Episode #639 James M. Kerr: Designing Executive Checklists

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Moe and James discuss how to set direction and manage change within the 21stcentury enterprise.


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James M. Kerr

Partner at BlumShapiro View Full Profile

Designing Executive Checklists

In late 2009, general surgeon, Atul Gawande gave us a glimpse of why world-class surgeons, pilots, and architects rely on checklists to minimize errors and ensure maximum efficiency.  He opened my eyes to why routine errors are made and why it’s far too easy for even the most competent of professionals to forget to ask an important question, simply because a task has become all too routine.  The glaring realization for me was the distinction between errors or knowledge and errors of ineptitude - where the former is the mistake we make when we lack specific knowledge, while the latter is the negligence we make when we fail to apply what we know.  If you’re reading this, undoubtedly, you’ve made your share of ineptitude mistakes, and while it had less to do with neglect, still the majority can be avoided with a written guide.  

So, what would such a guide look like for a leader?  In his book - The Executive Checklist:  A Guide For Setting Direction and Managing Change - James M. Kerr identifies the following 10 key checklists that have emerged from his work with senior executives and entrepreneurs.  As you might expect, it starts with Establishing Leadership, building trust and setting strategy -----