Sunday Surgical Scrub: 31 July 2016


Take from all things their number and all shall perish.
Saint Isidore of Seville, Etymologies (Book III, c.600)


TASK AT HAND: This week I’m thinking about “quantity” and the tangible aspects of strategy. A few weeks ago we discussed the intangibles of decision making and I thank you for the enthusiastic response. Today, contrasting with the quality or intangibles of a decision, you can think of tangibles as decision making items that have inherently associated metrics – a quantity that we can explore to make better decisions.

In medicine, when eliciting the history of an illness from a patient, the quantity is many times simply a number: how bad is your pain? 0 is no pain and 10 is the most pain you can imagine – what is your pain? This simple metric has massive impact and aids your diagnostic workflow significantly. In strategy, think of this quantity as tangible aspects of decision making that can be measured. When teaching, I often refer to these tangible metrics as the quantity relevant to my strategy.

measuring tape

For example, you may purchase a car for intangible qualities like how it makes you feel or your first memory of that model. On the other hand, quantity or tangibles metrics would include items like horsepower, fuel economy, braking distance, etc. One can quickly appreciate that these metrics can get very extensive so I have created 3 B’s – basic components for ease of applicability to any decision.


1.   Bank: this is your budget and contains all aspects of funding critical to your decision. How much in your bank?

2.   Bread: raw materials, intellectual capital, workforce, customer base. This describes the resource metrics relevant to your decision. How much bread do you have?

3.   Brawn: This is the amount of effort you have to put into a decision; 0 is no effort and no action desired while 10 is an all-consuming action. How much effort are you willing to put into a strategy?


In my opinion, you need 2 of these 3 to be positive for you to have a beneficial quantity component to your strategy. The power of this simple approach is that it can be applied to any scenario. For example, let us suppose you are considering moving to a new city. Palo Alto is a very innovative part of the country, but it is also very expensive. If your bank is low (small budget), you don’t have much bread (unsecured job or resources), but your brawn is high (highly motivated to move there), this is still not the best decision from a tangible metric point of view.

Let’s do another: your single site business is thinking of expanding to another state. Your bank is good (selling well enough to support another site), your bread is positive (growing customer base, physical space to accommodate a second location is doable), but your effort is low (2 out 10 because you really don’t want to deal with expansion). Based on quantity, this would be a positive decision to make so you should carefully consider it.


piggy bank

Use quantity – the application of tangible metrics – to your professional and personal decision-making to clarify measurable components of your strategy. Don’t neglect what you can measure! An experiment is a question which science poses to Nature, and a measurement is the recording of Nature’s answer.” (Max Planck)



MEDICINE & MACULA: As the Max Planck quote shows above, metrics and science are intrinsically link, but, as a scientist, a major task is to ask difficult questions. A recently published commentary refreshes the importance of learning from failed experiments – and the importance of trying again. To effectively achieve this, the author concludes that communicating your struggles to others, asking for help, and accepting it when it is offered allows you to foster the needed resilience to cope with fear of failure and find your success.

The study was published July 29 in the journal Science. Check out the study here.



DA Sx Maneuvers

GRATIS: Thank you Retinal Physician for showcasing my new technique on Surgical Maneuvers Tip of the Month! In it, I describe the repair of complex retinal detachments secondary to viral retinitis. This novel technique combines triamcinolone-assisted chromovitrectomy with silicone oil tamponade and intraoperative antiviral therapy with foscarnet. Check out the article here.


My best to you,

David Almeida

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *