In late 2006, a doctor by the name of Atul Gawande received a call from the World Health Organization, who had a small favor to ask him. They wanted to get his help in creating a program that would reduce the number of deaths and illness from surgeries that would be applicable at ANY hospital on the planet. The task sounded impossible. They didn’t really have a budget, and their goal was outrageously aggressive.

How aggressive? Well, consider this. In 2004, the number of surgeries performed every year was about 230 million. And each year around seven million came out of surgery disabled, and over a million died because of complications. Regardless, the ambitious doctor took on the challenge. What’s more, he succeeded beyond anybody’s wildest dreams. In fact, he was able to implement a process that reduced deaths and illnesses by 30-47%–in any hospital, anywhere on the planet. Even in the most remote of hospitals, the result was the same…a 30-47% reduction across the board.

How did they do it? Well, it wasn’t very complex. It wasn’t a new surgical technique or a new drug. In fact, it was an overly simple solution. It was the use of a simple checklist before every surgery.

A checklist.

You’ve heard me talk about the power of checklists in other tidbits (including this one, and this one, and this one). But a checklist that saved lives!? Now we’re talking.

Of course, not everyone believed it.

Many doctors felt that the checklist was beneath them. They felt that it was an admission that they needed help, or weren’t masters of their domain. They were arguing, “I spent four years doing my undergrad, then two years in med school, and then five years working my butt off in hospitals! I know what I’m doing, and I don’t need your little checklist to help! On top of that, every patient is different, and every surgery is different–you can’t capture what I do in a checklist. You think I’m going to use a checklist?”

I hear something similar in many companies where we implement extremely effective–and sometimes very simple–solutions to drive dramatic and VERY profitable results.

“I’ve been doing sales for 35 years! No new tool, process, or CRM is going to change what I’ve been doing.”

“If increasing revenue was that simple, we’d already be doing it. Our customers aren’t buying right now because our prices are too high.”

“We’ve already tried something like that, and it didn’t work.”

“We’re already doing something like that. What else can you show us?”

Nine times out of ten, they’re not doing something similar, and they haven’t in the past.

We’re often quick to dismiss the simple things that generate results because they’re new, or different. There’s been a dozen companies or so beta-testing my Pick-3 web application and only a handful using it regularly. The handful using it regularly and religiously are reaping the benefits. Meanwhile, I’ve got numerous clients using an offline version of the Pick-3 in sales, marketing, and customer service, some as small as 10M in revenue, and others doing 2B+ in annual revenue. The old saying is true: Size doesn’t matter. Those who stick with it–without dismissing the simplicity of it–are reaping the benefits.

The moral of today’s tidbit is this. Don’t dismiss something just because it seems to simple or too easy. Don’t let others in your company tell you that something you know is important is beneath them. There’s a reason your pilot still walks around the plane with a simple checklist before take-off, and you can thank your lucky stars for the checklist that reminded your surgeon to wash her hands before slicing you open.

Your Weekly Challenge: Consider an important area of your business like sales, or customer experience–where do you need more structure or routine?

How would your business benefit from new customer checklist?

Do you need a process for every time a customer walks into your business, or how the phones are answered?

What type of post-sale customer retention process do you have in place?

Is there a process to ensure all quotes are followed up on?

Here’s another way to think about it. In what areas of your business could simple, daily, habitual tasks have a remarkable impact on your company’s growth? What proactive sales, marketing, and growth-focused tasks could your people engage in?

If you want help, I’ve got good news for you….

The doctor is in, and he’ll see you now. Give me a call or shoot me an email.

Best, Noah

P.S. You can read more about the story described above in Dr. Gawande’s great book, The Checklist Manifesto