By Doug Gjerde
In complicated fields like financial planning, medicine and aviation being knowledgeable is critical but it isn’t enough. Complication requires a system that ensures the learning is applied and used safely and effectively.
Missed opportunities and overlooked threats can happen to the brightest professional when dealing with complex issues if a proper process isn’t in place to support the knowledge.
Processes and systems are important in today’s complex world of wealth management. We have adapted a process called Wealth Designed. Life Defined. It was originated by our strategic partners at Carson Group. Are you using a process for your financial planning? Is your advisor?
A Simple Tool to Manage Complexities
Following is the story of the birth of one simple but critical tool that is part of our process. This simple device has saved my life once.
On October 30, 1935, a deadly airplane crash would forever change the future of aviation and other industries. Boeing was set to revolutionize the US Military, and the entire aviation industry, by introducing the brand-new Model 299, also known as the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress. This flying marvel of technology was in development for 5 years, it had 4 engines, a central bomb bay, and gunner stations throughout the fuselage. It was the most sophisticated airplane in aviation history.
Boeing spared no expense putting on an elaborate show the for U.S. Army Air Corps. After all, they were competing for a multi-million dollar bid that would help launch them into the multi-billion-dollar aviation powerhouse Boeing is today.
The Flying Fortress was piloted by Major Ployer P. Hill, U.S. Army Air Corps. He was known as extremely capable and meticulous, and ‘an officer and gentleman of truly great distinction’. At age 41, he was chief test pilot of the Air Corps and had experience flying nearly 60 different types of aircraft. Taking no chances, Boeing’s Chief Test Pilot Leslie R. Tower and Boeing mechanic C.W. Benton were also aboard the plane in addition to the rest of the Air Corp crew.
Upon take off, the U.S. Army Air Corps and members of Boeing looked on with pride for the future of American aviation. The aircraft sped down the runway, achieved perfect lift, began to climb, and within seconds, stalled, banked, and crashed into the field, as onlookers watched in horror. The plane burst into flames. Two people were killed on-board, including Major Ployer P. Hill. The co-pilot and two others on-board were pulled from the burning wreckage, thus saving their lives.
Boeing and The Air Force launched an extensive investigation. Together they realized that the plane was just too complicated for even the best of pilots. There were a lot of actions that needed to be performed on takeoff and landing that pilots never had to deal with in previous planes. The problem wasn’t with the pilot’s lack of skills, it was lack of memory that got them into trouble. They discovered that Major Hill missed one small step on takeoff, and it made all the difference.
Out of this investigation through a lot of analysis was born the checklist. Through extensive testing it was found that the checklists prevented steps from being missed and made the sophistication of the plane manageable and safe. The checklists were made mandatory on every flight of the plane and every plane ever since.
More than 12,500 B-17s were made during World War II, where they were flown by young men mostly plucked from civilian life with no previous aviation experience. The military trained them to fly giant bombers in formation using a series of checklists. The “Memphis Belle” was one of those B-17s made famous during the war and later in a movie of the same name.
Checklists were so integral to the success of the Apollo moon landings that astronaut Michael Collins coined them “The fourth crew member.”
Checklists have proven to be effective in other disciplines as well. Author and surgeon Atul Gawande, author of The Checklist Manifesto, devised a simple surgical team communications checklist for use in operating theatres. ‘We implemented it in eight hospitals. The average reduction in complications was 36 per cent,’ he told the‘We implemented it in eight hospitals. The average reduction in complications was 36 per cent,’ he told the Harvard Business Review. ‘We cut deaths by almost half, all those results being highly statistically significant.’ 1
This modern device was created in 1935 and gets too little credit because it is so simple. When something is simple but powerful it is often underappreciated. I completed thousands of checklists during my Air Force career and am glad to have experienced their power and continue their use in my present field. Wisdom is important in financial planning and wealth management, but a process is needed along with the knowledge to assure it is applied safely and effectively.
1 Using Checklists to Prevent Failure, Harvard Business Review, interview with Dr. Atul Gawande, 2010, https://hbr.org/2010/01/using-checklists-to-prevent-fa