Simple behavior changes, such as following a structured checklist, can prevent crucial workplace errors and increase quality in medical settings, found Harvard’s Atul Gawande.
He found that people effectively improved their performance when they recognized weaknesses in organizational processes, and took proactive steps to remedy these shortcomings.
Three elements of better performance can be applied across industries:
- Diligence – Attending to details can prevent errors and overcome obstacles.
Gawande’s The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right suggests best ways to structure these memory aids,
- Doing Right –Ensuring that skill, will, and incentives are aligned to drive excellent performance,
- Ingenuity – Deliberately monitoring potential failures, continuously seeking innovative ways to improve performance and solutions.
These elements can be improved with attentive observation and feedback to prevent errors of omission when people don’t:
- Know enough (ignorance),
- Make proper use of what they know (ineptitude).
Ignorance occurs less frequently than ineptitude because relevant information is widely available, Gawande noted.
He suggested that both errors can be improved by systematic analysis and consistent use of tools like checklists.
Checklist-based analysis was also linked to Internal Rate of Return (IRR) in Geoffrey Smart’s study of investments by Venture Capital (VC) firms,
He found a correlation between IRR and leadership effectiveness in new investment ventures.
Selecting capable leaders is critical to business outcomes, so Smart also evaluated VC firms’ typical approach to assessing potential leaders:
- The Art Critic is the most frequent approach in which the VC assesses leadership talent at a glance, intuitively, based on extensive experience,
- The Sponge conducts extensive due diligence, then decides based on intuition,
- The Prosecutor interrogates the candidate, tests with challenging questions and hypothetical situations,
- The Suitor woos the candidate instead of analyzing capabilities and fit,
- The Terminator eliminates the evaluation because the venture firm replaces the company’s originators,
- The Infiltrator becomes a “participant-observer” in an immersive, time-consuming experientially-based assessment,
- The Airline Captain uses a formal checklist to prevent past mistakes.
This last approach was linked to the highest average Internal Rate of Return (IRR) for the new ventures.
In addition, this strategy was significantly less likely to result in later terminating senior managers.
Venture Capitalists in these studies reported that two of their most significant mistakes were:
- Investing insufficient time in talent analysis,
- Being influenced by “halo effect” in evaluating candidates.
Systematic reminders to execute all elements required for expert performance can prevent failure and signal potential failure points.
-*How do you improve performance?
-*What value do you find in expert coaching?
Developing a SMARTER Mindset for Resilience, Emotional Intelligence – Part 2