I was lying on a hospital bed being wheeled into surgery (nothing serious, I am pleased to say) as I tried to distract myself listening to the conversation between the anaesthetist and the theatre nurses. The anaesthetist was speaking out loud as she carried out her work: “First, I will inject the antibiotic…”
I believe she was carrying out a ‘do-confirm’ checklist. A checklist that works on the basis of confirmation of an action rather than telling you what you need to do next. But by the time I realised this I was well and truly under the general anaesthetic.
If there is one book I would recommend to advice business owners, it is The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande. Not only is it an interesting read, it is one of those books that really makes you think about the way you do things.
Some people believe checklists are not particularly valuable. After all, a lot of the work we do is complex, so they may think such things get in the way of us applying our skill, experience and knowledge. They may believe checklists are beneath us.
However, the evidence suggests that is not the case. Gawande quotes multiple examples of the likes of surgical procedure, engineering and indeed financial services, where well designed checklists have saved millions of dollars and, in some instances, a great many lives.
Gawande sums it up nicely: checklists stop the dumb stuff from happening.
In a recent article, I suggested the FCA and Financial Ombudsman Service publish the checklists they use when considering the suitability of defined benefit transfer advice.
Some may believe the complexities and nuances of advice in this field are too great for a checklist to handle. But, they miss an important point: a checklist prevents the dumb stuff happening and, importantly, shows an intent to consider a wide range of factors in the advice process.
A checklist can ensure everyone involved in the delivery of advice (or those judging it with hindsight) have considered all of the relevant factors in arriving at a decision. With DB transfers, there is a lot to consider.
There is a fear among advisers that the regulatory world has too narrow a focus when it comes to suitability. Certainly, the example I have seen from the FOS is so focused on the relationship between a calculated critical yield and a client attitude to risk that it has entirely missed multiple points of suitability.
Many complex services use checklists to ensure consistency of outcome. Take the aviation industry. Gawande’s best example in his book is the landing of an Airbus on the Hudson River in New York in 2009. The captain and crew were rightly hailed as heroes saving the lives of 155 passengers by the application of their skill and teamwork. The captain wanted to set the record straight, though: the outcome was as much about adherence to procedure as any individual skill he might have had. Flight crew use checklists; shouldn’t we?
Nick Bamford is executive director at Informed Choice