Suzy Welch's popular “10-10-10” decision-making strategy wasn't born of an overwhelming desire to revolutionize the broad concept of work/life balance.
Rather, the acclaimed author and columnist noted during her keynote address at Business Insurance's 2012 Women to Watch Awards Luncheon in New York, she developed the “10-10-10” model out of sheer necessity when the need to reorder her own decision-making process became inescapably clear.
“I was one of the worst decision-makers you could have ever imagined,” Ms. Welch said. “I thought that if I work hard enough and run fast enough and hold it all together with my fingernails, I can clean up the mess later.”
Need for change
But at age 35, Ms. Welch said, the mess finally did catch up to her at a particularly disastrous speaking engagement in Hawaii. Ms. Welch said the event was brought to a grinding halt when two of her young children, having escaped the hula dancing class she had hoped would keep them occupied for the duration of her speech, ran screaming down the center aisle of the conference hall.
It was after the event that Ms. Welch, now 53, said she realized that the decision-making process that led her to that point was no longer tenable.
“I had this idea that I had to slow it down and start making my decisions very deliberately,” Ms. Welch said. “I figured out that, from then on, I would make my decisions using this device that I invented out of complete desperation.”
The device would eventually become the subject of Ms. Welch's New York Times bestselling book, “10-10-10: A Life Transforming Idea.” Ms. Welch described the 10-10-10 concept as a process by which each life event is treated as an opportunity to make a decision, and each decision is evaluated by its likely consequences 10 minutes, 10 months and 10 years into the future.
“We get where we're going decision by decision,” Ms. Welch said. “We tend to think of our lives as a series of events, or lucky breaks or chances, but I tend to push back and say our lives are really a series of decisions that we make. We have the agency.”
Although the 10-10-10 process can be useful as an objective calculation, Ms. Welch said, its transformative potential depends greatly on an individual's ability to inform the process with their own closely held values.
“The key to this process is much harder than it might appear on its face,” Ms. Welch said. “You've got to be able to make your values explicit to yourself and those around you.”
Applied to the pursuit of an improved work/life balance, Ms. Welch said the 10-10-10 process can be extremely revelatory. In particular, she recommended applying the process to decisions regarding long-term personal and professional goals, noting that in too many cases, the prioritization of time and energy is made based on the extent to which short-term problems are solved.
“We can't wait for these decisions to make themselves,” Ms. Welch said. “We love to work, and we love our families. We love the messes and the great days equally, at home and at work. But it all just has so much momentum, and it will pass us by if we don't grab those decisions and make them from the inside out.”