Habits, Routines and Structure

This probably is a “Part One” post.  Just a small placeholder.

Some of my friends know that for a long time I have pondered the question of how to bring about genuine change. Firstly in ourselves and also in the organisations we are part of.  Even a few people I have only met once also have had conversation on this topic.

My latest interest in this area has been reading a book by Marshall Goldsmith. “Triggers: Sparking positive change and making it last” I think the chapter on structure has been quite significant to me.

Here is a short quote from Marshall’s blog:

One of the most dysfunctional beliefs of successful people is our contempt for simplicity and structure. We believe that we are above needing structure to help us on seemingly simple tasks.  

For example, as Dr. Atul Gawande reported in his book, The Checklist Manifesto, central line infections in intensive care units virtually disappear when doctors follow a simple five-point checklist involving rote procedures such as washing hands, cleaning the patient’s skin, and using a sterile dressing after inserting the line. 

For many years, despite the checklist’s proven success rate, doctors resisted it. After years of medical training, many doctors thought that the constant reminders, especially when delivered by subordinate nurses, were demeaning. The surgeons thought, “I shouldn’t need to use a checklist to remember simple instructions.”

This is a natural response that combines three competing impulses:

  1. Our contempt for simplicity (only complexity is worthy of our attention);
  2. Our contempt for instruction and follow-up; and
  3. Our faith, however unfounded, that we can succeed by ourselves.

In combination these three trigger an unappealing exceptionalism in us. When we presume that we are better than people who need structure and guidance, we lack one of the most crucial ingredients for change: humility.  
From: http://www.marshallgoldsmithfeedforward.com/marshallgoldsmithblog/

I see the power of checklists in my Father in Law’s life, at 94 he is still organised and functional.

I note how smooth my departures for out of town trips go when I follow my list. (Flashlight, cell charger, sunglasses, emergency kit, zip loc bags, water, spare batteries, SD cards are all on the list; and I have forgotten them all at least once).

I think of a few friends I have lost contact with because we didn’t follow the routine “Lets meet for coffee once a term (or once a year)”.  And the annual Christmas card mailout habit that lapsed as well.

Notes: Atul Gawande  also has written the remarkable book “Being Mortal”

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