Prescription Without Diagnosis is Malpractice

Suppose a physician prescribed pain meds simply because a patient said that he needed them. Or in another case if a physician simply glanced at a patient and prescribed an antibiotic without any tests or other diagnostics. In both cases you would immediately conclude that the doctor had been irresponsible and reckless to order those prescriptions with such little attempt at making a professional decision based on a thorough diagnosis.

So is often the case with business.

Certainly the implications of business prescriptions (e.g. decisions) don’t impact human health, life and death like medical prescriptions. However, daily business decisions do directly impact business health in key areas of growth, stability and value creation. Sound decisions will promote successful outcomes and poor decisions will promote failure in those areas.

And at the heart of sound business decision making is a proper diagnosis (e.g. information and instincts).

It seems simple enough, yet businesses tend to unwittingly make poor decisions because of poor diagnoses. Among the various reasons for poor diagnoses include: too much confidence in instincts alone (“I got this”), accepting other’s (often biased) opinions at face value, oversimplifying possible outcomes, a lack of resources to produce meaningful, timely information, etc.

In order to combat this, businesses need to learn from medicine’s approach to diagnostics. Some of the tactics needed include:

Process of Elimination: a cross-functional brainstorming session is a business example of this…soliciting input from parties who have a level of interest and involvement in the particular area in question. Capturing their perspectives for developing deeper and broader solution possibilities. And then narrowing them down based on other input and information.

Pattern Recognition: using data (internal and external) as the foundation for business intelligence creation. Utilizing key performance indicators and other metrics to find causes of performance challenges.

Testing and Monitoring: based on information gathered above, testing limited doses of a particular possible solution to see what might work. Then refining and adjusting as needed.

Ultimately, every business decision must be filtered based on the pace of business and the perceived risk. Therefore, it will be easy to dismiss the three steps identified above. However, businesses should always consider the applicability of gathering, processing and utilizing better, unbiased information in order to promote improved overall health.

Josh Hannum