Skip to content
Skip to main content

About this free course

Become an OU student

Download this course

Share this free course

Introducing environmental decision making
Introducing environmental decision making

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

6.2 The T863 framework and the case study

Let us now use the framework to do a preliminary analysis of the environmental decision-making processes that are evident in the ‘Freedom to fly?’ case study and to consider what might be learnt from them for future use. Below I have listed a series of questions that may aid you in this analysis.

  • Does the framework help you to restructure your response to Activity 20 within the case study?
  • Is it possible to map out the various stages in the ‘Aviation White Paper’ process onto the framework?
  • Can you identify areas where there is a mismatch between the process and the framework?

Record your initial impressions of the framework in your learning journal.

As you work through this section answering specific questions about the case study, you may sometimes feel you are repeating some of the preceding activities. This is intended. Some of the activities reiterate or reformulate previous activities so that you build up both knowledge and skills.

Activity 27 Viewing the case study through stages in the T863 framework

Look at each stage of the framework in turn and, with the case study in mind, briefly answer the following questions. Record your answers in your learning journal.

  • a.How do you think this situation was explored?
  • b.How were the problems and opportunities formulated?
  • c.How were the boundaries established?
  • d.How were feasible and desirable changes identified?
  • e.What was the resulting action by the key decision maker, and how did the range of stakeholders react?
  • f.Do you think these stages were followed in a logical sequence?
  • g.Was there iteration between stages, and what learning do you think took place?
  • h.Which skills do you think were used by the decision makers during the process?


  • a.To me the exploration of the situation was severely limited. The focus was very much on forecasts of unrestricted passenger capacity. Consideration of other UK government policy, such as the 2003 Energy White Paper which demanded a cut in CO2 emissions by 60% by 2050, was almost non-existent.
  • b.The economy was a major theme analysed as a problem (if no airport expansion strategy was proposed) and an opportunity (increase in jobs and competitiveness resulting from expansion). The environment was not taken seriously so the ‘opportunity’ to resolve the environmental impact of aviation was not taken.
  • c.The boundaries were very much framed through the choices made in the cost–benefit analyses of expansion options, and by limiting the transparency of the decision-making process. For example, the negative economic impacts to the UK economy of an increase in outgoing tourism were never considered.
  • d.Feasible changes were identified mostly through the cost–benefit analyses, while desirable changes were identified through national and regional consultations.
  • e.The limited exploration and the gradual closing down of options through the various stages meant that recommendations for significant expansion were inevitable. The pro-expansion lobby was ‘delighted’ by the decision while the anti-expansion lobby was left bitterly disappointed.
  • f.There was a fairly logical sequence to the decision-making process although the identification of desirable changes through the various consultations seemed out of sync with the rest of the process, and in fact it is not at all clear how the consultations influenced the process or the final decision.
  • g.No iteration occurred, with no review of decisions resulting from the new information (e.g. increase in oil prices) or stakeholder feedback. There is little evidence that learning took place.
  • h.The skills used in the decision-making process focused mainly on the quantitative modelling (SPASM simulation, cost–benefit analysis). The use of systems thinking, evaluation and negotiation in the process was difficult to identify.

My purpose in asking the above questions is not only to allow you to make judgements about what should have been done with regard to the process of deciding aviation expansion with the benefit of hindsight, but also to point out that when similar decision-making processes are being started today, they could be approached differently..

In my experience, it is relatively easy to analyse a situation with hindsight, especially after having access to a range of pre-selected and ordered material. However, like many environmental decision-making situations, the ‘Aviation White Paper’ was very complex and many constraints played on the decision makers during the process:

  • time constraints may not have allowed a sequential procedure through the stages
  • the scale of the issue may have prevented all the stakeholders being involved in all the stages all the time
  • crucial information may not have been available at the start of the process and probably was revealed at different stages.

Like any framework, the T863 environmental decision-making framework has its potential strengths and its limitations, depending on how it is used. For example, in terms of strengths, it recognises the following needs:

  • for problems, opportunities and systems of interest to emerge from exploring or re-exploring a situation
  • to use techniques and develop skills and understanding for environmental decision making in systems thinking, modelling, evaluating and negotiating
  • for environmental decision making to be considered as an iterative rather than a linear process.

The framework can also be used to help question and consider the decision-making processes in which you might be engaged. For example, it suggests questions such as:

  • Has the situation been considered sufficiently?
  • Have problems, opportunities and systems of interest been allowed to emerge?
  • Will systems thinking, modelling, evaluating and negotiating help?
  • Who has been involved in the processes of exploring a situation, formulating problems, opportunities and systems of interest, identifying changes and taking action and how have they been involved?
  • What have we learnt from the overall process and how can that learning inform our future decisions and actions?

The framework’s limitations (which it shares with other frameworks) are that it will not be possible to ‘fit’ every decision-making process to it, and that all steps in it will not be appropriate for all situations. You may also have time constraints in a particular situation that mean you cannot use all aspects of the framework. It will also not necessarily be easy to recognise where you are within it as, within one project or decision situation, several stages may be active at any one time. You should be as critical in your use of this framework as in your use of other aspects of this unit. Students of T863 use this framework to analyse their own chosen environmental decision-making situation.