When It Comes to a Critical Choice, Ask an Equally Critical Question
Here’s an all-too-common episode that unfortunately plays out every day somewhere. A patient suspecting a heart attack is rushed to a hospital for emergency care. The attending physician must quickly decide whether the sufferer should be treated as a high-risk or low-risk patient.
This critical decision influences treatment and has a profound impact on whether a patient survives or not. Yet, there are so many factors to consider, many of which have to do with a patient’s history. Too often, the patient is either inaccurate about these factors or is not able to communicate clearly.
So, what does the physician do to make a great call?
Thanks to a team of statisticians at the University of California, the attending doctor needs only ask three questions to classify the risk:
Is the systolic blood pressure less than 91?
Is the patient over 62 years of age?
Is there presence of a rapid heartbeat?
By answering any of these three critical questions in the affirmative, any doctor can reach a quality decision regarding immediate and high risk. By crunching the data, statisticians were able to simplify a previously complex assessment into a straightforward question set.
The truth is, with enough data or experience, leaders can learn what questions matter most in assessing their critical decisions, especially those that involve a bifurcated choice.
For instance, famed investor Warren Buffett asks three questions to evaluate the decision to purchase or invest in a business:
Can I understand it?
Does it have sustainable advantage over competitors?
Is the management team composed of skillful and honest people?
When the answer to all three questions is a “Yes,” the Buffett team makes the call to buy or invest, or waits until the price is right to do so.
Consequential choice decisions that are repetitive in nature can normally be boiled down into one or more critical questions that streamline the decision. It is the goal of any leader to use their experience and wisdom, matched with data, to determine what those questions are.
Whether the choice is to decide who gets the new account or sales territory, whether an action counts as a fireable offense, who receives the largest bonus, or how to select the starting lineup, the best leaders ask a critical question or two to guide them toward the right choice.
What questions should you be asking to make the best call?