Ego and Checklists

I must have some secret employees at the Financial Times writing for me or something. Atul Gawande wrote ‘Airline Pilot’ protocols in finance today and it caught my eye.

Some choice quotes:

He also found he made mistakes in handling complexity. A good decision requires consideration of so many different aspects of a company in so many ways that, even without the cocaine brain [confirmation bias], he was missing obvious patterns. His mental checklist wasn’t good enough. “I am not Warren,” he said. “I don’t have a 300 IQ.”

So he devised a written checklist.

Sometimes you don’t even know you’re making the mistakes over and over unless you get reminded of them by using the checklist. It’s there to keep you safe from your own mind. The easiest person to trick is yourself.

Even in his own firm, he’s found it a hard sell. “I got pushback from everyone. It took my guys months to finally see the value,” he said. To this day, his partners still don’t all go along with his approach and don’t use the checklist in their decisions when he’s not involved. “I find it amazing other investors have not even bothered to try,” he said. “Some have asked. None have done it.”

As I said before, people think checklists are beneath them. I’ve had a hard time convincing people to use them in any aspect of project work. Clients don’t like it because they think that’s why they hired you in the first place; you’re the expert. Consultants don’t like it because they think it will somehow make them look incompetent.

I’ve tried many different ways of motivating people to use the list, but in the end nobody seems to want to listen even when I show them measurable results. Ego.

Atul has a book out as well. I’ve already ordered it. Will you?

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