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Prognosis Without Diagnosis Is Malpractice

Posted Jan 13 2010 5:38am

You and I would run from any physician who prescribed a cure without first doing a thorough examination.

Yet we get caught up in the "do, action, execution" themes that permeate our businesses. I'm all for getting things done. It would be a good idea if they were the right things.

Toddler-future-doctor In business, "prognosis" is the mandatory forecasting that is required to project future needs, revenues, and stock analyst phone conversations. My experience has been that many companies do the best they can. At the same time, people in those organizations want to please their bosses and, as a result, deliver a "healthy" prognosis. What the company needs is an accurate diagnosis in order to behave in the right way. Schmoozing the numbers leads to inaccurate expectations, wrong use of capital and people, and diminished trust in the marketplace and on Wall Street (if you are publicly traded).

Real-Life Example

Prognosis: We can beat our competitors in the European market if we build a state-of-the-art processing facility.

Result: Facility shut down after five years of financial losses and little wear and tear on the machinery.

What was the diagnosis to begin with? There wasn't. Instead, there was a passionate presentation stating that, "If we build it, our competitors' customers will come." They never did. The competitors had the market locked up and anyone at the local coffee shop could have told that to diagnosticians from the incoming company as well as the reasons why.

Managers are the arbiters of organizational health. Their decisions lead to the success or failure of the organization itself. So, the next time a decision or projection of any consequence needs to be made, stop. Take out the managerial stethoscope and ask:

1. What do you want to do?

2. Why do you want to do it?

3. What facts can you show to support it? OK, now show me the data.

4. What are the other options?

5. Would you bet your career on the likelihood of success? (Stated seriously, that can prompt some unbelievably telling non-verbals).

What to think about today: If you are a manager or leader of any group, take time to sharpen and use your diagnostic skills. The prognosis for your organization's health will depend on them.


Looking forward to speaking to the Delaware Valley HDI association today on How To Be The Manager Your People Want To Work For. Hopefully my high school English teacher won't notice the preposition at the end of the title.

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