Decision Lab: Shifting Perspective in Municipal Decision-making: Being Fair — Increase Quality of Service

Dawna Jones
5 min readJul 29, 2021

The General Manager (GM) of a municipal department was repeatedly getting bad press for the all-too apparent failings in maintaining city roads, drainage, sewage, and water. Continuous breakdowns in water supply, blockages in main drains and sewers were inconveniencing city residents and creating high costs in property damage. City Council was being taken to court for several cases of significant damage exacerbated by its insurer’s reluctance to settle claims promptly or on a reasonable basis.

Municipal Decision-making. Photo credit: pxhere.com

Accused and abused by the press, residents, superiors, elected councilors, and by his managers and staff who were taking much of the heat, the GM fell seriously ill. While on sick leave the Mayor called him to discuss what he was going to do to address the growing storm of protest that was negatively affecting his chances of re-election. What did he have to say?

Up until now, his decisions were based on his lengthy experience with how to fix issues. In this new dilemma, he was expected to come up with a ‘silver bullet’. But how?

Shortly after returning to work, the CEO asked him to make a list of the issues and to pick the top five most serious ones. If seriousness was measured by how much yelling he received they were all serious. How could he decide?

Fortunately, his finance manager (a great one!) stepped forward offering invaluable data about the costs of the various types of breakdowns, the frequency along with a thick file of public letters of complaint. Using that data, he came up with ten, repeated and serious ones. Two groups of three issues each were handled by only two contracting firms. The quality of maintenance and the timeliness of the repairs were clearly underpinning six out of ten issues and involved only two firms. That narrowed it down.

Coincidently, in the Doctor’s waiting room, he met the owner of one of the two contracting companies. In that casual environment, he asked the owner to honestly describe how he felt the business relationship with Council was going.

“Working with Council has been the worst business decision I ever made.” He went on to say that now he was so dependent on the revenue he felt unable to

Dawna Jones

Collectively designing a better world through conscious decision-making leadership. Adaptive Decision-making, Strategic Insights, Inspirational Insights Podcast