Four Tips for Making Colossal Decisions

Just over a year ago, Nova Scotia’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Robert Strang, made one of the toughest calls of his life: he recommended the entire province shut down to stop the spread of a then-new virus called COVID-19.

It was a colossal decision that posed serious political, economic, and health implications. But it was a masterclass in how to act swiftly in the face of uncertainty.

Here are the four things we learned from Dr. Strang about how to make colossal decisions:

1. Review data but trust your gut. In the early days of COVID, getting sound data was extremely difficult. In the face of this, Dr. Strang poured over any data he could get his hands on and then relied on his expertise and that of his team to weigh in on what it all meant for Nova Scotians.

2. Align yourself with key leadership. Dr. Strang didn’t and couldn’t do it alone. He worked closely with the Premier and provincial leadership to bring them all on the same page. That paved the way for plan execution and removed many potential obstacles.

3. Communicate and be open. Many plans fail because the people who need to carry them out simply don’t understand the “why”. Dr. Strang made this a priority early on, engaging with individuals and groups from all sectors and corners of the province. Once they understood what was happening and why decisions were made, potential skeptics were turned into allies.

4. Adapt. While Dr. Strang describes the early lockdowns as a “heavy hammer” approach, with new information came new strategies. Dr. Strang now describes the province’s restrictions as more of a “surgical” approach that allows for much of the economy to remain open while paying particular attention to those areas that pose a higher risk.

Although very few of us will ever face an issue quite as far-reaching as COVID-19, our collective response has taught us all some valuable lessons.

Whatever curveball comes next in your life or career, we hope you take inspiration from Dr. Strang.


To hear the full 20-minute episode “Going into the first pandemic lockdown” with Dr. Robert Strang on our Toughest Call podcast – listen wherever you get your podcasts.

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