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5 Questions to Ask to Improve Your Ability to Solve Problems & Make Decisions

David A. Shore, CAL Faculty; Professor, Harvard University

Two decades ago, McKinsey & Company launched a quarterly publication just as companies were reeling from the dot-com bust and only weeks before the devastating events of 9/11. Twenty years later, in its 80th edition, the McKinsey on Finance headline reads, “Revolutionary innovations, brilliant ideas, and climate imperatives will change everything – except the fundamentals of finance and economics.”

The 20th anniversary issue notes that over the past two decades, “…we’ve seen wars, financial crises, a global pandemic, a substantial decline in trust, and heightened urgency about existential climate change.” With this as perspective, McKinsey on Finance concludes, “we’ve studied, been challenged about, sharpened our thinking on and ultimately reinforced our appreciation of core economic and financial principles, particularly as they apply through very uncertain times.”

As the authors point out, “We don’t have a crystal ball. But we do have a compass: long-term value creation.”

During these same two decades, this author has conducted repeated calendar reviews which routinely reveal that the single largest block of time for managers and leaders is spent in meetings. An agenda analysis further finds that agenda items for these meetings fall into one of three categories: for your information; for discussion; for action.

“Organizations thrive or vanish largely based on the quality of the top management team that leads them. ”
– Professor David A. Shore, Harvard University

We will put aside the often-perceived ubiquitous data dump of “for your information.” A content analysis of the remaining “for discussion” and “for action” agenda items, concludes much as McKinsey on Finance did, that while there have been transformative changes in virtually every industry and just about every company, the fundamentals of managing a company and by extension of leadership remain constant – problem solving and decision-making. Rather than ‘soft skills,’ we count them as durable skills. The challenges posed by the historic transition away from the global economy’s reliance on interbank offered rates towards more robust reference rates is no exception.


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