Take risks. But, be forewarned, you're bound to find turbulence.

As an entry-level planner, I thought I had all the answers. Then, the time came when I was the decision maker. It's easy to critique, but it's difficult to make sound decisions.

I was thrown into situations that I didn't fully understand, and yet, in those circumstances, it was my job to provide the recommendation.

Decision making exposes you.

You're forced to take ownership when the implications draw nearer like the water at high tide. Except it's not a slow build, it's a tsunami and you have to act.

One of my first decisions with any real weight cost my organization real money. We had struggled with antique scheduling software with terrible customer service. When I stepped up to bat, I decided we were eschewing the old in favor of more sophiscated software with better integrations.

My first choice didn't pan out. Unfortunately at the time, the company wasn't taking on more customers. Bummer. I wanted it. After doing some more research, I found another company that resold software for one of the top scheduling companies in the world. It was an easy second choice, and we began our migration to the new tool.

About a month later I received an email from the old software company, asking me to start the renewal process for the next year. This was easy. I replied with a firm "no thank you," but with a bit of snark.

The old software company returned in kind. They informed me that the contract requires 60 days notice of termination, and we were to pay the attached invoice for $10,000.

My heart fell into my stomach. I made a serious mistep.

Though I read the contract prior to making the transition, I interpreted the contractual language in a way that allowed the contract to run out with incurring any damages. This is a SaaS afterall.

Ego certainly creeped in when the county attorney said they agreed with me. However, our procurement director rebutted our arguments. At least I won over the attorney.

Something changed. The once amenable attorney is now siding with the procurement director, and they are saying the organization is on the hook for those 60 days.

Confronting my fear of failure, and more importantly, publicly owning up to my mistakes, I had to go to the boss with my tail between my legs. I explained my position, as well as the arguments the attorney and procurement director were making.

As you already know if you're reading this post, I'm not an attorney.

We paid the $10,000 and cut loose. I was tepid for a few weeks after the ordeal.

I worked from emotion, did not perform a risk assessment, and did not consult with the proper professionals before making the leap.

Fortunately, I had an amazing boss. He knew I was torn up about the decision. We treated it as a learning experience. The overlap of services meant we were able to maintain continuity of operations, something I should have considered had I created a plan.

The new software was overly complicated, and staff didn't pick it up very easily. It didn't stick.

When I left the organization, the new manager promptly researched new tools. I don't blame him. He found the first company I really wanted, who was now selling their scheduling software to the broader market again.

If you want to avoid instability, then keep the status quo. Conversely, if you don't want to crash, make incremental, considered decisions to achieve your goals over time.

Risks are a part of life, and I would argue that more government decision makers need to be open to taking calculated risks through pilot programs.

When you take risks, you are exposed. Though, sometimes it exposes a leader.

by @jlevimccollum

🚍 πŸ—ΊοΈ πŸ“Š Geographer working to build better government.