The street definition of Holistic Management
It’s fun to ask people at conferences or in everyday conversation if they’ve heard of Holistic Management. The responses generally come in three categories: totally unfamiliar, have read some articles, are whole systems thinkers and get the concept. For instance:
- No, what is that?
- Yes, isn’t that the African guy who uses livestock in big herds to mimic nature and heal land?
- Yes, I’ve read Allan Savory’s book/I practice Holistic Management. In fact, I am working on my Holistic Grazing Plan now. Tell me, in the new book do Allan and Jody discuss regenerative cropping systems? I’m concerned that our entire food system is largely based on the production of annuals. How do we shift to a perennial diet? I’ve been thinking and thinking about this…
Holistic Management in real life
Holistic Management defined
The Savory Institute website states that Holistic Management is a process of decision-making and planning that gives people the insights and management tools needed to understand nature: resulting in better, more informed decisions that balance key social, environmental, and financial considerations. I interpret the word “nature” to mean the natural ecosystem that we are all part of and our own nature meaning our behavior and actions. In other words, the practice of Holistic Management allows us to be fully and completely aware and observant so we can make the best decision. This work to build awareness reminds me of another practice that is both simple in concept yet requires daily discipline.
Holistic Management as a daily practice, like meditation
How we practice Holistic Management
I call Holistic Management a practice because we are constantly learning and it is something you do everyday to realize the rewards. Every time I read the Holistic Management book, I learn something new. I understand a concept in a new way. I see new application of the principles and philosophy.
We will live in truth. We will feel happy, free, independent and share our work and lifestyle with our children. We will feel connected to each other, our family, community and place through dedication to each other and our shared vision of meaningful work. We will see our children pursue their passions and become happy, confident people. We will live enriched, full, stimulating and healthy lives.
Holistic Management planning procedures
Holistic Management requires thought, observation and planning. The planning cannot be skipped. We think it is best completed with paper and pencil (with an eraser!). Each year in January, we dedicate our mornings to creating our financial plans for the year. This is a process of creating a budget, as usual, and then organizing it in a way that plans for profit first. It is amazing how this process brings out creative solutions. We also create our grazing plan for the year. We are working on a long-term land plan for the ranch and recently completed a brainstorming session as part of the process. We learned a lot!
- Monitoring: We conduct our Ecological Monitoring each year in July. This process examines the soil surface to see the first signs of the impact of management decisions. Are we decreasing bare soil? Increasing community dynamics? We collect data to find out. Not only do we monitor once a year to collect data on improvements we also have honed our skills to monitor for the everyday changes in biological capacity of our pastures or the health and well being of our social and family life.
- Decision checks: These filter questions should be asked quickly, Allan Savory says. If you get hung up on one, then you don’t have enough information to make the decision. With practice, they come quickly. Not all of the checks apply to every situation or decision. The decision checks are:
- Cause and effect: are you addressing the root cause of the problem?
- Weak links:
- Biological: are you addressing the weakest link in the organism’s life cycle
- Financial: are you addressing the weakest link in your chain of production
- Social: could this decision create a social problem or personal problem for your whole
- Marginal reaction: Considering all possible actions, which action will yield the best results for time and money invested?
- Gross profit analysis: Which enterprise creates the most profit?
- Energy/money source and use: does the energy or money needed come from a contextually acceptable source and it is being used in the most efficient and acceptable way?
- Sustainability: Does the decision support and move me toward the Future Resource Base described in our Holistic Context?
- Gut feel: After all of this is considered, how do I now feel about the decision?
There is no rule that each decision must pass all the decision checks. The decision may fail some of the checks, but you can decide to make it anyway. You are the boss! There is a difference, though, between making a decision without any context or consideration, and thinking through it thoroughly before making a decision.
The full practice of Holistic Management includes these components listed below. Click on each to read examples of Holistic Management in real life.
- A Holistic Context
- Understanding the Key Insights of Holistic Management
- Understanding the ecosystem processes and tools we have to impact our environment
- Knowing and using Decision Checks
- The planning procedures of: