Having The Time For The Things That Matter

Having The Time For The Things That Matter

About ten years ago I read Atul Gawande’s book The Checklist Manifesto: How to get things right and it totally transformed the way I thought about our business.

The book explores how checklists have made possible some of the most difficult feats in many types of industries and Gawande showed how by introducing the idea of checklists into his realm – surgery – a 90 second checklist reduced deaths and complications by more than a third in eight hospitals around the world. That checklist has since been adopted by healthcare services globally, with similar reductions in avoidable deaths and complications.

I was reminded of this during my recent stay in hospital.  The nurses were clearly using checklists to carry out a significant part of their duties, which were repeated at set times during the day and night – taking temperature, blood pressure, giving injections, checking IVs etc etc.  The process was the same EVERY TIME and I could see them ticking off items one by one as they were completed.

What struck me about this was how, by using checklists to carry out the routine tasks, getting through these quickly and efficiently, they always had the time to sit and chat, to explain something that got lost in translation the first time around, or – perhaps most importantly – simply to engage with me as a human being.

This is exactly what we have found as a result of using checklists within our business. We have a checklist for every process – client related or not – which is repeated. Every aspect of our client service proposition is broken down into a number of checklists which cover all the steps which absolutely must be covered from an internal quality standard and regulatory perspective (but which are of little interest to the client) – making sure we are compliant, that we get the right data from the right people and the right paperwork completed at the right time.

By removing the need for the team to use ‘brain space’ to remember the routine ‘stuff’, not only does the use of  checklists ensure that nothing important gets forgotten and our quality standards are consistently met, most importantly they enable us all to have the time and freedom we need to apply intelligent thought to what matters most to our clients, including the parts of our service which are in many ways intangible but which are where we undoubtedly add the most value.

The humble checklist. One of the most important tools in our bag.