Magazine article Government Finance Review

Making the Right Decision: THE FIRST TIME

Magazine article Government Finance Review

Making the Right Decision: THE FIRST TIME

Article excerpt

How often do you find yourself reflecting on a decision - your own or someone else's - and wishing it had gone differently? Who wouldn't like to have a way of ensuring that the decisions they make today are the right decisions for tomorrow? Governments are constantly faced with choices, and emotionally charged issues create short-term pressures that don't always lead to the best interest of the community in the long term. A financially resilient organization creates emotional distance from difficult issues and balances short- and long-term perspectives in making its decisions.

Here's a common scenario. A city is debating the merits of adding additional freeway access. An interchange would provide business access to commercially zoned land in a highly acclaimed economic development corridor. However, residents nearby fear that it would increase traffic and noise, jeopardizing their quality of life. The conversation quickly becomes emotional on both sides. What is the right decision?

In another example, a celebrated development agreement promises to bring high-wage jobs and critical street improvements to the community. The project takes years to implement, and the city and the developer work hand-in-hand to ensure its success. But the development changes hands during an economic downturn. The city finds that the new developer is in breach of contract, but there are no remedies in place to address the lack of performance. How could the city have approached the agreement differently in the beginning to avoid this unintended consequence?

The public sector faces seemingly endless scenarios that demand complex decisions. All too often we find ourselves questioning the conclusions we reached in the past and agonizing over the decisions before us. Many organizations do make consistently sound decisions, however - decisions that enhance their resiliency. We need to ask ourselves what factors lead to such an outcome and how leaders can create a successful and productive dialogue when difficult decisions are on the horizon.


On the front end of a challenging decision, emotion can be intense, while a logical course of action feels distant and obscure. A 10/10/10 analysis counteracts this short-term bias by creating distance in decision making.1 The analysis asks decision makers to take a step back and consider the short-, mid- and long-term implications of their decision - how will they feel about it 10 minutes from now? Ten months from now? Ten years from now? The 10/10/10 analysis works because it explicitly identifies the short-term and emotional reasons for a decision and compares them to longterm considerations.

Going back to the freeway interchange example, nearby residents and elected officials might feel a great deal of angst 10 minutes and even 10 months after the announcement of a decision to move forward. At the same time, commercial landowners and the business community might be very excited by the idea. Ten years later, the interchange would be an inherent part of the transportation system, providing safe and easy access to neighborhoods and commercial areas alike.

The beauty of the 10/10/10 approach is that it can be used informally to simply and quickly think through impacts. The method can also be explained to stakeholders, prompting them to think through a decision more carefully.


The 10/10/10 methodology is most likely to work well when the decision you face meets the following characteristics:

* Significant Long-Term Implications. …

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