South Dakota Grassland Coalition

by Sandy Smart

As we start the spring semester at SDSU and a new year, I thought it appropriate to write about goal planning. Each year, I start my Ranch Management Planning course by reviewing the holistic goal concept developed by Allan Savory in his book
“Holistic Management: A New Framework for Decision Making”. Spending time thinking about the “whole” is very important to orient oneself and a ranching operation to the things that influence every decision that needs to be made.

Understanding that you don’t operate a ranch in a vacuum is important in developing a holistic goal.

We first define the “whole” into three major categories: decision makers, resource base, and money. The categories are smaller wholes in themselves overlapping and connecting everything together. The decision makers are people that have an influence on the day-to-day operations of the ranch or have a vested financial interest in the operation. These people create the holistic goal. It is a good idea to involve hired labor in forming of the holistic goal because they have special insight since they conduct routine tasks on the ranch. Creativity often comes from the ones doing the work as noted by Jim Collins in his book “Good to Great”. Also, you want people to be “on-board” when you implement necessary changes to the operation. The resource base is the physical things we normally think about on a ranch such as land, livestock, and equipment. However, you should expand this to include people as well. Extension agents, bankers, veterinarians, government agency people, etc. can be an excellent resource of knowledge to help you be successful.

Finally, there is money.

We need money to reinvest in the business and support our lifestyle. The important thing to remember is the source of money and the time value it has. It can work either for you or against you. You just need to use it wisely.

After defining the whole, you can form the holistic goal. Savory describes three areas of the holistic goal: quality of life, forms of production, and future resource base. The quality of life can be described by value statements about family, work, free time, spiritual, physical, and emotional well being. Forms of production are statements about how to take the resource base and convert it to money to support your quality of life. For example, most farms and ranches support wildlife and could generate income through hunting or agritourism in addition to growing crops and livestock. Think outside the box for ways to convert the sun’s energy into cash. Last is the future resource base. You should think of statements that value the succession of your family business to the next generation, the environmental land ethic, and the importance it has in your community.

The holistic goal acts like a filter to help you make decisions and point you in the right direction. It grounds you and helps you avoid impulsiveness and miss steps you might regret. It also is not carved in stone. It should be a living document, reviewed
and revised regularly. This time of year is perfect to review, revise, and use your holistic goal.

By Sandy Smart

To learn more about the Holistic Mangement Goal setting process developed by Dr. Allan Savory, click here

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