 minutes to complete. The completed statement should be a few sentences at least, you don’t want to leave anything out that is important to you…
      • Review the statement you just wrote. You should make sure that it addresses the following areas of your life in some way (if not, revise it):
        • economic well-being
        • human relationships
        • personal growth
        • and contribution to others.

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Determine your “Forms Of Production”

  1. Have each individual go through each part of their Quality Of Life Statement to determine what must be produced in order to make that goal become a reality.
    • ” This doesn’t mean that you merely go through each phrase in your statement and create a “product” to match it. It takes a little more thought than that. It becomes helpful if you ask the question: “What don’t we have now, or what aren’t we doing now, that is preventing us from achieving this?” Rephrase the answer in positive terms and you will know what you have to produce.One form of production might meet several of the needs described, and vice versa. 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….” from ‘Holistic Management’ by Allan Savory and Jody Butterfield

    • “Some have questioned the necessity of including such things as ” a balance between our work and personal lives” or ” a retirement plan.” But only by including them are they likely to be produced.” from ‘Holistic Management’ by Allan Savory and Jody Butterfield

    • Make sure you do not include any “how to’s” in your list. You only want to list what has to be produced, not how it will be producedHow something is to be produced is a decision that needs testing.” from ‘Holistic Management by Allan Savory and Jody Butterfield

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Determine your “Future Resource Base”

  • Now you simply write what your resource base will need to be like many years from now in order to sustain the things listed in your Forms Of Production. The three things you should always include in your Future Resource Base description are a description of the land, the people, and the community.
  • What will the landscape need to be like? What will it need to be like in 50 years, 200 years, or 1000 years? (almost all wholes that can be managed rely on physical land somewhere to sustain them)
  • What services will be required from the community to sustain your forms of production? What characteristics would you like your local, and regional, community to have, far into the future?
  • “In describing the people in your future resource base you describe how you and your business, organization, or whatever will have to be seen to be, far into the future, for these people to remain loyal to you, respectful, or supportive, or whatever is required. Vary the attributes according to the people you are concerned about, whether they be clients and suppliers, extended family, environmental groups, or a representative from a regulatory agency.” from ‘Holistic Management” by Allan Savory and Jody Butterfield

Put it all together

  1. Have each individual put their completed Quality Of Life Statement, Forms of Production, and Future Resource Base all on a single paper, or document. These are the Holistic Contexts for each individual. Congratulations!
  2. To turn all of your individual Holistic Contexts into a shared Holistic Context, follow these steps:
    1. Statement Of Purpose
      • If you are writing this goal for some sort of institution which was formed for a specific purpose you should create a “statement of purpose”. Put your “statement of purpose” right at the beginning of your Holistic Context, before anything else.
      • “If the entity you manage was formed for a specific purpose that you are legally or morally obligated to meet, you will need to ensure that your holistic [context] addresses this purpose…. In stating your basic purpose, you will want to get at the heart of the matter. The statement should reflect, in very few words, what you were formed to do. If it takes you more than a sentence or two, you have not thought carefully enough….” from ‘Holistic Management’ by Allan Savory and Jody Butterfield

    2. Group Quality Of Life Statement
      1. Combine the items from your Quality Of Life Statements to create a Quality Of Life Statement for the entire group. Collaborate and converse with each other to determine which items are shared values of the entire group, and which are not. You must reach a consensus about the Quality Of Life Statement. Try to engage with each other in a spirit of collaboration, think “win win”. Try to ensure that everyone has a say in the process. Give people who are quiet or shy the space they need to give their input. It can be extremely helpful to have a person who is not a part of the group to help facilitate this process. In the end, everyone should feel that they have contributed to the goal, and everyone should be motivated to make the goal become a reality.
    3. Now, based on your group’s new Quality Of Life Statement, complete the Forms Of Production and Future Resource Base as described above. Make sure every item in your shared Quality Of Life Statement is addressed in your Forms Of Production and Future Resource Base. If your group has a Statement Of Purpose be sure to include what must be produced to achieve that purpose in your Forms Of Production. 
    4. Combine your group’s Statement Of Purpose, Quality Of Life Statment, Forms Of Production, and Future Resource Base (in that order) into one document. Congratulations, you have completed your Holistic Context!

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Start using your Holistic Context

  • The first thing you should do after finishing your Holistic Context is use it to test a decision. It is only through use in the real world that your Holistic Goal will reach its finished state. And it will not help you if you don’t actually use it to guide your decisions. So think of some decision, big or small, and test it immediately using the “testing questions”.
  • I will be writing about the “testing questions” more in the future. But until then you can refer to this brief outline of them, or you can read the in depth version in the Holistic Management book.

Revise as needed

  • Your Holistic Context is not set in stone. You should revise it as necessary so that it always accurately reflects your values.

 

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