Playing the numbers game is gambling

While away in Dubrovnik on a business trip, I came down with a bug that, 3 weeks later, has me in bed, feverish and coughing my lungs out.
Ok, I exaggerate, but it’s caused me to ponder about the the way we make decisions based on the weight of experience.

My experience is that throat infections are usually viral and clear up themselves with home treatment in 5 – 10 days, so I didn’t consult my GP until it still hadn’t cleared at 14 days.
Playing the numbers game meant I left it to the point I was uncomfortable based on my experience.
When I saw my GP, she assured me there was nothing that wouldn’t sort itself out without antibiotics. She was playing the numbers game based on her vast experience (but not of me, not having seen me for 15 years).
At first it looked like she was right, then my temperature sky rocketed,  I was shivering and sweating alternately and retired to bed.
Still playing the numbers game, I expected to improve in 2-3 days, but that took me into the weekend.
I finally abdicated decision making to a computer, dialled 111 and answered lots of questions set by my friends the NHS Direct Clinician Team in Bolton, and got booked in for an out of hours appointment. This time I’m expecting antibiotics and will not accept the  numbers game.

This echoes a related diagnostics experience on holiday in the summer, when my normally reliable car developed a nasty whining sound under the bonnet. I took it into a nearby Honda dealer, where the expert, without rising from his seat, assured me it was X and that it was safe to ignore until I got home. It proved to be something completely different, affecting the steering. Another diagnosis he gave so confidently about another minor problem proved to be equally wrong. Playing the numbers game meant he scored 0 out of 2.

People, cars and projects are all complex, and playing the numbers game is something we all indulge it to save time and effort, but it has to be recognized that it is taking a risk, and therefore must be managed as such.

In the project context, playing the numbers is making assumptions, and we all know that “assume” makes an ass of u and me.

I’m glad that Cliff who fixes my car is thorough, diligent and trustworthy – he fixed what was really broken, not what experience suggested.
I’m hoping to get my bacterial secondary infection treated today, unlike a friend’s wife whose TB was misdiagnosed as asthma for 2 years until she found a specialist unit who would look again.

Only play the numbers game if you really have no option.