Some years ago, at an IFP branch meeting, Nick Blake of Vanguard recommended a book entitled The Checklist Manifesto, by Dr Atul Gawande. It’s one of the most compelling business books I have ever read, and have recommended it to many people since.
I was therefore excited to discover that the 2014 BBC Reith Lectures were to be given by Dr Gawande. They did not disappoint. Available from the BBC and attractively priced at zero pounds, no shillings and nil pence, I commend the podcasts to you.
All four lectures are, on the surface, about the future of medicine, but it seems to me that the entire series has application to our own profession.
Lecture 1: As in medicine, financial planners are dealing with systems that are so complex that we cannot possibly predict all that is going on. We need to acknowledge what Gawande calls our ‘necessary fallibility’, be open about it, and develop methods of managing it.
Lecture 2: We know how to do a lot of things, but sometimes, because so many moving parts are involved, so many different people, even so many different organisations, things can get missed. By introducing a checklist system in hospitals around the world, death rates in surgery have been reduced on average by 47% in the trial hospitals. Does anybody seriously think that outcomes in our profession couldn’t be improved by the use of checklists, not just as a tick-box exercise, but with the culture and empowerment to go along with them that makes them work properly?
Lecture 3: Terminally ill clients who are asked about how they want to live their last weeks and months of life have a better quality of life, and – amazingly – also tend to live longer, than those who simply accept medical or surgical intervention without much consultation. We need to stop impressing clients with how brilliant we are and all the indubitably amazing things we can do, and listen more to what they want to achieve.
Lecture 4: Doctors may think they are in the business of health-care, but they are actually in the business of well-being. Perhaps financial advisors and planners fall into the trap of thinking we are in the financial services business.
Perhaps we, too, are in the well-being business. What do you think?