SDM Overview

Resource management and investment decisions are characterized by:

Complexity and Uncertainty–multiple objectives and stakeholders, overlapping jurisdictions, short and long term effects, cumulative effects and high levels of uncertainty

Difficult Judgments – including both subjective technical judgments made by experts about the potential consequences of proposed alternatives, and difficult value-based judgments made by decision makers about priorities, preferences and risk tolerances

High stakes – including economic, environmental, social and political stakes – and, as a result – intense scrutiny from technical, public and political domains

Limited resources – a need to do more with less, often on short timelines

Growing expectations – for quality, consistency and transparency in decision making.

What is SDM?

An organized approach to identifying and evaluating alternatives that focuses on engaging stakeholders, experts and decision makers in productive decision-oriented analysis and dialogue and that deals proactively with complexity and judgment in decision making. It provides a framework that becomes a decision-focused roadmap for integrating activities related to planning, analysis and consultation.

A set of core steps, guiding principles, and structuring tools based on the principles and practices of applied decision analysis.

Practical methods that combine what we know about how decisions should be made with the realities of how decisions are made.

A proactive response to expectations for:

  • Science-based decisions
  • Meaningful stakeholder involvement
  • Transparency and accountability in decision making

What are the Benefits?

Quality and Defensibility

  • Best practices in decision making
  • Getting both the facts and the values right
  • Integrating rigorous analysis and thoughtful deliberation

Transparency and Accountability

  • A road map (where are we going?)
  • An audit trail (how did we get here?)
  • Making explicit judgments and taking responsibility for them


  • Timely decisions within resource and capacity constraints
  • Upfront investment in structuring
  • Downstream payoff in streamlined decisions and broad support

Relationship Building

  • Meaningful involvement of stakeholders
  • Trust and collaboration among joint decision makers
  • Decision making at the appropriate level

Learning and Capacity Building

  • Dealing systemically with uncertainty
  • Designing-in flexibility to respond to new information
  • Building capacity for future decisions

On-ground Results

  • Meeting core objectives
  • Gaining support
  • Sustainable solutions

Make decisions: that are defensible, transparent, and efficient

Build: relationships with stakeholders, decision-makers, and technical experts; capacity for dealing with uncertainty and future decisions

Produce: results that meet objectives and are sustainable in the long-term

Key Ideas

  • Resource management and investment decisions are highly complex
  • SDM combines what we know about how decisions should be made with the realities of how decisions are made
  • SDM provides a set of steps and structuring tools based on the principles and practices of decision analysis
  • The benefits of using SDM are numerous