Working book launched for public managers

Co-written by Surrey's fire chief, 'The Right Decision' details how to work on evidence-based decision making.

Decisions made by public bodies must be evidence-based, and followed through with, despite an often changing political landscape.

This is one of the suggestions being made in a newly released 110-page manual widely lauded by Metro Vancouver city managers.

The Right Decision is written by Surrey Fire Chief Len Garis, Paul Maxim, Daryl Plecas and Mona Davies.

The manual stresses that decisions made by public bodies must be based on good evidence of outcomes, as in most cases, taxpayer dollars are being spent.

“The only firm way of thoroughly measuring our effectiveness and efficiency is to examine our programs and services by measuring the outcomes of our programs and policies,” Surrey City Manger Vincent Lalonde writes in the forward of the book.

“In other words, what evidence do we have that we are doing the right things in the right ways?”

Decisions made without sound evidence usually are costly and wasteful, or simply yield poor results. The book details how to assemble that evidence and how to use it to convince others of the merits behind a decision.

“A good decision is one where you can look back and with clear conscience, assert that under the same circumstances, and with the same evidence, you would make the same choice,” the book says.

It also details how to think about issues critically, how to collect evidence and statistics, how to use experimental design and evaluate programs.

Former Vancouver City Manager Dr. Penny Ballem called the  book “readable and practical” and “remarkable step in enhancing the performance of public servants at all levels of government.”

Similar sentiments were shared by city managers of Richmond and Langley, as well as Lori Wanamaker, deputy minister for the provincial justice ministry.

Garis said it’s a practical guide for people to work through the decision-making process.

It’s a subject that’s close to his heart.

“I really try to be mindful of the value of delivering services, particularly when we’re talking about public dollars,” Garis said. “There’s tools out there that are being developed, and mathematics and statistics and we underutilize those, and over utilize anecdotal approaches.”

All of the Right Decision manuals and companion workbooks may be downloaded for free from




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