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Tom Peters - Atlanta Growth Summit: Value of Checklist


Could there be a more compelling place for the need for accuracy in following directions to than in the ICU of a hospital?   The story in medicine today is that more people die from complications or infections received while they are in the hospital than from what brought them to the hospital in the first place. My brother died not from diabetes but rather from a disease he got through the complications of dialysis treatment.

Tom Peters provided a short story on this to illustrate the value of a simple checklist.  Line infections in the ICU of any hospital are common place. After ten days 4% of lines get infected. With about 5 million ICU patients a year that means about 80,000 people get infected and anywhere from 5-28% of these patients die depending upon how sick they were when they arrived. 
Suppose you could virtually eliminate line infections? That’s exactly what a doctor at Tom Hopkins Hospital did. He developed a checklist to solve the specific problem of line infections, reducing what had been an 11% rate of line infections at their hospital to zero. That’s right zero! 
All of this was accomplished through a simple checklist designed to specifically address the issues of line infections. If you’d like to read the full story, go to The Checklist. It dramatically tells the story of one patient and the Doctor who worked on fixing it. Plus it provides the background of how checklists started from a long range bomber airplane test preceding World War II in 1935.
The doctor who developed this ICU line infections checklist discovered there were two main benefits. First it helped memory recall. When you’re a nurse struggling with a patient who is in trauma it’s difficult to remember some of the more simple things. Secondly it provided explicit instructions on the minimum expected standards in a complex process. Many of the nurses didn’t understand how important simple steps were to ensure proper precautions were being taken.
I’ve used checklist for years in my business. In sales I was first reluctant to rely on a checklist since I felt each situation was different and I had to rely on my skill set and expertise to make the sale.  That was simply my ego talking.  I soon realized by having my checklist I was closing more and wasn’t leaving out critical steps and information my prospects needed in order to make the right decision. 
If the ICU of a hospital can improve dramatically using a simple checklist, what about your company? Are there operations of your business where you need to make sure you are getting things right every time? Perhaps it’s time to develop your checklist.

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