The answer to that question may surprise you because it’s not breast cancer, despite all the pink (symbol for breast cancer) you see during the National Football (American 🙂 ) League season. Breast cancer kills about 40,000 women a year which is not a number to be scoffed at but pales in comparison to heart disease – which kills 10 times mores or about 400,000 per year!
For the thousands of TMGs’ Strategic Sourcing “U” alumni, this will come as no surprise as this is one of the phenomenon that is uncovered during the Decision Making experiential learning portion – when people depend on the available information and then base their decisions on that. What is extremely troubling is that medical decisions by highly trained doctors are influenced by this and more women die because of this fallacy – a self-fulfilling prophecy. A number of you may remember the example used during training based on the New England Journal of Medicine and tonsillectomies?
Heart disease is considered to be primarily a male disease and thus the medical community ignores the correlation between heart disease and women. It goes un-diagnosed and un-treated leading to very high mortality rates. In a recent NPR story, Tracy Clark does get diagnosed and treated but when she goes back and presents more symptoms, it is written off to anxiety after she has been diagnosed and treated for heart disease.
Dr. Laxmi Mehta posits that one reason is that heart disease affects the larger arteries in men and the much smaller arteries in women and men have been the focus of most research so for doctors, the disease resides in the larger arteries and therefore all the diagnostic and treatment is focused there. Rehabilitation, which is an integral part of treatment, is mostly prescribed for men. Thus, the initial assumptions drive the behavior and decision making of the medical community and those wrong decisions continue to be made throughout the process. For example, 74% of women have at least some factor that increases their risk for heart trouble yet only 14% are told that by their physicians – leaving 60% of women with a risk factor that is not dealt with – 60%!!
While this is not a medical blog, the example does illustrate the lack of good decision making competencies and processes in the most revered and oldest profession in the world. And these are not your daily, low impact decisions – women are dying every single day because of these decisions. While medical education puts a lot of emphasis on the technical competencies required in a doctor, clearly not too much attention is paid to the strategic competency of effective decision making. It is assumed that doctors will pick up good decision making along the way on their own? Now if that’s the case in the medical profession, what does it look like in your world? Does your organization treat decision making as a strategic competency and expend effort to develop the art and science of decision making? Do you know how decisions are made – because they are absolutely not made following the nicely drawn organizational lines and boxes of your organization chart? Does your organization recognize that what happens in the medical community above is commonly happening every single day in your organization? And the impact of the decisions in your organization are as critical and impactful as the life and death decisions of the doctors. We are often initially met with derision and scorn when we bring this topic up with senior executives and leadership teams because each of them think they are crack decision makers and are convinced that they are where they are in their career because they are good decision makers. We then use some experiential tools to diagnose the health of the decision making processes and show them the results – especially the results that measure their own prowess as an individual and as a leadership team. That’s when the s^%& hits the fan and the fun starts for us!! If you would like to learn more about this critical topic and would like to diagnose the health of the decision making competency in your organization, drop us a line. I wonder how many women died because of heart disease and didn’t even know it in the time it took me to write this 🙁