A good diagnosis does not necessarily mean that you are going to have a good prescription. You can have a good diagnosis and a bad solution together. Take Karl Marx’s writings, for example. While reading his books, you will find yourself agreeing with his diagnosis of what is wrong with capitalist societies; however, his solutions to the problems brought misery to millions of people.
Here is another example. Obama’s diagnosis of the ills of American society excited millions, who then voted for him. «We need to change,» he said and gave a pretty detailed analysis of what needs to change. However, his solutions have created many objections and many feel that he is taking America in the wrong direction. Socialism is not necessarily the solution to the shortcomings of capitalism.
A medical doctor can diagnose a disease and prescribe the wrong medicine. There are many drugs that treat the same ill, and he has to choose which one is most appropriate. He might choose a good one, but it might be incompatible with other medicines you are taking.
A manager could diagnose a problem within a company and decide that the problem is a particular person. The solution to fire him or her could be the wrong solution because of improper timing. Firing the person could be analogous to shooting one’s self in the foot.
The solution could be a bad one because you did not address the four imperatives: What to do was sound but how to do it was too simplistic, or the when was premature or the who (the person responsible for implementing the decision) was the wrong person.
And the reverse situation could happen too. You could have a good solution, one that works, without an accurate diagnosis. Medical doctors often do not know exactly what the malady is and prescribe a medicine to «try things out.» It is especially true for dermatologists. Often their remedy works but they cannot tell you exactly why.
The problem we are discussing here does not end with the diagnosis and solution. One can continue with the sequence of events: the implementation of the solution can be a problem in itself. The diagnosis was good, the solution was sound but the implementation was faulty.
Here anyone can bring endless examples.
Why am I writing this?
Because I found myself in this exact situation and I suspect I am not alone. I assume that if a diagnosis exists, then the job is done; From there on it is smooth sailing. The task is complete.
Nothing is done until it is done, and done well, which means a solution is a «good solution» only when it works in reality. Until then, the diagnosis and the solution remain suspect. You cannot relax.
That is why doctors tell you «take this medicine and if the problem does not go away call me back». She is not sure her diagnosis is the right one. She is not sure if her prescription is right. She is a good doctor.
But that is how managers should behave too. Good management is not managing by expecting but managing by inspecting. Diagnose a problem. Prescribe a solution. Monitor the implementation. Each one of the above could be at fault. So there’s no time to relax.
Be humble and realize you could have made a mistake along the way. Easy.