Surgeon and medical school professor Atul Gewande has a prescription for improving the efficiency and effectiveness of his profession and maybe of yours. The Rx is in his latest book The Check List Manifesto.
Gewande argues that a concise simple formalized routine – to ensure or confirm that some key tasks and procedures are done and done reliably – will significantly improve results and reduce variability. He calls the process – and the mind set underlying it – a check list.
He presents compelling evidence from a large multinational research project that, at least in surgery, using a check list also improves teamwork, communication and motivation. This may be the source of its value. It also prevents “obvious” readily avoidable errors, which are easy to overlook in haste or crisis. With it, the physician is more likely to obey the maxim – “first do no harm.”
Check lists can work in medicine. In other activities, such as aviation or construction, the evidence is suggestive but not yet convincing. What, if any, import do check lists have for marketers?
There are business plans, marketing plans, requirements documents, launch plans, and many others, which stick to the bottoms of marketer’s shoes. None of them approaches the nimbleness of a check list and their role in product success can be questioned. Can one formulate an actionable list before or as one is building a marketing campaign, which will really improve the chance of success?
There probably are some basic questions we should answer before pulling the trigger.
- Who will buy/use the product?
- How large and deep is the market?
- Why should customers buy and why should they buy from you?
- How can we distribute?
- What should the price be?
- Under what conditions should we not launch?
In far too many cases such questions are not formally asked nor thoughtfully answered? Products and marketing campaigns are launched for the wrong reasons ranging from competitive parity (our competitors are doing it so we should too) to management fiat (the boss says so). Should we be surprised that so many products bomb? Any simple list is incomplete. What’s on yours?