The Seven Testing Guidelines

Their purpose
The testing guidelines are designed to help people move most rapidly towards their holisticgoal.  This is achieved by seeing the complete picture more readily, rather than just focusing on ‘issues’ or 'problems'.  

Once you get the hang of it, using the testing guidelines is a straightforward mental process.  To start with though, it may help if you download and use this
Blank Testing Matrix V3.1.pdf

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Note: The written worksheets have a really important additional purpose: you can store them as a permanent record of your decisions.  Should conflict ever arise, it is very useful to go back and see what you wrote at the time, rather than argue about what you ‘think’ you wrote.

When to use the Guidelines

  1. When first considering an action, 
you should quickly run it through all of the guidelines.  You are looking to see if the action really does make sense, or not, at the 'concept' level.

  2. After deeper thought and immediately prior to confirming a decision
, use the Guidelines as a final check of its soundness . 

  3. During the Financial Planning process, when
 every action will be tested before inclusion in the final plan. This is explained in detail in the Holistic Financial Planning Aide.

Hint: You will probably pass most decisions through the guidelines several times, especially if they are major decisions.  Big decisions will most likely be part of your annual financial planning process. Whether you are an individual, a business, or an organisation this is usually considered the most important planning time in the year.  

How to use the Guidelines

  1. Establish a file where you store your completed testing sheets.  When testing actions note the date the testing occurred, which economic whole you were testing for and who did the testing.
  2. Identify the problem (or opportunity).  Be certain you get to the real problem and not the symptom.  For instance, if testing how to deal with a weed, be aware that the weed is not the problem.  The real issue is a failure of one or more of the four ecosystem processes. 
  3. Decide what is the purpose of the proposed action. For example, if dealing with a weed, the purpose is to improves successional conditions now and in the future, whilst at the same time dealing with the short term impacts of the weed.
  4. Be very clear what the proposed action or actions are that you are testing.  The Testing Matrix has room to test up to three alternative actions that might address the problem.  Usually the description will be fairly short- for example, "Apply XYZ herbicide at label rate".  If you are not clear what the proposed actions are, gain clarity before proceeding.

  5. Test one action at a time.  Pass the first possible action DOWN through all of the seven guidelines.  Only when the first action has been fully tested should you proceed to the next possibility, and then the next, until all possibilities have been tested. The image below shows you how.

    1. If there is only one action to be tested, it will become clear whether it ‘passes’ or ‘fails’ without resorting to the final testing guideline, 'Marginal Reaction'. 
    2. If there are several possible solutions, you must choose one. In this case you will need to choose the one giving the highest Marginal Reaction (the final Guideline).
Other considerations
Failure doesn't eliminate an idea. If an action doesn't pass one of the testing guidelines, that doesn't mean you shouldn't take the action.  It simply alerts you that if you go ahead, the action has more potential to end up with an adverse outcome.

Speed is important! 
Move through each Guideline quickly.  Don’t get hung up trying to work out or debate the answer to a particular Guideline.  You'll loose focus if you get bogged down.  You should quickly come to a conclusion: the answer at a particular Guideline is either, ‘Yes’ (the action passes this Guideline), ‘No’ (it fails this Guideline), ‘Don’t know’ (I am not sure if it passes or fails) or ‘NA’ (the Guideline is not applicable to this particular action, and you can just pass over it.)   If you are in debate you don't know the answer, so mark it as such and move on!

Keep a record. 
At any Guideline where your answer is either ‘No’ or ‘Don’t know’: In the cell where you placed your 'X' or '?', write down the exact reason. You will then work on ways that move you to ‘Pass’ or ‘Yes’ when you test the action again pass.  It also provides a written record of the process.

Complete the Early Warning Monitoring section of the Testing Matrix, so that you can come back to it.  File the sheets for safe keeping.

Other things to consider

Often, through the testing you'll discover other actions that also require testing.  Essentially, you are always 'digging down', drilling deeper and deeper through levels of actions until you arrive at the best answer.

The alternative answers that you might come up with through the testing are ‘Yes ‘(the proposed action passes this testing guideline,)’ No’ (the proposed action fails this testing guideline), ‘I don’t know’ and ‘Not applicable’.  If it is ‘not applicable’, pass over it.

Note: Remember also that just because an action fails a particular Guideline, it does not mean the entire action necessarily ‘fails’. There will be times when you will go ahead anyway.  The important point is that you would go ahead fully prepared for the possibility of future problems, and I hope, will have initiated appropriate ‘early warning’ monitoring.

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